Early hibernation for Swing to lick wounds

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The Independent Online

It was supposed to be the season of Swing, but with barely half of the campaign completed, the horse who was expected to dominate it has shuffled from the stage. Peter Savill, Celtic Swing's owner, announced yesterday that the colt will not run again this year, but that he will be given "every chance of a full recovery as a four-year-old".

Celtic Swing was lame on his off-fore shin after finishing a very distant eighth in the Irish Derby at the Curragh last Sunday, and Savill's statement yesterday implied that an excuse for that performance has been found. "There is no doubt that his below-par run in the Irish Derby was caused by the injury sustained, we believe, on the turn into the straight," Savill said. "There are some indications that the beginnings of the injury may have occurred earlier in the season but were exacerbated at the Curragh."

A veterinary examination on Thursday revealed that Celtic Swing had sustained severe concussion to most of the bones of his left knee. No fractures were found, but ligaments had been torn off the bone at the back of the same knee. Paul du Preez, who conducted the examination, stated in his report that "this condition responds to complete, sustained rest. As a result he will be removed from training for an initial period of four weeks before being reassessed".

Savill's prepared statement left several questions unanswered, however. It seems surprising that the moment of the colt's injury could be pinpointed so precisely, and his owner elaborate on the evidence that the origins of the injury could be traced to earlier in the season.

It must also be very doubtful whether even nine months' rest will allow Celtic Swing to rediscover the brilliance of his juvenile career. Recent evidence has strongly suggested that his contemporaries have caught and passed him in terms of development and ability. Enough talent remained to secure a hard-fought victory in a poor French Derby last month, but it is hard to believe that Celtic Swing's best days are not now as distant as his pursuers at Town Moor last October. What odds now, you wonder, about a multi-million pound export to a Japanese stud farm this winter?

Not for Celtic Swing, it seems, a race named in his honour like today's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, a timely reminder that true champions do not need excuses. That said, the curator of Newmarket's Horseracing Museum may find the old horse's skeleton revolving briskly in its case this morning, such is the poor quality of this year's renewal.

Of those that head the betting, Eltish has yet to win a race this season, while Muhtarram was the subject of disturbing rumours earlier this week. So the remainder of the field will surely never have a better chance to win a Group One event.

The one to take advantage could be PRINCE OF ANDROS (nap 4.05). He has been running well all season, with two victories including the Brigadier Gerard Stakes over today's course and distance. It is hard to understand his morning-line odds of 10-1 and a double with Loch Patrick (3.20), ideally drawn on the rails in the Listed sprint, might also be worthwhile.

They will also be naming a race in honour of a horse up at Haydock if Glide Path (4.00) can win the Old Newton Cup handicap for the third successive year. "He loves it up there," John Hills, his trainer, said yesterday. "Horses come right at different times of the year and this race has always just fallen right for him. He's in really good order, the ground is spot on and he must have a really good chance." Take the hint.