A dual Group One winner over a mile last season after landing the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex at Goodwood, Alcohol Free made it a top-level treble when successfully reverting to six furlongs in last month's July Cup at Newmarket.
Having since finished a creditable third behind the brilliant Baaeed when defending her Sussex crown, hopes were understandably high ahead of an intended trip to Merseyside - but she is now set for a spell on the sidelines.
Balding said: "Unfortunately Alcohol Free has sustained what we hope is a minor injury, but it is significant enough to rule her out of the Sprint Cup.
"She's got a cut which requires some stitches in an awkward place. Hopefully it is not the end of her career, but it will seriously compromise her chances of getting to Haydock in top form, so we have decided to scrap that and work on alternative plans.
"We are just going to have to be guided by how she responds. It has been stitched and we need to see how she responds to that, and we certainly wouldn't be taking any chances, so we will be playing it on a day-by-day basis.
"We will know more about things in a week's time. Racing is full of setbacks and disappointments, so we are fairly used to them.
"It is a blow, but thankfully they can't take away what she has already achieved. We just have to hope she is okay in a week to 10 days' time."