NICKY Henderson has revealed that Altior returned a dirty scope after his shock defeat at Kempton.
The 10-year-old was beaten for just the second time over jumps by 20-1 outsider Nube Negra in the Desert Orchid Chase.
Racehorses routinely undergo a 'scope', a tracheal wash which can reveal if a horse has mucus in their lungs or windpipe as the result of an infection.
Altior reportedly scoped clean on Christmas Eve – but Hendo said it was a different story when the horse was tested on Sunday night.
He told Nick Luck's Daily Podcast: "We had him scoped (after the race) – we can't scope him again today because it's a Bank Holiday and the laboratory is shut, but we have reason to continue investigating that.
"There was evidence (of a dirty scope). I spoke to (vet) Simon Knapp last night – he confirmed there was, and we need to do a tracheal wash, which then goes to the laboratory. I wouldn't be surprised if we find there is something amiss.
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"It's definitely not normal, because he was scoped on Christmas Eve and we know it was 100 per cent clean, but 48 hours is a long time in a horse's life.
"It would be enough (to affect his performance) – it would in Simon Knapp's opinion anyway."
The champion trainer reckons several of his horses are under the weather at present, so he has decided to ease off for a couple of weeks.
He continued: "We've got one or two horses that aren't quite right.
"I've got five runners tomorrow and then I think I've got two more this week – (then) we're going to have a quiet time, and I think I might leave them alone this week.
"The ground is desperate, and I know we've got Sandown at the weekend – but when Sandown is heavy, it's a completely different kind of heavy.
"I'm not blaming the ground at all yesterday, I'm only saying thank God we didn't run him at Sandown (in the Tingle Creek Chase in early December)."
But Hendo did not blame sickness on Epatante's flop in the Christmas Hurdle.
The reigning champion hurdler was beaten at odds of 1-5 by Silver Streak at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He said: "I don't think it's the same with Epatante – I think something else will come up there, and I've got ideas. That wasn't her, and we know it wasn't her. (Whether she was in season) is being investigated.
"I'd be surprised if Epatante ran again before Cheltenham – she didn't last year, and I see no reason to run her again.
"I'm perfectly happy with both these horses that I've got good grounds for thinking there are reasons behind this – and with a bit of luck and a following wind, we can get them back into action."
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