RACING: Mister Baileys' life under threat from grass sickness

Mister Baileys, last season's 2,000 Guineas winner, has contracted a poorly-understood and potentially fatal disease which, even if he survives, may ensure that his nascent stud career is over before it has started.

The colt, who was being prepared for the forthcoming covering season at the National Stud, has been diagnosed as suffering from grass sickness, which attacks the horse's nervous system and digestive tract. "His condition is very serious," Miles Littlewort, the stud's chief executive, said." More horses die from grass sickness than survive. It is a disease we feel so helpless about, because we don't know what causes it or how to prevent it.

"We lost Moorestyle to the same illness, but while it is too early to make a prognosis in Mister Baileys' case, and his condition remains critical, we are encouraged by his initial response to treatment. If he makes a complete recovery he could return tostud duties, but it is long odds against that at the moment."

Mister Baileys did not win the Guineas by far, but he was a beautifully proportioned athlete whose balance and strength produced an unusually high cruising speed.

The most memorable example of his poise and fluid action came in defeat, when he rounded Tattenham Corner in the Derby almost eight lengths clear of the field. Mister Baileys was still cantering, too, but his stamina finally deserted him approaching the two-furlong pole and he could finish only fourth. He started favourite for his only subsequent race, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, but was perhaps feeling the effects of his effort at Epsom and finished fifth.

Mister Baileys was owned by Paul Venner and trained by Mark Johnston, who became the first Middleham trainer for 50 years to saddle a Classic winner when the colt beat Grand Lodge by a short-head at Newmarket. The National Stud bought a half-share in theson of Robellino at the end of the Flat season, and he would have been expected to cover his first mares in about four weeks' time.

"Mister Baileys is the first 2,000 Guineas winner we have ever managed to retire to the National Stud," Littlewort said. "To be hit like this is very hard to take as 1994 was not a great year. Zoman was found to be infertile and we had slight problems with Rock City, and now 1995 has started off badly."

An appointment with a vet several years ago ended any chance of retirement to stud for Lord Relic, but Martin Pipe's chaser may at least be able to resume his racing career after making a promising recovery from a leg injury sustained on Saturday. Lord Relic's life was thought to be in danger after he fractured a pastern in the Welsh National at Newbury, but yesterday's progress report was more encouraging.

"He's had three screws inserted in his pastern," Pipe said. "We are pleased with his progress so far and will obviously be monitoring him throughout the week."

There were promising bulletins too on Willie McFarland and Michael Molloy, both of whom were taken to hospital following falls in the opener at Exeter yesterday. McFarland was aboard the 33-1 chance Crystal Cone, who fell at the first in the selling handicap and brought down Molloy's mount Mecado.

McFarland was initially thought to have suffered head and neck injuries, but a closer examination revealed no significant damage. He was to be detained overnight in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as a precaution. The extent of Molloy's injuries was unclear, but the 7lb claimer was not believed to be seriously injured.

nThe arrival of fruit machines in betting shops may be delayed by up to 12 months, despite last week's announcement of a lifting of restrictions by the Home Secretary, Michael Howard. John White, of BACTA, the fruit-machine industry's trade association, said yesterday: "There is a consultation process that will take two months, then there will be a deregulation Bill that will have to take its place in the queue, so my money would be on January 1996."