Racing: Leg scan rules Trabolgan out of King George Chase

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The Independent Online

The exciting chaser Trabolgan, impressive winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup 12 days ago, has been ruled out of his next intended target, the King George VI Chase at Sandown on Boxing Day and his participation in the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself is in the balance.

After the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old successfully shouldered top-weight of 11st 7lb to victory at Newbury he was promoted to third favourite in the lists for both the season's twin peaks. But he apparently suffered a leg injury in the victory.

A scan on the gelding's left foreleg yesterday afternoon revealed damage to a tendon and in revealing his charge's non-participation in the Christmastide showpiece, Henderson admitted his disquiet for the past few days. "We had a concern over the weekend with Trabolgan," he said. "It was not immediately obvious after the Hennessy and I was perfectly happy with the horse prior to the weekend. But the ultrasound scan has revealed some very mild changes within the tendon-fibre pattern on his near-fore. And sadly we have to conclude that the King George is now not an option."

Henderson's announcement late in the afternoon was flagged by anti-Trabolgan activity on the betting exchanges during the day, to the extent that Betfair ceased trading at one point and many of the major firms removed Trevor Hemmings' horse from their ante-post King George lists. Henderson stressed that the decision to miss the King George was made only after the result of the veterinary scan, but the smoke from the fire had clearly leaked under the doors at Seven Barrows.

Several bookmaking firms have also removed Trabolgan from the Gold Cup reckoning. "The one thing to appreciate is that this is still a very young horse and it goes without saying that his future is the only thought in our mind at present," added Henderson. "What has happened does not necessarily rule him out of the Gold Cup. We expect to give further news around Christmas."

Hemmings may find comfort in the fact that his other high-profile colourbearer, Grand National hero Hedgehunter, is to have his sights raised, on two counts. Firstly, he will in future being eschewing the Irish road to Aintree that has become rather traditional recently, the ploy of running your good steeplechaser over hurdles, at least until after the weights for the marathon showpiece have been framed. And secondly, he will be competing in rather more august company than of late, with a tilt at the Gold Cup itself likely. "He will certainly be given a Gold Cup entry," said trainer Willie Mullins. "Why not? He jumps and he stays, and I think he's getting better, and those sound like fair qualifications."

Hedgehunter's next scheduled outing is the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas, which will be his first outing in Grade 1 company. "He hasn't got a handicap mark to protect over fences now," said Mullins, "so he'll be running over them between now and Aintree. The Gold Cup is 22 days before the National, which is about right."

In recent years Garrison Savannah and Rough Quest have shone in both contests. But Golden Miller remains the only Aintree winner (he did so in 1934) to subsequently win a Gold Cup.

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