Tataniano out of Champion Chase

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Tataniano, winner of last season's Grade 1 John Smith's Maghull Chase at Aintree and a live outsider for honours in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival later this month, has been scratched from the race after failing to recover in time from a muscle injury, writes Elliot Slater.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has revealed that the talented seven-year-old had not responded quickly enough to a muscle tear and would not be fit in time to take his chance against stable companion and former title holder Master Minded and reigning champion Big Zeb. Tataniano had been available at a range of prices varying from as short as 12/1 out to 20/1 with some firms and those following the latest Champion Chase betting will now have to find another horse to back.

The Andy Stewart-owned gelding missed last season's Cheltenham Festival to concentrate on Aintree, a policy that proved spot on as he trounced the useful Osana by 13-lengths to win the feature novice chase at the meeting. Seen only once this term when finishing third to Gauvain at Cheltenham in November, Nicholls' charge had been prepared for a crack at the Champion Chase and all was going to plan until he tore muscles in his hind quarter in mid-February. Despite the best efforts of the team at Ditcheat, Tataniano couldn't be made fit enough to run in the championship event.

Master Minded, also owned by Stewart, remains a solid 5/2 favourite to win back the title he held in 2008 and 2009. So far this term he is unbeaten in three outings (including two Grade 1's) and looks back to something close to the peak of his form a couple of seasons ago. Title holder Big Zeb (10/3) has also been in good form this season in his native Ireland, winning twice before being reeled in by Golden Silver and going under by half-a-length to the Willie Mullins-trained runner at Punchestown last month.

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