Fracture forces a long break for Pennekamp

Fabre has a setback, but he still enters 24 horses in the Arc. Greg Wood reports
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The Independent Online
The Derby at Epsom on Saturday may have claimed more than just the unbeaten record of Pennekamp, the 2,000 Guineas winner. An X-ray examination at Chantilly yesterday revealed a hairline fracture of one of the colt's fore fetlock joints, and put his racing career on hold.

Pennekamp started favourite for the Derby at 11-8 but finished, lame and 20 lengths behind Lammtarra, in 11th place. He is believed to have sustained the fracture when crossing a road on the descent to Tattenham Corner, and will now be confined to his box until mid-July at the earliest.

Anthony Stroud, racing manager to Sheikh Mohammed, Pennekamp's owner, said yesterday that, granted normal progress, the colt would be able to race again. "He will now be box-rested for four weeks before further X- rays are taken to assess his progress," he added.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday's Classic, when a lack of stamina appeared to be the cause of Pennekamp's defeat, Andre Fabre's colt had been expected to revert to the mile trip over which he beat Celtic Swing at Newmarket. In the light of yesterday's news, it is far less certain that Pennekamp failed to stay a mile and a half.

Whatever the future holds for him, there was a reminder yesterday of just how much the season has left to offer with the publication of entries for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

The voyage of discovery through summer and autumn, leading to Paris on 1 October, begins at Royal Ascot a week today, and while some of the 148 Arc entries are unfamiliar at present, their anonymity will soon start to be stripped away.

The first serious ante-post odds for the Arc generally appear after the King George at Ascot in late July, but for the moment backers should commit to memory the fact that 24 of yesterday's entries are trained by Fabre.

Three points must be considered. The first is that the man who is beyond any reasonable dispute the best trainer in Europe, probably has a very good idea already of which horse will be his principal Arc contender. The second is that if you ask him which one it is, he won't tell you. The third: that its current public profile makes Howard Hughes look like a party animal.

That, at least, was the pattern last year, when Fabre won the Arc with Carnegie, a colt whose true potential became apparent only in early September. Carnegie will of course be prepared with a second Arc in mind, even if his performance in Saturday's Coronation Cup at Epsom was a little disappointing. But it will still be a surprise if Fabre does not produce a dark horse for the early autumn.

With 24 entries, Fabre's Arc contingent is half as strong numerically as the entire British challenge, which is headed by Celtic Swing, the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner. The Godolphin operation is also strongly represented, with eight candidates including Lammtarra, Moonshell, the Oaks winner, and Balanchine, last year's Oaks and Irish Derby winner who is expected to return to the track, following a life- threatening illness, in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot a week today.

Lammtarra's victory at Epsom on Saturday was the most spectacular yet for the Godolphin programme of wintering some of the Maktoum family's best horses in Dubai. In the rather cooler climate of Halifax, however, Saeed bin Suroor's colt has so far failed to warm the hearts of the Timeform organisation's handicappers, who yesterday declared Lammtarra's performance to be one of the poorest by a Derby winner in living memory.

For those who backed him, Timeform's announcement is unlikely to take much of the shine off Lammtarra's success, but since the firm has been rating horses for almost half a century, it merits respect. They assess the colt at 123, when even the thoroughly humdrum Quest For Fame, in 1990, made it to 127. Only Blakeney, also alloted a mark of 123 in 1969, saves Lammtarra from being the sole occupant of Timeform's lowest rung among post-war Derby winners.

Yet, as Chris Williams, Timeform's handicapper of three-year-olds, pointed out yesterday: "There are not many horses who run to a rating of 123 on only their second start. There's no reason to suppose Lammtarra can't prove himself a top-class horse later in the season and we can't damn him for a highly commendable effort on his second run. You can knock the form of the race, but not the form of the winner.''

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