War Artist ready for return to front

Globetrotting sprinter fighting fit again after year on the casualty list

For an athlete, comfort in the execution of performance is paramount, particularly for a horse. A human runner can shrug off a nasty blister in the pursuit of victory but equines have no awareness of glory or prize-money and cannot rationalise the concept of running through a physical wall. Which is one reason why James Eustace is delighted with the change he has seen in his charge War Artist.

The talented six-year-old is something of the forgotten horse in the elite sprint division and on Saturday at Newbury is scheduled to make his belated seasonal debut, his first run for more than a year after suffering, and conquering, assorted vicissitudes. The last time he was seen in public he finished less-than-a-length third in a blanket finish to last year's July Cup, and before that had taken second place in another Group One contest, the Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Then, though mighty effective in gallop mode, his action in his slower paces was stilted and inefficient. Now he is moving at all speeds with such elegant freedom that Eustace is relishing the prospect of his having made significant improvement for his enforced lay-off. "He could hardly walk or trot properly last year," the trainer said yesterday, "but now he not only can fully use himself, he'd have a fair stab at doing a good dressage test. After the July Cup last year we saw he was moving unlevel behind, nothing more than a soft-tissue problem, but it had been compromising him."

The globetrotting War Artist, a top-level winner in South Africa two years ago, joined Eustace almost by accident. The gelding was lodging at his Newmarket stables, en route to the United States, when plans changed and his temporary billet became permanent. "He'd had a full South African season in 2007 and arrived here fit at the beginning of our winter, but stayed in training because he was supposed to ship out," Eustace said. "So by this time last year he'd had 18 months on the go. He was due a break, though it was longer than we'd planned."

War Artist's schedule was again disrupted in February, this time by a problem that was life-, rather than career-threatening, as he had to undergo emergency abdominal surgery after developing colic. It transpired that part of his short intestine was twisted and trapped but, happily, necrosis had not set in and no excision was necessary. "That, in itself," said Eustace, "was something of a miracle."

The big, dark Australian-bred recovered from the trauma of the operation with typical equanimity. "He amazed the vets," said his trainer, "but then, he is a remarkable horse. He's got an unflappable mind and is actually very straightforward and genuine to train, despite everything."

War Artist's preferred ground is fast and a soft surface scuppered plans for a comeback at Newcastle late last month. But, barring a deluge of biblical proportions, he will be at Newbury in two days' time for the Group Three Shadwell Stakes. "He's very well and, frankly, needs to run," Eustace said. "He did his first really good, head-turning bit of work on the morning of this year's Golden Jubilee Stakes and he's done nothing but improve since. I couldn't be happier with him."

War Artist, who carries the colours of a German businessman, Rupert Plersch, is one of just 30 horses at Park Lodge Stables, one of Newmarket's most historic yards, whose leafy peace and charm belie its position almost in the town centre. For a small operator, a flag-bearer of his stature is of vital importance. "Generally, we have to rely on cheap horses," Eustace said, "and with those, you hope you get lucky, and they prove better than they might be. We have been; we've generally found one every so often to keep us going. And though this horse isn't in that category, it was more or less a pure fluke he came to us and his life since has been fairly charmed. In this business, you need luck everywhere."

Turf account: Sue Montgomery


Plaisterer (8.40 Doncaster) At Windsor last time out she caught a tartar, chasing home a horse who has since defied at 12lb rise in notching a hat-trick. But she previously beat two subsequent winners and looks progressive herself, despite her tail-flashing tendencies.

Next best

Lake Wakatipu (2.00 Cartmel) Had a conditionals' race at Aintree in the bag when jinking and unseating her rider two out and returns to the scene of her maiden hurdles victory with more experienced hands on the reins.

One to watch

Two-year-old Syrian (Michael Bell), a 30,000gns Hawk Wing half-brother to the useful Popmurphy, has been catching the eye on the Newmarket gallops (he went particularly well against a winning stablemate on Saturday) and his debut is imminent.

Chris McGrath's nap: Mey Clouds (4.50 Cartmel)

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments