Nicky Henderson reports Altior to have returned an unsatisfactory scope following his shock defeat at Kempton.
The 10-year-old was beaten three and a half lengths by 20-1 shot Nube Negra on his seasonal bow in Sunday’s Desert Orchid Chase, struggling from an early stage despite being sent off the evens favourite.
Henderson was quick to underline his faith in the dual Champion Chase hero after the race, and it transpires there may have been an excuse for his performance.
The trainer told told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “We had him scoped (after the race) – we can’t scope him again today because it’s a Bank Holiday and the laboratory is shut, but we have reason to continue investigating that.
“There was evidence (of a dirty scope). I spoke to (vet) Simon Knapp last night – he confirmed there was, and we need to do a tracheal wash, which then goes to the laboratory. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find there is something amiss.
“It’s definitely not normal, because he was scoped on Christmas Eve and we know it was 100 per cent clean, but 48 hours is a long time in a horse’s life.
“It would be enough (to affect his performance) – it would in Simon Knapp’s opinion anyway.”
Henderson plans to ease off briefly with some of his string to ensure all are in top shape as the season builds into the new year.
“We’ve got one or two horses that aren’t quite right,” he said.
“I’ve got five runners tomorrow and then I think I’ve got two more this week – (then) we’re going to have a quiet time, and I think I might leave them alone this week.
“The ground is desperate, and I know we’ve got Sandown at the weekend – but when Sandown is heavy, it’s a completely different kind of heavy. I’m not blaming the ground at all yesterday, I’m only saying thank God we didn’t run him at Sandown (in the Tingle Creek Chase in early December).”
Henderson also suffered a surprise reverse at Kempton on Boxing Day when reigning champion hurdler Epatante was beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle.
The Seven Barrows handler suspects there was a reason for her below-par run too, but believes both she and Altior are capable of making amends when their issues are resolved.
He added: “I don’t think it’s the same (problem with Epatante) – I think something else will come up there, and I’ve got ideas. That wasn’t her, and we know it wasn’t her. (Whether she was in season) is being investigated.
“I’d be surprised if Epatante ran again before Cheltenham – she didn’t last year, and I see no reason to run her again.
“I’m perfectly happy with both these horses that I’ve got good grounds for thinking there are reasons behind this – and with a bit of luck and a following wind, we can get them back into action.”