Racing: Vets work to save Singspiel as fracture ends his career

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The Independent Online
The linchpin of Britain's challenge for the Breeders' Cup, Singspiel, has suffered a life-threatening injury just 48 hours before what would have been the final race of his record-breaking career. Richard Edmondson reports from Los Angeles.

A gallop in the fog ended Singspiel's participation in the Breeders' Cup here yesterday. Veterinarians are now working to ensure it does not also terminate his life.

The little horse, the biggest earner in the history of European racing, broke a cannon bone as he continued his preparation for tomorrow's Turf race. After 20 contests, spread over four seasons, a life-threatening injury struck just 48 hours before his final mission. "It would have been his last race and at least it's a lot better this happening today than on Saturday because he would have been going a lot faster then," Anthony Stroud, the racing manager to Singspiel's owner, Sheikh Mohammed, said. "I hope he can be saved for stud."

The lithe form of Singspiel had beguiled all the American workwatchers since his arrival in Los Angeles. He had become the horse of the Breeders' Cup. Much of his work had been under clear, Californian skies, but yesterday the five-year-old emerged to conditions far more familiar to him and reminiscent of a Newmarket gallops morning. Visibility was down to 100 yards as a grey pall enveloped Hollywood Park.

Singspiel and his regular work rider, Kevin Bradshaw, were let on to the turf course just outside the track kitchen. The partnership cantered into the cloud of mist and a walkie-talkie report relayed that the horse was galloping just past the wire on the opposite side of the track. Then there was nothing.

The wait became too protracted for comfort and Michael Stoute, Singspiel's trainer, scuttled off in search of his horse. When Stoute returned both he and Bradshaw were at the five-year-old's side. It was immediately obvious that the horse's Breeders' Cup was over. "I could not see the work myself because of the fog," Stoute said, "but he breezed for four furlongs and, just about 20 yards before the line, Kevin felt something go."

Singspiel's condition appeared to deteriorate over every limping yard back to the high, green-fenced quarantine yard. He had a piteous look in his eye. The contest he had now been thrown into was the one to save his life and Steve Buttgenbach, a track vet, was the first medical man to attend the horse. Around him there were tears in the Stoute camp.

An x-ray was taken to determine whether the damage was clean or a more serious spiral fracture. The results confirmed the former. "He sustained a mildly displaced condylar fracture of the right forelimb," Stroud said. "It is anticipated that his injury will require surgical stabilisation on probably Friday and Saturday, depending on his progress.

"The prognosis for such an injury is normally favourable, barring any complications, and the recovery period would be between two and four months."

By then, Singspiel himself was bandaged and standing in ice. The trauma he was feeling was stabilised by medication. Sheikh Mohammed was contacted in Dubai.

As the natural mist lifted, another descended with the realisation that not only was the meeting's figurehead out but Britain's challenge had been reduced to a rump. It was time to remember happier times, and Stroud and Stoute concurred on Singspiel's greatest moment. "The Dubai World Cup was his best race because he met seasoned American horses on a surface more familiar to them," the trainer said. "That was his crowning moment."

Stroud added: "That is why this horse is so special to Sheikh Mohammed, because he won the Dubai World Cup. That was definitely the pinnacle of his career. It's very disappointing but these things happen with horses. They are not machines.

"This horse has done us very, very proud. He's won in England, Ireland, Dubai, Japan and Canada. The main thing now is to try to save the horse. He's been versatile, tough and consistent. He's done us majestically really."