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
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York