So, what have Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey and Manduro in common? All three are suffering from that curse of the modern athlete, a broken meta-tarsal. Though, possibly, the footballers are regretting that their injuries do not mean retirement to a life of luxury and stud duties.
Manduro, who will join Sheikh Mohammed's stallion roster in the spring, came through surgery to repair the fracture he suffered in winning the Prix Foy on Sunday without incident and was yesterday recovering in a French veterinary hospital, as comfortable as could be expected. "The operation took two hours," said John Ferguson, the Sheikh's racing manager, yesterday, "and he was up on his feet soon afterwards."
The five-year-old's injury and its treatment are, in veterinary terms, fairly routine. A small crack at the base of the right hind cannon caused a three-and-a-half inch sliver of bone to detach slightly. The long cannon bone is the equine equivalent of the five metatarsals between the toes and the heel in the human foot; in the horse evolution has fused them into one large bone and a tiny residual called the splint bone.
The fracture has now been stabilised with four screws, placed there by top Newmarket vet Ian Wright. "He has said he is pleased with the immediate outcome," added Ferguson. Manduro now has five months to recover before starting his second career, which should not, even allowing for the importance of strong hind legs for a stallion, be in any way compromised by his injury.
The potential for fragility in the thoroughbred is part and parcel of the trainer's burden and Manduro was not the only casualty of the weekend; one of the stars of the US scene, the Belmont Stakes-winning filly Rags To Riches, is on the sidelines after sustaining a hairline crack in a pastern. And on Saturday at Newbury another horse with a better engine than bodywork, Multidimen-sional, makes a long-awaited return to action.
The Danehill four-year-old, who races for the Niarchos family, was among those who flagged Henry Cecil's return to the top table last season when he took the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano with ease, his third win from four outings and his handler's first Group success for four years.
But Multidimensional has not yet run this term, having damaged his pelvis during the close season. Saturday's prospective outing, a nine-furlong conditions stakes, is regarded as a stepping stone to the Champion Stakes for the highly-regarded colt.
By contrast, some horses appear to have been hewn, rather than foaled, and one of those, Ansar, appears at Listowel this afternoon. It was nine years ago tomorrow that the 11-year-old made his first appearance on a racecourse when, as a John Oxx-trained two-year-old carrying the Aga Khan's colours, he finished in mid-division in a maiden at the Curragh.
Today, from Dermot Weld's yard, he will carry top weight in the Kerry National, a three-mile chase that is the 57th outing of his career.
Ansar only did ever win a maiden at three for the Aga, and was secured by Weld for 64,000gns as a cast-off at the Newmarket Sales. Now owned by Kathleen Devlin, the tiny gelding has won 11 more races, including two Galway Plates, and earned nearly £400,000. He has run at 15 tracks in Ireland, three in Britain and one in the States and galloped nearly 115 miles in anger.
The remarkable son of Kahyasi, fourth in the Galway Plate seven weeks ago, will be making his Listowel debut in the race for today's £65,000 prize, the feature of the seven-day mixed festival at the Fealeside track, one of Ireland's western outposts.
He will face 17 rivals, including last year's winner Bothar Na. "He's only 15.3 hands," said Weld, "and sometimes I wonder if it's fair when I put the weightcloth on him. But he has the heart of a lion."
Britain's westernmost track, Ayr, hosts the week's richest prize on Saturday, the Ayr Gold Cup. Vying for favouritism at around 8-1 for the £120,000 six-furlong dash are hat-trick-seeking Indian Trail, trained by four-time race winner Dandy Nicholls, and Stewards' Cup third Knot In Wood, from Richard Fahey's yard.
Kerry National (4.10 Listowel today) Ladbrokes early odds: 7-2 Royal County Star, 6-1 Ballyagran, 7-1 Bothar Na, Emotional Article, 8-1 Ballycullen Boy, Ursumman, 12-1 Ansar, 16-1 Darby Wall, 20-1 A New Story, Chicago Vic, Ponmeoath, Wolf Creek, 25-1 Just in Debt, Openide, 33-1 Barrow Boy, Il En Reve, Vic Ville, Time To SellReuse content