Racing: Classic hope Stonehatch dead: A fatal accident on the gallops robs the 2,000 Guineas of a leading fancy. Greg Wood reports

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The Independent Online
STONEHATCH, one of the favourites for the 2,000 Guineas, has been put down. Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt shattered his pelvis during a home gallop and, despite sustained efforts by the trainer and medical staff, could not be saved.

Stonehatch was officially rated behind only Grand Lodge among last year's juveniles, having won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished second in the Dewhurst Stakes. He had contracted significantly in the Guineas betting, from 25-1 down to 14-1, in recent weeks.

'Stonehatch was undoubtedly the best of my Guineas prospects and I'm sure I would have advised John Reid to ride him at Newmarket,' Chapple- Hyam said yesterday.

Although Stonehatch was lame when he returned from work on Friday morning, the magnitude of his injury was not immediately apparent. 'I did not at first believe it was serious,' the trainer said, 'but on Saturday morning he was in a lot of pain and our vet gave him a sedative. We still didn't think it was that bad, but we called in a top man from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and he diagnosed a shattered pelvis.

'We built a special sling for Stonehatch and did everything possible to save him, but in the end there was no option but to have him humanely destroyed.'

Though Chapple-Hyam's yard was full of talented two- year-olds last season, he reserved particular affection for Stonehatch. 'Everyone here is absolutely devastated,' he said. 'He wasn't just a top- class racehorse, he was my best mate.'

Chapple-Hyam must now concentrate his efforts on preparing Colonel Collins and Golden Nashwan, his two remaining candidates, for the first colts' Classic on 30 April. The revised market, though, implies that neither will prove an adequate replacement.

Grand Lodge remains favourite with Ladbrokes and Hills. The latter firm then bets: 6-1 (with a run) Manntari, 8-1 Green Green Desert, 14-1 Golden Nashwan and Just Happy, 16-1 Dove Hunt (from 20-1), 20-1 bar.

Without Stonehatch, however, the list looks a little bare, and the first of the season's Classic trials, the Easter Stakes at Kempton on Saturday, did little to inspire faith in the three-year-olds. Ultimo Imperatore, the winner, is to be aimed at the Italian 2,000 Guineas, while Concordial, sent off favourite, did not appear to run up to his best.

Perhaps the only Classic tip at Kempton was the information that Dollar Gamble, the easy winner of the Queen Elizabeth Handicap under top weight, has been working with Lemon Souffle, Richard Hannon's 1,000 Guineas favourite.

The paucity of fancied runners extends to the latest Grand National betting, in which only six runners stand at less than 20-1. From a punter's point of view this is cause for encouragement. The recent changes to the National course have so reduced the element of chance it will be a major surprise if next Saturday's winner does not come from the first six in the betting: The Fellow, Double Silk, Master Oats, Young Hustler, Moorcroft Boy and Topsham Bay.

The likelihood of soft going at Aintree has already put the participation of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, The Fellow, in doubt and the shortlist may be reduced still further. Neither Young Hustler, third to The Fellow in the Gold Cup last month, nor David Barons's Topsham Bay, are at their best with cut in the ground. The going on the National course is now good to soft, with soft patches. More wet weather is forecast.

Not surprisingly, there was support over the weekend for the two leading contenders who would be suited by soft ground. Master Oats, winner of the Greenalls Gold Cup at Kempton, and Moorcroft Boy, who was 15 lengths behind him in second, are now 10-1 and 12-1 respectively with Ladbrokes. Miinnehoma was also cut, to 20-1 from 33-1, on the news that Richard Dunwoody is expected to be in his saddle.

(Photograph omitted)