Racing: Oats flop worries Beaumont

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The Independent Online
As Master Oats, the Gold Cup winner, plodded to a standstill at Chepstow on Saturday his performance was a mystery to most, but not to a certain Yorkshireman. He thought the gelding had been doped.

This viewer was no squealing punter from the Ridings, either; it was Peter Beaumont, who trained a Gold Cup winner of his own in 1993, when Jodami was successful.

It remains Beaumont's conviction that Jodami was "got at" the following season when his gelding performed bafflingly in Chepstow's Rehearsal Chase. And when the Brandsby trainer witnessed the latest running of the event at the weekend he could have been excused for checking if the video-machine was running.

"I don't think it's occurred to anyone else that Master Oats ran like Jodami did in that same race," Beaumont said yesterday.

"When it was happening on Saturday we all said that was exactly like we were two years ago. Master Oats was under pressure from half-way and then he made a bad mistake. Jodami did finish when he ran, but it was only his courage that got him home.''

The similarities are indeed striking. When Jodami went over the Severn Bridge as the Blue Riband victor he was considered to be in peak condition having beaten the odds-on Cab On Target at Haydock; Master Oats, who had won first time out for the previous two seasons, was considered to be in his best- ever nick for a seasonal debut on Saturday.

The tale of two pities does not diverge from there. Jodami was sent off a 2-7 favourite in a small field before blundering away his chance three out. He finished third, behind Party Politics and Riverside Boy (who was 20lb out of the handicap). After the race, Jodami blew so hard that his attendants feared he was close to a heart attack.

When his box returned home to Foulrice Farm, the Yellow Pages listing for paramedics had already been turned down at the corner, but Jodami scampered down the ramp of his box like a lamb on Prozac. When the vet attended, the horse was so well in himself that he looked ready for a canter. Tests uncovered nothing to explain his display. "There was nothing proved, but we all had our thoughts after the race," Beaumont said.

While there were some who fancied Saturday's winning outsider Grange Brake (who touched 14-1 and 16-1 before setting off at 12-1), there were also bookmakers prepared to lay Master Oats against his two rivals. There were several recorded wagers of pounds 2,000 and pounds 1,000 before the nine-year- old finished at his shortest price of 4-9.

All went well until the chestnut, like Jodami, tried to take on a fence with the vigour of a bull at a cape. "He gave me the feel of a Gold Cup winner for a circuit, going through the mud like no other horse I have ridden," Jamie Osborne, the jockey, reported, "but, turning for home, the engine just stopped running.''

Master Oats, who was pulled up after four out, was found to be blowing abnormally hard and sweating profusely, which his trainer, Kim Bailey, considered to be a symptom of internal problems. The Upper Lambourn trainer, it must be said, has no time for doping theories, and believes instead that his horse broke a blood vessel, as he has done before.

That, though, was over two years and 11 runs before Saturday when Master Oats broke so badly at Uttoxeter that his trainer feared he would bleed to death. There was no sign of the red stuff on Saturday and little indication that the horse was an invalid in the days that followed.

"There wasn't a scope at Chepstow, so we couldn't scope the horse and if you'd looked down his throat 24 hours later it would have shown nothing," Bailey said yesterday. "We have to drop him down now and build him back up again, put him into his work, scope him, and look again in a week's time.

"Every time a horse, especially a Gold Cup horse like him, runs badly you hear these stories about horses being `got at', but 99.9 per cent of the time something appears within 10 days to explain it.''

Before the end of next week then, we may have evidence of a burst blood vessel; if not there is likely to be, in the minds of people, including Peter Beaumont, another rupture - one in the integrity of the sport.