Manduro, the season's highest-rated performer, will undergo surgery this morning to stabilise the fracture that shockingly ended his racing career.
The five-year-old damaged a bone in his left hind leg in the process of winning the Prix Foy at Longchamp and the one straw in a sea of disappointment for the horse's connections and racing fans alike is that the injury is not life-threatening. "He had a comfortable night," reported trainer André Fabre yesterday, "and so long as there are no complications he should remain comfortable." Until Sunday's mishap, Manduro had been a notably sound animal, with 19 races under his girth, including five straight wins this term. Fabre, though, despite the sudden removal of a bright chance of an eighth victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, has been around horses long enough not to be anything but phlegmatic. "I am afraid what happened is just racing," he added.
The ground was unseasonably fast in Paris, and Manduro was involved in a minor early scrimmage, causing jockey Stephane Pasquier to look down briefly, but the exact moment of disaster is unknown. "We have no idea where the injury was sustained," said Paul Harley, racing manager to the son of Monsun's owner Baron Georg Von Ullman, "but unfortunately these things happen." The absence of Manduro, whose next home will be Sheikh Mohammed's Dalham Hall Stud near Newmarket, from the Arc has taken a deal of the gloss off next month's autumn showpiece, as even the connections of some of the remaining leading contenders acknowledged yesterday.
The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Derby winner Authorized has hardened as favourite, as short as 5-4, ahead of Soldier Of Fortune, winner of Sunday's most historically significant big-race trial, the Prix Niel, and his Ballydoyle stablemate Dylan Thomas, with Niel third Zambezi Sun, from Pascal Bary's yard, leading the home defence in the lists.
Zambezi Sun, racing for the first time since taking the Grand Prix de Paris in July and apparently ring-rustier than his trainer had estimated, was the best-backed horse yesterday.
He will be Khaled Abdullah's sole Arc colourbearer; the filly Passage Of Time, who also made a pleasing return to action when third in the Prix Vermeille, is likely to skip Paris in favour of the Breeders' Cup.
"Manduro's injury was a real shame," said the Saudi Arabian prince's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe yesterday, "but our horse has come out of his race well, and he should improve a lot for it." Much has been made of Manduro's feat of winning Group One races at 10 furlongs and a mile this season, but it should not be forgotten that Mandesha, runner-up to the stricken one on Sunday, did even better last year in the versatility stakes, with top level success at a mile, a mile and a half and 10 furlongs, albeit against only her own sex.
The Alain de Royer-Dupré-trained four-year-old stepped back in distance to the Prix de l'Opera on Arc day after taking the Prix Vermeille, but this time will take on the boys in the big one, very likely with the help of headgear to aid her concentration after giving the impression on Sunday of a rather casual commitment to her job.
The removal of one of the big guns has opened the Arc up to pot-shotters, of whom an intriguing one may be Doctor Dino, winner of the Man O'War Stakes at Belmont Park 10 days ago. The five-year-old, trained in Chantilly by Richard Gibson, opened his campaign with an eyecatching third to Dylan Thomas at Longchamp.
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