Trained by Nicky Henderson, Birchdale would have been a short price for the Grade Two affair on the back of his impressive hurdling debut over the course and distance, form which has stood up well.
But he was declared a non runner on Friday evening with a vet’s certificate.
He has only lost once in a four-race career to date and owner Garth Broom feels he had an excuse that day.
“We were thrilled with him at Newbury, we know how much they thought of Downtown Getaway in Ireland because we bought the horse who finished second to him in a bumper at Fairyhouse (Remastered),” said Broom.
“There looked to be plenty in that Newbury race, we had a penalty but still won.
“He’s a chaser in the making, but he’s come on in leaps and bounds. He was a little disappointing in his second bumper, but they had a bit of a virus last season and he had five months between races.
“He’s been unbeaten otherwise, so the hopes and dreams are still there.”
The Listed McCoy Contractors 2019 Construction News Award Finalist Hampton Novices’ Chase has only attracted four runners and none can be ruled out.
Fairly advanced in years for a novice at nine, he will be ridden by leading amateur Derek O’Connor, suggesting he could be heading for the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders over four miles in March.
“He’ll certainly have an entry in the four-miler and at this stage it’s a possibility, but it’s still a long way away,” said Berry. “Derek will ride him and we’ll see how things go in the meantime.
“He showed his stamina last year in the Albert Bartlett and it was pleasing enough at Plumpton on his chasing debut.
“Hopefully he’ll have learned a bit that day and he goes there in good form. Hopefully it all goes well.”
“We chose this race over the Classic Chase on the same card so he stays in novice company, but it’s a competitive little contest,” said Bailey.
“He’s giving weight away and you couldn’t rule any of the others out, so we’ll find out how good he really is.
“Hopefully his experience will count for something.”
Owner Broom said: “We think he’s good enough to be an RSA horse, so that’s why we’re stepping him up in trip.
“He’s won a point, but we felt he needed a confidence boost which was why we dropped him to two miles at Exeter.”