Sacre not certain for Tingle Creek
Trainer Nicky Henderson said Sprinter Sacre is "not a certain participant" in the BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
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The brilliant seven-year-old is the hot favourite to stretch his unbeaten record over fences to 11 races, but has returned "unsatisfactory figures" from a tracheal wash which was taken on Monday morning.
Sprinter Sacre will be tested on Thursday morning before final declarations are made for the Grade One to assess whether he can be given the go-ahead to run.
Henderson told Press Association Sport: "We took what you can only consider to be a routine tracheal wash this morning.
"Although it appeared to be visibly satisfactory, the cytology from the lab has returned some unsatisfactory figures, which obviously gives us cause for concern.
"Although the horse is in fantastic form and his work on Saturday was, as ever, impeccable, I cannot ignore what these figures indicate.
"Although marginal, we have to issue a warning tonight, rather than any later, that he's not a certain participant on Saturday.
"I've spoken to Caroline Mould (owner), who, like all of us at Seven Barrows, would not wish to take any chances.
"Therefore, we intend to repeat the procedure on Thursday morning ahead of declarations at 10am."
Last season's runaway Queen Mother Champion Chase winner has not been seen since his awesome victory at the Punchestown Festival in April.
Henderson is adamant he will do nothing to place in jeopardy the long-term prospects of Sprinter Sacre, who will work again on Tuesday in the hope he can make the Tingle Creek line-up.
He said: "There is every chance this could change and go the right way, but, at the same time, if they did not improve, we would have to reluctantly decline this opportunity.
"This is devastating for us, but I wouldn't run any horse on these figures, but we're especially not prepared to take a chance with him.
"There's very little we can do to make it better because medication is obviously not possible.
"We've seen this improve this in the past, but on today's evidence, although marginal, I would have to say he could be doubtful.
"This situation is the penalty you have to pay of having a horse of his ilk.
"Whatever happens, the long-term future for Sprinter Sacre is obviously paramount. To run him under unsatisfactory circumstances would be foolish considering his reputation.
"This is hopefully only a temporary blip, which will not interfere with future plans, but may sadly remove his first objective of the season.
"If it does, then I suspect the Victor Chandler Chase (Ascot, January 18) will have to become the first port of call.
"In the meantime, he will continue his preparation as normal and he will work accordingly on Tuesday."
Henderson was in inspired form this weekend after winning Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with Triolo D'Alene. Stablemate My Tent Or Yours also excelled in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on the same day.
The Seven Barrows handler said: "You think the door had finally opened on Saturday, and within 48 hours it has swung back and hit you in the face.
"This is obviously a body-blow, but we have to be open as we possibly can be."
Sprinter Sacre is one of 11 entries for the Tingle Creek.
Henderson has also entered Captain Conan, a winner of three Grade One novice chases last season, but he also holds an entry over three miles at Sandown on Friday.
Sire De Grugy is expected to take his chance.
"I think we'll have to run because there are only so many races for him and it is a very valuable race," trainer Gary Moore told At The Races.
"I don't know what the second prize-money is but we've got fitness on our side, I think."
The Mick Channon-trained Somersby bounced back to form when winning the Haldon Gold Cup recently and has had this race as his aim since then.
Paul Nicholls has the novice Hinterland and Kauto Stone entered.
His Excellency, Oiseau De Nuit, Tataniano, Viva Colonia and the mercurial Mad Moose complete the list.