Racing: Fruits Of Love flavour of month

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a situation with which all metropolitan motorists could sympathise. Fruits Of Love was being transported home, his vehicle moving slowly and jerkily in desperate M25 traffic. It was, after a while, all too much. It became box rage.

The chestnut climbed over the top of his compartment partition and crashed, upside down, into the groom's corridor, his limbs thrashing wildly. It appeared the only contest which remained for the horse was the one to save his life.

Fruits Of Love won that particular encounter, however, and yesterday he also won the small matter of a Group Two horse race here. The Hardwicke Stakes might seem small trifle compared with the mortal battle Mark Johnston's four-year-old won three months ago, but it does establish the horse as one of the best middle-distance animals in Europe. He is now 7-1 (from 20-1) with Coral for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes back here on 24 July.

It is not an appointment, it must be said, which he looked like keeping as he returned from a successful mission to Dubai's World Cup meeting. Johnston was further ahead, travelling back to Middleham, when disturbing news reached him. "He's a well travelled horse and a very laid-back, quiet individual at all times so it was a surprise to hear what was happening to say the least," the trainer said. "He climbed over the partition at the front of his stall. He fell over the top and landed upside down in the groom's passage with his front legs thrashing around.

"I was on the mobile phone listening to it all happening in the background. I never really imagined while the ordeal was going on that he would race again. And the way the situation was being described to me I thought there was little chance of him surviving.

"We can only imagine that he was so long on the plane and the fact that he was inching around the M25 in very slow traffic made him decide he'd had enough. He wanted to get out of there."

That Fruits Of Love emerged with his life is a tribute to the skills of both Sarah Freeman, a vet, and the firefighters of Potters Bar. "She climbed on top of him and sat between his front legs to give him a general anaesthetic after putting a catheter in his jugular," Johnston added. "The fire brigade cut him out at the Royal Veterinary Hospital and winched him out by his four legs on to a ramp. He came out of it all with hardly a scratch on him."

It was with permanent company though that Fruits Of Love arrived at the Royal meeting yesterday. Deirdre Johnston, the trainer's wife, had ridden the horse out in the morning and judged he was at the peak of performance. Her judgement was to be proved correct.

Fruits Of Love was to the rear for the first portion of an initially slowly run Hardwicke, but was cranked into gear as the pace itself increased in Swinley Bottom. It still looked quite a job to reel in Royal Anthem off the bend but when Olivier Peslier is at the controls much is possible.

The Frenchman overhauled the white-bridled leader a furlong out, but was immediately chilled when he heard the roar spilling from the stands. Peslier imagined the crowd was heralding a challenger, but then he caught sight of himself on the infield giant screen. It showed splendid isolation. Peslier enjoyed it. "This is the best meeting in the world," he said later. "It is a great day with sunshine and lots of ladies."

There may be further sunny days too for Fruits Of Love. "This morning everyone said that this was one of the great Hardwickes and Royal Anthem was the best horse in Europe," Johnston said. "So who is the best horse in Europe now?

"Mine is an American-bred horse and so many of them improve with age. He's only four and he's had a lot of troubles in his life so maybe the best is still to come."

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