The field hospital for Champion Hurdle aspirants admitted another patient yesterday when it was confirmed that Large Action has a serious leg injury and will miss the rest of the season.
The seven-year-old's demise leaves the long-range field for the hurdling championship in a sickly state and is loaded with irony as he was returned to the smaller obstacles from fences only because of the ailments that had befallen his rivals. Now Large Action too will be under the surgeon's lights after damaging a near-fore suspensory ligament which will take him out of training for six months.
Those that are left to dominate the market have the appearance of the hobbling and bloodied survivors of wartime. Alderbrook, William Hill's favourite, has legs that are becoming as reliable and tractable as the wheels of a supermarket trolley, Montelado is never far away from medecine bottles and plaster of Paris, while Fortune And Fame has a sports-car engine on legs of dry spaghetti.
At least they are still in it. This season has already claimed Ireland's hero, Danoli, and Relkeel, who does not appear to have the fortitude of his 95-year-old owner, Brigadier Roscoe Harvey. Speculation that Large Action was about to join them on the deeply populated sidelines was yesterday proved correct. "Very simply, as with all rumours, there is some truth," Brian Stewart-Brown, the gelding's owner, said. "The horse has an injury. I don't know if he will be able to run in the Champion Hurdle, but it looks unlikely." For unlikely, read impossible.
Large Action has been placed in the last two Champion Hurdles and his owner takes comfort both from that record and the fact that others have felt greater misery than him. "It is very, very sad but at least I am lucky enough to have a horse that has run in the Champion Hurdle twice, unlike Roscoe Harvey, whose Relkeel has never run in the race," Stewart- Brown said. "David Nicholson has been particularly unfortunate with horses like Mighty Mogul, Carobee and Relkeel. I wouldn't wish that on anybody."
Oliver Sherwood, Large Action's trainer, managed to put this magnanimity in the shade. "It was a bad day yesterday what with Berude Not To out for the season and this. It never rains, it pours," he said. "But at least we are not like the people in Bosnia who are starving."
Sherwood, though, was speaking before his other good horse, Callisoe Bay, capsized at Nottingham and it may be that his plane is landing in Sarajevo this very morning.
The last post must surely have been sounding across Upper Lambourn yesterday for as well as the disasters at Rhonehurst it was announced that the career of one of the village's most celebrated figures was over. Nobby the sheep has been retired following the news that Nick Henderson's Remittance Man, his constant companion, has run his last race.
The former Queen Mother Champion Chaser (cost IR25,000gns) was devoted to Nobby (cost pounds 1 from Henderson's dad, John) and made a horrible mess of one unfortunate sheep that was introduced to his box by mistake. The liaison worked as Remittance Man's record of 13 successes from 17 races over fences testifies. Now the old boy has run his last.
"We've decided to retire Remittance Man after his race at Sandown on Friday," Henderson said. "Since that race he has had a recurrence of his leg trouble and although not serious, we don't want to risk any further injury. He will retire to his owner's place where he will spend the rest of his days with his long-suffering companion, Nobby the sheep."
At his owner's (Jim Collins) place, the 11-year-old will be treated with Ultrasound, and it may be that he is allowed to hunt in the future. He takes with him the memory of the day in 1992 when he repelled Katabatic and Waterloo Boy to become the best two-mile chaser in the land. "I can honestly say that all my family cried in the box we were so overjoyed," Collins said. There was probably a repeat yesterday. It was a day for tears.
CHAMPION HURDLE (Cheltenham, 12 March): Tote: 9-2 Montelado, 5-1 Alderbrook,
7-1 Mysilv, 9-1 Atours, 12-1 Fortune And Fame & River North, 16-1 Balawhar, Kissair & Mack The Knife, 20-1 Moorish; William Hill: 4-1 Alderbrook, 9-2 Montelado, 7-1 Mysilv, 8-1 Atours, 12-1 Fortune And Fame, 14-1 Balawhar, Moorish & River North.
n Today's meeting at Hexham has been lost to the snow.Reuse content