Last year's Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D'Allen has picked up an injury and may be out for the season.
The Gavin Cromwell trained Espoir D'Allen only returned to training in early August with his aim for the season to defend his Unibet Champion Hurdle crown. A feat he was as short as 3/1 to achieve in some ante-post bookmaker markets.
He was pictured with regular box driver Mick Cromwell having only returned to the Meath yard, following his break in Martinstown.
— Mick Cromwell (@mickcromwell) August 6, 2019
Trainer Cromwell confirmed the news to Richie Forristal in the Racing Post. He sounded far from optimistic about the vets' prognosis:
"Last Thursday he had done a little canter and coming back in off the gallop. He got spooked, reared up and fell over," Cromwell said of Espoir D'Allen.
"He is in Fethard Equine Hospital and we still haven't found what's wrong with him. But it looks like he is going to be out for the season."
Cromwell confirmed that the horse "got a slap off the ground and the issue seems to be around his shoulder, but they are still trying to pin it down.
"He is very lame and sore on his right front side and he hasn't improved since he went down there. They are still doing tests on him to try and find the problem and the vets don't seem very optimistic of him making a speedy recovery.
"It’s a massive blow for everybody in the yard.”
Five-year-old Espoir D'Allen gave Cromwell the biggest success of his career when winning at Cheltenham last March. The horse is owned by JP McManus.
The French-bred son of Voix du Nord was unbeaten last season, culminating in that Unibet Champion Hurdle win.
The victory gave JP McManus his eighth win in the race as an owner. Espoir D'Allen was following in the hoofprints of Istabraq, Binocular, Jezki and Buveur D'air previously.
The Willie Mullins trained Klassical Dream is the new Champion Hurdle favourite. The Supreme Novices Hurdle winner from the 2019 Cheltenham Festival is as short as 7/2 in the market.