Last season's Racing Post Arkle winner Altior will miss the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, trainer Nicky Henderson has revealed.
Altior is hot favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, and Henderson is hopeful he will be fit and firing on all cylinders by then.
He said on Wednesday night: "I’m really disappointed to report that Altior will miss the Grade 1 Tingle Creek at Sandown next month due to a wind problem that has surfaced, which means he will not be ready in time.
"He started faster work last week in the build up to Sandown and did an excellent piece with Lough Derg Spirit last Tuesday, he was actually quite brilliant, and it is quite bizarre this has come up as up until now he had shown no signs whatsoever that there was anything untoward.
"However, he made a whistling noise on Saturday so we did an overland scope yesterday, which is basically galloping while being scoped, and between our own vet Dave Matterson and Geoff Lane they both concluded that he has a small issue with his wind whereby his larynx isn’t opening sufficiently.
"After discussing the matter with his owners Christopher and Pat Pugh we decided that he will need a small procedure to rectify the problem."
The trainer added: "Unfortunately this is quite common, indeed Might Bite and Sprinter Sacre both had the exact same operation, Might Bite last autumn and Sprinter after the Supreme, but sadly this has reared its ugly head at the wrong time and there is nothing we can do about it.
"As a consequence we have been forced to miss the Tingle Creek but hopefully he will be back in time for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March and perhaps the other championship races in the spring.
"Whether we are able to fit in a prep race we don’t know and only time will tell; I certainly wouldn’t want to speculate. We can have racecourse gallops if we need to, but Altior will have a month’s box rest and we’ll go from there. His health is our only priority."
The champion trainer has an awesome team at his disposal but with big ammunition can come big headaches and pressures, and he said on his Unibet blog: "The irony of this whole thing is that it is literally a year to the day when I was forced to retire Sprinter Sacre and dear old Simonsig lost his life, so this is a week to forget, but we have to face it and get on with things.
"We have the best advisers and surgeons ready to go and we intend to have this remedied as soon as possible, perhaps even tomorrow.
"The good news is this horse doesn’t have to retire and he will be back, make no mistake about it. The timing is brutal and it’s tough for us all and I was only saying last week how you need luck in this game to keep all the big boys going and, sadly for us, luck has run out temporarily."