Sizing Europe will miss the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
Connections of the 2010 Irish Independent Arkle Trophy winner have decided against sending the Irish-trained nine-year-old over to England for the second time in three weeks after making a wasted journey for the abandoned Christmas meeting.
Instead, trainer Henry de Bromhead will attempt to give Sizing Europe a run before Cheltenham nearer home.
“After careful consideration we've decided to bypass the rearranged King George this Saturday with Sizing Europe,” he said.
“He's in great form at home so what we'll do now is sit down and look at our options here over the next three to four weeks with a view to a run prior to the Festival in March.”
Sizing Europe put up a pleasing effort over three miles when second to Kauto Star in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival in November, and his conqueror is seeking a record fifth successive victory in Kempton's feature, Tony McCoy taking over in the saddle from the injured Ruby Walsh.
The three-week delay and the forecast softer ground conditions will play to Kauto Star's strengths, according to his trainer Paul Nicholls.
“Obviously the race being delayed is a setback, different horses will be different. It doesn't appear to have made any difference to Kauto Star because he likes to be really fresh and well and you don't have to murder him in his work,” the Ditcheat handler said.
“He had a nice little break for a week after the day it was due to be run. He still cantered every day, we have just picked him up quietly and he's in really good form. It doesn't seem to have affected him at all.
“He worked great on Saturday morning and we are very happy with him.
“He was in good order when he won at Down Royal and he's improved a lot for that run.
“It is a totally different race to what it would have been on Boxing Day. It would have been really good ground then, on Saturday if the forecast is right it looks like being really soft. That will be more of an advantage to him than it was on Boxing Day because a lot of horses would have have been a bigger threat on good ground whereas on soft ground it will go against some of them so it's probably to his advantage.”
Tom George's Nacarat paid the price for trying to live with Kauto Star in last year's race and faded into fourth.
“We've been delighted with him. He did his last piece of work this morning and I couldn't have him any better in my opinion,” said the Slad trainer.
“We can't actually beat Kauto Star if he turns up in the same sort of form that he turned up in last year, and nothing else will beat him either.
“But obviously he's got to be in that form and everything has to go right for him.
“I thought last year, without Kauto, that we could have beaten the rest of them and we paid the price for trying to go with Kauto on the home turn when nobody else could go with him and he did get tired on ground that was very testing. We just hope it is not quite as soft as that and will ride the race as it comes.”
Nicky Henderson has grave concerns that the likely soft ground will be against Riverside Theatre, owned by actor James Nesbitt.
“I'm worried the ground has gone against Riverside Theatre. He's in great form and on good ground I would be really keen,” commented the Seven Barrows handler.
Henderson also saddles Long Run, whose owner Robert Waley-Cohen is unconcerned about the predicted conditions.
The French import has handled soft ground well in the past and connections believe his previously sketchy jumping is improving all the time.
“The ground is what it is and I'm not worried about it — it's the same for everyone,” said the owner.
“This is his second race out of novice company, but jumping is not the worry — Kauto Star is the worry.”