Racing: Giant task for Carvill's Hill

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The Independent Online
JODAMI wears chasing's crown but this king rests uneasily in the shadow of Carvill's Hill. If the 1993 Gold Cup winner meets the 1992 Gold Cup's beaten favourite in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow next Saturday it will be a true battle of the giants. It will also represent another remarkable chapter in the Carvill's Hill story.

Paul Green's battle-battered gelding has already made one successful comeback from injury. The fact that he is ready to attempt another is testament to the skill of his trainer, Martin Pipe, and his team.

The crucial difference between patching up a human athlete and an equine one is mental. Carvill's Hill's body may have been repaired, but the damage to his confidence is impossible to evaluate. The last time the 11-year-old appeared on a racecourse - 20 months ago in the infamous 1992 Cheltenham Gold Cup where the front-runner was taken on by Golden Freeze, whose kamikaze tactics put paid to both of them - it hurt him a lot.

He ripped muscles in his chest - an unusual injury in a horse - and back, and also bashed a tendon. In retrospect, the extraordinary thing about the 1992 Gold Cup was not that Carvill's Hill failed to win but that he completed the course.

Pipe is pleased with his progress but only the public test will reveal whether or not any mental scars remain. Horses are great associaters and Carvill's Hill's last memory of competition is linked with pain.

He has never had the natural athletic jumping ability of Jodami; his forte, as he showed in the Rehearsal two years ago, is his mighty galloping stride. But if anyone can get him back, Pipe can, and his return to the fray will be worth travelling to see.