Disaster struck Danedream last night when her defence of Europe's richest prize was derailed by the outbreak of a dreaded infection at her local racecourse.
Officials said that the filly, which had been due to return to Paris on Sunday as one of the favourites for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, will not be permitted to travel. In the bigger picture, the outbreak of Equine Infectious Anaemia is a calamity for the German racing industry.
Betfair suspended betting on the race when suggestions first emerged that the filly would be quarantined after a horse at Cologne racecourse tested positive to EIA, a highly contagious disease known to horsemen as "swamp fever".
The German racing authority posted a notice expressing "deep regret" that Danedream would not be permitted to defend the trophy at Longchamp, and a spokesman for the filly's owners admitted they were not hopeful.
"It is concerning and serious," Patrick Barbe said. "Because the Arc is only now in a few days' time, I'm very pessimistic she will be allowed to run."
Swamp fever is an equine equivalent of HIV, attacking the immune system, often fatally. There is no vaccine or cure. Horses carrying the disease do not always exhibit the symptoms, remain infectious for life and must duly be destroyed.
Danedream was a shock winner of the Paris showpiece last year at 27/1, but had continued to improve and in July the German mare edged out Nathaniel to land a thrilling renewal of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
There was better news of Michael Stoute's Sea Moon, which is now a likely runner at Longchamp. The four-year-old was last seen finishing fifth when sent off favourite for the King George, but was only beaten a little over two lengths by Danedream.
Racing manager for Sea Moon's owner Khalid Abdullah, Teddy Grimthorpe, also said that he expects Ryan Moore to be in the saddle.
Moore has been sidelined by injury since late August and his comeback date has yet to be confirmed, but Thursday will be the earliest he can return after his name did not feature among tomorrow's declarations.
The news of Sea Moon's probable participation may have wider implications, as Moore has been linked with the ride aboard Derby hero Camelot, which will require a new jockey if he does line up due to Joseph O'Brien being unable to make the weight of 8st 11lb.
"When we've made a final decision we'll let everyone know," Grimthorpe said. "It's on the agenda and at the moment we're heading that way. As long as things keep going as they are, hopefully we'll be there."
Asked when Moore would return to competitive action, Grimthorpe said: "I'm waiting to hear more news, but hopefully he'll be on board (Sea Moon)."
Meanwhile, Sizing Europe is among a top-class entry of 15 for the PricewaterhouseCoopers Champion Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Henry de Bromhead's stable star won the race 12 months ago and the good ground at Gowran currently makes him a likely runner this weekend.
Sizing Europe lost his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in gallant fashion to Finian's Rainbow but bounced back to win at Punchestown.
Also entered in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two are the Mouse Morris-trained duo China Rock and First Lieutenant, Paul Nolan's two stars Joncol and Noble Prince and the Willie Mullins-trained Blackstairmountain.
"I'm not far from Gowran and we've had some decent weather down here," said the Waterford-based handler.
"The winter jumps tracks are in good shape and as long as the ground is decent, we'll be running. It's more or less ground dependent whether he runs or not. He handles real good ground, we know that, so if there's no more rain that won't bother him." (© Independent News Service)
• The first race at Ayr today will go off at 2.40 instead of 2.10, as the original 3.10 race has been abandoned.