Testing time for top jumpers

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The Independent Online
The racing future of two of the country's best steeplechasers remains in the balance as the tempo increases towards the heart of the National Hunt season. Master Oats, the 1995 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, and the high-class chaser Martha's Son will not return to training until they have passed medical examinations in the next few weeks.

Martha's Son's future will be decided after his leg is scanned next week. The Tim Forster-trained gelding has not raced since being beaten by Travado in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last November and was fired during the winter.

"If the vet gives the OK, he will come back into training with the hope of running after Christmas. It's a case of all fingers and everything else being crossed," Forster said. "He was fired at Christmas and, after staying in his box until May, has been turned out in his field and, apart from coming in for our open day, is still out."

Martha's Son swept to prominence in stringing together five successive victories in the 1994-95 season, including a seven-length triumph in the Comet Chase at Ascot.

Master Oats failed to make the line-up for Kim Bailey's open day on Sunday and the trainer expects to conduct tests on his leg within the next fortnight to determine whether he can return to full training

The 10-year-old failed to win in three starts last season and is recovering from a leg injury which ruled out his participation in the Gold Cup in March.

"Master Oats is still at Jan Steinmann's stud a few miles from here and is in great form," Bailey said. "We want to have him back with us next month, but we shall have the leg scanned and only after we get the results will we decide on just how quickly we can proceed."

Alderbrook, Bailey's deposed Champion Hurdler, will make his comeback at Christmas before attempting to regain his title from Collier Bay in March.