Racing: Fundamentalist 'the next Arkle'out for the year

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The Independent Online

A racing fairy story ended with an injured prince yesterday. Fundamentalist, the novice who might have been jousting with the best horses in the land in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is out of the tale and out for some time.

A racing fairy story ended with an injured prince yesterday. Fundamentalist, the novice who might have been jousting with the best horses in the land in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is out of the tale and out for some time.

Nigel Twiston Davies's gelding has damaged a tendon and if he is to burn brightly across the National Hunt firmament it will not be this spring at least. "It's a massive setback," the Cheltenham trainer said yesterday. "You think you have discovered the next Arkle and then this happens."

It is a shocking buffer to what had been the most expressive of careers. The Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle winner of last March's Cheltenham Festival had taken smoothly to fences, first at Perth and then most persuasively in the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase back at Prestbury Park. After that victory the bookmakers suggested that even Best Mate, et al, should be quaking.

Then, however, came defeat at Newbury, followed by failure to complete back at Cheltenham, where yesterday morning's discovery of injury may have had its origins. "It's very likely connected to his last run," Twiston-Davies added. "It may be that there was a little bit of damage in there that was undetectable to hand or eye.

"After his run last time we swam him for 10 days and he had just started back cantering when this flared up. He's got a warm leg, a tendon. We have scanned him and there's a tiny bit of damage. It's a very mild one, but, as they say, you can't be just a little bit pregnant.

"The prognosis is that he will not run again until this time next year. We will keep him here and treat him as necessary. He should come back just as good as ever. God only knows how good that will be, but I still see him as a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse."

The solar plexus has been located at Grange Hill Farm, but at least there are others who may lighten the punch. "It's one hell of a blow," Twiston-Davies added. "The main arrow may have been snapped, but we still have horses like Ollie Magern [favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase] and Baron Windrush for the four-miler, Pe-tite Margot for a handicap, Whereareyounow and others."

The stomach will also be sore among those who have backed Shamardal, the leading two-year-old of 2004, to carry on his good work into a second consecutive Classic European season. Formerly with Mark Johnston, the colt had been recruited by Godolphin and the letter from Dubai suggests he is to be tried extensively over sand as Sheikh Mohammed chases his Holy Grail of success in the Kentucky Derby. Domestic Classic vouchers may have to be tossed into the dunes.

Shamardal's destiny day is likely to be the UAE Derby in the Emirates, after which a Kentucky Derby plan could be confirmed. Sheikh Mohammed is in the happy position of having plenty of eggs, and no few baskets either. Should Shamardal contend for one of the greatest prizes to elude his wide grasp, he still has another rocket to duel for European honours. Dubawi, a son of the Sheikh's late Dubai Millennium, a near infatuation for the owner, is either a substitute or one for whom a substitute is required. Only the crown prince of Dubai knows the hierarchy. Still, Dubawi is unbeaten too and the National Stakes winner rides aloft as favourite for the Derby, the oldest and English variety.

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