Nicky Henderson’s highly regarded young hurdler Aegean Dawn has been ruled out of a crack at the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday and his participation in one of the big handicap hurdles at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival hangs very much in the balance, writes Elliot Slater.
The Alflora gelding is unbeaten in four career starts and was expected to be all the rage for the Sandown race, which carries a bonus of £75,000 should the winner go on to land one of the big handicap hurdles at Cheltenham a few days later. Aegean Dawn had been strongly fancied by many to do the double on the back of a couple of scintillating performances so far this term, but after schooling the horse on Wednesday morning Henderson was not happy with his charge and immediately reported to the press that the six-year-old would miss his trip to the Esher track and that his participation at Cheltenham is now in doubt. Those who were planning to back him may now want to look at the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011 instead.
Henderson felt that the horse didn’t school well and his gut instinct is that something is amiss. He confirmed that his veterinary team would be checking the horse thoroughly to see if they can but their finger on the source of the problem, and if it is something that can be remedied quickly there could still be a chance that owner Paul Murphy’s exciting prospect might make it to the Cheltenham Festival to run in either the Coral Cup, for which he is a best priced 8/1 shot, or take his chance in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, for which Aegean Dawn is still 10/1 ante-post co-favourite.
Having bolted up on his seasonal return at Cheltenham in November, Aegean Dawn took the scalp of Champion Hurdle contender Mille Chief seven days later, when scoring by four-and-a-half lengths in Ascot’s Cannacord Genuity Handicap Hurdle.