The fine line that separates a finely tuned athlete from ruinous injury, so sadly illustrated by the fate of Pine Island at Churchill Downs on Saturday, was crossed closer to home on the Lambourn Downs yesterday. The admirable and popular chaser Fondmort was last night fighting for his life in a veterinary hospital after fracturing his pelvis in a gallop.
The 10-year-old suffered a heavy haemorrhage - the pelvic girdle is close to an artery - and even after a blood transfusion from a stablemate, is nowhere near out of the woods. "He had a wobbly time during the afternoon," said Henderson. "He stabilised a little better during the evening, but it is going to be a long night for all of us."
Fondmort, owned by Bill and Tracy Brown, was four days away from his return to action on his favourite course, Cheltenham, scene of so many of his best performances. He was due to run in Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup, which he won three years ago. Altogether, the French-bred scored four times at the track, including his latest success, the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March.
After that victory, he was given a reception worthy of a Gold Cup winner by the public who took him to their hearts. "He was just doing a routine piece of work, his last before Saturday," said Henderson. "He was doing the same thing he has done so many times before and Vicky Pearce, who has looked after him all of his life, was riding him.
"We managed to get him off the gallops. He's got two great assets - one is his temperament and the other, as we all know from the racecourse, is that he's got a great will."
Two candidates for the 50th Hennessy Gold Cup later in the month may make their seasonal debuts over hurdles at Cheltenham at the weekend, Henderson's Juveigneur in a novice contest on Sunday and Paul Nicholls-trained Star De Mohaison, second favourite after the publication of the weights for the Newbury feature, on Saturday.
Nicholls's exciting young chaser was ruled out of the Charlie Hall Chase because of heavy ground and the opposite may be the caveat at the weekend. "I wouldn't want him running if it is too firm." he said, "I wouldn't be too worried if he didn't have a prep. He's pretty fit and ours have been doing OK first time out."
Our Vic, winner of the Charlie Hall, has been given top weight of 11st 12lb in the Hennessy, but the early favourite is State Of Play, set to carry 10st. Evan Williams's charge is an 8-1 shot, in front of Star De Mohaison and Southern Vic.
The European challenge for yesterday's Melbourne Cup ended in disappointment as the 126th edition of the historic Flemington contest went to Japan for the first time. Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Delta Blues, a 17-1 shot ridden by Yasunari Iwata , beat his stablemate Pop Rock, the 5-1 joint-favourite, by a short-head.
In a thrilling final furlong, the pair drew clear of the best of the home side, Maybe Better. Jamie Poulton's 200-1 shot Land'N Stars fared best of the British, storming down the home straight under John Egan to take fifth. Yeats and Kieren Fallon could finish only seventh, with Glistening and Geordieland, who bled, in the ruck.
Poulton was delighted with Land 'N Stars and hopes to have another crack at the race next year but is also eyeing a tilt at the Perth Cup on New Year's Day.
The fee for Yeats's Ballydoyle stablemate George Washington, who ended his career with a sixth place in the Breeders' Cup Classic, has been set at €60,000 (£42,000). The three-year-old will stand at Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary next year. Sheikh Mohammed's Bernardini, second in the same race, has been retired to Darley's Kentucky base, Jonabell Farm, for $100,000 (£52,000).
NB: Prime Defender
(Wolverhampton 2.50)Reuse content