The David Nicholson-trained six-year-old is the latest in a list of defectors from the Champion. Alderbrook, last year's winner, is also on the sick list and has only a 50-50 chance of competing at Cheltenham; Large Action, the runner-up in March, is to go novice chasing - although the lack of top-flight hurdlers may mean he will be switched back to the smaller obstacles; Danoli, the third home, is also injured and out for the season.
"Relkeel has a niggling problem to his off-fore," Nicholson said, "in exactly the same place that he had a tiny problem the day before the Champion Hurdle when he was withdrawn.
"He'll be rested for the remainder of the season and, hopefully, be all right next term.
"His owner, Brigadier Roscoe Harvey, has taken the news well, as you would expect."
Relkeel was as low as 6-1 joint favourite for the Champion to provide a first victory in the race for both Nicholson and the horse's 95-year- old owner.
Last night the layers were juggling their odds, with Ladbrokes' spokesman, Ian Wassell, saying: "It's not a question of who will be favourite, more of who will run."
That company now makes Ireland's Montelado the 7-2 favourite (from 6- 1), followed by 4-1 Alderbrook "with a run".
Relkeel was 8-1 third favourite with William Hill, who have tightened up the top two - Alderbrook and Montelado - making them 5-1 joint-favourites from 6-1.
Coral's spokesman Rob Hartnett, tongue in cheek, quoted a price of 12- 1 "the race not taking place due to a lack of runners" and makes Alderbrook the 4-1 favourite from 9-2.
CHAMPION HURDLE (12 March, 1996). Coral: 4-1 Alderbrook, 6-1 Montelado, 10-1 Fortune And Fame, Large Action, 12-1 Mysilv, 16-1 River North, 25- 1 others.
William Hill: 5-1 Alderbrook, Montelado, 10-1 Vintage Crop, 14-1 Fortune And Fame, 16-1 Mysilv, 20-1 Atours, River North, 25-1 others.
Ladbrokes: 7-2 Montelado, 4-1 (with a run) Alderbrook, 6-1 Fortune And Fame, 8-1 Large Action, 12-1 River North, 14-1 Moorish, Mysilv, 16-1 others.Reuse content