Nick Gifford believes an infection was to blame for Straw Bear’s tame effort in the Stan James Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on St Stephen's Day.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up failed to follow up on his ‘Fighting Fifth’ victory last week and weakened following the turn for home at the Sunbury venue to finish fourth under Tony McCoy.
Connections were initially puzzled by the JP McManus-owned six-year-old’s performance as he failed to confirm Newcastle form with Noble Request and Desert Quest, but a tracheal wash revealed an infection.
Trainer Nick Gifford said: “The wash was cloudy and dirty so he has some sort of infection, but I am just waiting to get the test results to see exactly what it is.
“He will need a course of antibiotics to treat it so I can’t say for sure where he will run next, but I don’t imagine he will be off for too long as he is so well in himself.”
Straw Bear has been targeted at the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle all season and is now a 12-1 chance for the March 13 event with Coral.