Racing: Caution over Love's latest endeavour

A colt who went beserk in a horsebox after his biggest triumph is being given extra care en route to Ascot's King George on Saturday. By Richard Edmondson

IT WAS as he returned from victory at Dubai's World Cup meeting in the spring that things started to go wrong for Fruits Of Love.

The colt had travelled the globe but, as with many humans, the M25 proved a thoroughfare too far. "Fruity", as he is called in his yard, went bananas.

The four-year-old reacted to a tortuous journey by vaulting out of the compound of his horsebox into the groom's area. The form book analysis might have been: held up, not travel well, jumped awkwardly and fell.

That it did not also include "dead" is thanks largely due to the team of White Watch at Potter's Bar fire station, who cut the anaesthetised Fruits Of Love free at the nearby Royal Veterinary College. These firefighters will be in attendance at Ascot on Saturday as their former patient seeks to establish himself as the premier middle-distance horse in Europe.

There will be precautions taken with Fruits Of Love tomorrow as he meanders down from Middleham in Yorkshire for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. "He'll travel in our own box with v-bars in front which are impossible to jump over, not that we think that's a likely scenario even though it's happened once before," Mark Johnston, the colt's trainer, says. "He should be all right."

Fruits Of Love will be one of the favourites on Saturday, thanks largely to his devastating success in Royal Ascot's Hardwicke Stakes. Yet he is not a consistent animal. He has won just four of his 16 starts, a poor return for a horse who worked so skilfully with his stable's 2,000 Guineas runner-up, Lend A Hand, as a two-year-old. "I've always admitted that he frustrated me no end because I thought he was far, far better than he ever showed," Johnston says. "Luckily, in the end, he showed it, but I'm not pretending he is a model of consistency. His form has not been much to boast about.

"There are so many factors with any racehorse. Branston Abby [Johnston's winningmost British-trained filly or mare of the post-War era with 24 successes] was the great lesson for me. Everyone seemed to know everything there was to know about her but, in reality, after 80 races she was still changing. We were still finding out new things.

"I don't know the answer with Fruits Of Love. We have fitted blinkers to him and without a shadow of a doubt he has improved. But it's hard to say.''

Johnston is less equivocal though with those who seek to promote horses of yesteryear as the true champions. In a recent survey, Brigadier Gerard, the winner of 17 of his 18 races including the King George itself in 1972, was established as the best horse of the century. Mr Johnston, BVMS, MRCVS, begs to differ with some of the science behind the finding. "A lot of it is nostalgic rubbish to my mind," he says. "Brigadier Gerard was a wonderful horse, the greatest of his generation by a long way, but that was his generation. It was nearly 30 years ago and racing has improved out of all recognition since then and it is infinitely more competitive. He was around when we were boys.''

Fruits Of Love is maturing. His recent exercises out of Kingsley House have persuaded Johnston that the four-year-old may soon be rid of the blinkers which have been in place for his best efforts to date. "I'm wondering whether to take them off now," he says. "The horse's attitude has changed a lot both at home and on the racecourse, even in the last couple of months. He'll wear them this weekend though. I'm not that brave.''

The shame of Fruits Of Love's shroud is that it hides a particularly attractive head. It was part of the reason Johnston bought him. "He's a magnificent looking horse," the trainer says. "That's why we've always been so excited about him. I've always thought he was the nicest combination of pedigree and looks I've ever bought.''

That is not to say the son of the American stallion Hansel was that expensive. None of Johnston's are, relatively speaking, and it is a topic which annoys him. "I've been going 12 successful years and it does frustrate me when I see trainers in their first year turning up at the sales and easily outbidding me," he says. "I still can't go to sales and buy what I want. The most I've ever spent on a horse is 76,000gns and Fruits Of Love is second at 75,000gns." Love Crown, the top lot, is not such an auspicious character. "In fact, he's bloody useless," Johnston says.

"I don't want to spend ridiculous money and often I'm guilty of holding my owners back. I don't like spending money for money's sake. I always want to feel I'm getting value. I'm paranoid about wasting money [there was space here for a cheap observation about Johnston's Caledonian heritage but I let the moment pass].

"However there are times when I desperately want a horse but I can't have him. It's out of my price range. My price range, by most trainers' standards, is relatively low. There are trainers a hell of a long way below me in the table who wouldn't think twice about spending 100,000gns on a horse.''

Some of them are at the Keeneland July Select Yearling Sales in Kentucky this week casting their eyes over the most overpriced animals in the world. Mark Johnston, meanwhile, stays behind and dreams of victory.

It may well be that come Saturday, and this will not be an easy concept to explain to the Martians when they land, 75,000gns might seem a bargain for a beast of the field.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain