Quito De La Roque's frustrating season came to a premature end yesterday, 48 hours before he was due to contest tomorrow's tote.com Punchestown Gold Cup.
Colm Murphy's multiple Grade One winner was forced to miss both the Irish Hennessy and the Cheltenham Gold Cup due to a bad sinus infection, and a bad scope yesterday morning that was a recurrence of his earlier setback means that the ante-post favourite for tomorrow's feature will not be running.
The Wexford trainer enjoyed a lucrative campaign last season and ended it with a win in the three-mile Growise Champion Novice Chase last season. However, despite beginning the season with success in the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, Quito De La Roque has had a forgettable season since.
Murphy admitted being disappointed with his eight-time winner when he finished third, 11 lengths behind Synchronised, in the Lexus, and was bullish going into tomorrow's race, but had to concede defeat yesterday following the scope.
The Wexford trainer said: "He scoped badly after the Lexus and then we discovered he had a sinus infection. Unfortunately he's had a recurrence of the same thing.
"It's obviously really disappointing but it's nothing that can't be sorted, it's just bad timing. I'm not 100 per cent happy with him, so he can't run. He'll probably go out for his break now."
Despite Quito De La Roque's absence, the race remains wide open with last year's winner and recent Aintree winner Follow The Plan meeting the likes of Hennessy winner Quel Esprit, himself an absentee from Cheltenham, and Robbie Hennessy's mud loving Rubi Light.
The ground for the beginning of the week at least is set to be very testing and it is expected to be described as heavy on the chase and hurdle courses by the time the white flag is raised in today's opener.
Punchestown manager Richie Galway admits the outlook is pretty bleak and it is now just hoped that the final week of the season goes off without any enforced changes, or possibly even cancellations.
"It's going to be testing ground and unfortunately the ground has gone against us," he said.
The track's racing manager added; "Tuesday night through until Thursday night is again hard to gauge, but we could get anything between 20 and 50 millimetres. We are obviously going to monitor things closely."
Punchestown are lucky enough to be able to provide substantial fresh ground for each day on the hurdle course, something that they will be extremely glad of as the week continues.
"We have fresh ground on the hurdle track which is a big advantage and the chase track is wide enough that we can have fresh ground on that each day as well if needed," concluded Galway.