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Trainer Paul Nicholls has confirmed Celestial Halo will miss Saturday’s Wessex Youth Trust Long Walk Hurdle after picking up a foot infection.
The nine-year-old was set to go off as the joint favourite in Saturday’s big race at Ascot alongside At Fishers Cross.
The duo have already met once this season, the Son of Galileo taking advantage of a mistake by At Fishers Cross to romp to victory at Newbury last month.
However, racing fans will have to wait for the budding rivalry to be renewed after Nicholls confirmed Celestial Halo as a non-runner.
Nicholls tweeted: “Sadly Celestial Halo is a non-runner at Ascot tomorrow due to a foot infection.”
Celestial Halo’s withdrawal leaves At Fishers Cross the odds-on favourite for the Long Walk Hurdle, with only four other horses in the field.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained gelding will be expected to stroll to his first victory of the season after Celestial Halo pulled out, the six-year-old having been the best novice around last term.
At Fishers Cross shot to prominence when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and owner JP McManus is thought to be gearing him up for a shot at the World Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Another potential entry for one of the highlights of any Cheltenham Festival is Reve De Sivola and the French gelding will also be testing his metal in the Long Walk Hurdle this weekend.
The eight-year-old has not won since claiming the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January but did finish ahead of At Fishers Cross at Newbury in November.