Paul Nicholls announced last night that his prolific staying hurdler Big Buck's, due to run in Saturday's Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, is likely to miss the rest of the season.
On what was a bad day for the champion trainer he also announced that Al Ferof, the winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, would also miss the King George and would also probably be out for the season.
"At evening stables tonight we discovered a problem with Big Buck's and Al Ferof," Nicholls revealed in his Betfair column. "I am not in a position to go into great detail at this point but I can confirm Big Buck's will not be taking up his engagement at Ascot on Saturday and Al Ferof will not be running in the King George. And both are unlikely to run again this season."
Big Buck's has become jump racing's biggest attraction even though the staying hurdle division was recently described by Nicholls as "not sexy".
Since unseating his jockey at the last fence in a chase in 2008 he has reverted to hurdles and was unbeaten in 18 starts – winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle a record four times.
Andy Stewart, the horse's owner, confirmed the nine-year-old had sustained a tendon injury in a front leg but he was quick to put the news into perspective. "The horse is still alive," he said. "Three people are told they'll never walk again every day and the horse is walking.
"He has done some tendon damage in front and it would take four or five months to get it right, so we've put a line through this season. There'd be no point just getting him back for Aintree.
"He'll come in at the normal time in the summer and be reassessed. If the enthusiasm's still there we'll try and go again next season. If not that'll be it."
Al Ferof was the 5-1 second favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and Paddy Power reacted to news of his withdrawal by shortening Long Run to 5-2 favourite; then, 9-2 Cue Card, 6-1 Riverside Theatre and Sizing Europe (with a run) and 8-1 Grands Crus, Kauto Stone and Captain Chris
Closer to home, it has emerged that Rubi Light was suffering from a lung infection when he trailed home a well-beaten third behind Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
Trainer Robbie Hennessy is pleased an explanation has been found for that display and is also thrilled his charge does not require a breathing operation.
Rubi Light will now drop in trip for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27, rather than run in the Lexus Chase a day later.
"We put an on-board scope on him on Friday and galloped him hard. It showed up that he had mucus on his lungs and, in a way, it was a bit of a relief," Hennessy said.
Downpatrick's two races over fences on Thursday have been cancelled.
The chase track at the Co Down circuit is unfit for racing following recent heavy rain.
A race over hurdles will be divided to form a six-race card. The ground is currently soft to heavy.
Downpatrick's meeting represents a good opportunity for Patrick Mullins to break a long-standing record for the number of winners by an amateur jockey in a calendar year.
Mullins equalled Billy Parkinson's landmark, which was set in 1915, when Union Dues provided him with the 72nd victory of 2012 at Navan on Sunday.