House still standing after injury setback
Carlton House, hot favourite to give the queen her first success in the Derby at Epsom on Saturday, was yesterday subject of an 11th-hour scare.
There remains every prospect that he will take his chance -- and show his form -- but he has emphasised that even a monarch must accept the frailties latent in the breed's own majesty.
Carlton House was taken for X-rays yesterday morning after Michael Stoute, his trainer, had perceived some swelling and tenderness in a foreleg the previous evening.
It is presumed that the horse had knocked himself at exercise. Nothing alarming was disclosed and it is hoped that some routine care will suffice to secure his participation.
Since Carlton House won the Dante Stakes at York last month, much has been made of his owner's intimacy with the tribulations guaranteed by thoroughbreds. Sure enough, her racing manager John Warren described the queen as "typically stoic" after he rang with the news.
"I would say at this point, from what I understand the injury to be, he has a pretty good chance of being there," Warren said. "The next few days will reveal more, but the trainer is optimistic that the horse is still on target.
"Carlton House galloped on Sunday and did a nice six-furlong blow, his last important one before the Derby, and on Monday he did a routine canter. At evening stables on Monday, Michael noted that his front joints were not quite a pair. This morning he decided to take a precautionary X-ray of his near-fore joint, which was marginally filled. It revealed no abnormalities, which was a huge relief.
"It could be the equivalent of a footballer straining his ankle. It wasn't evident in his cantering yesterday that he actually took a false step or anything and the horse is sound this morning. The trainer decided to give him a trotting exercise.
He was sound, and he's having an easy day. It will be a watching brief from now. Luckily, his important work is out of the way."
With no medication permitted in his system so close to a race, Carlton House will have the affected area hosed and iced and wrapped to heighten blood supply and so accelerate the healing process.
"It's not as if the horse has to stand in his box because he's lame," Warren added. "We're still extremely hopeful, but it will be a day-by-day thing to watch."
It must be said that the news had been somewhat anticipated by tremors in the betting market, prior to a lunchtime statement. It triggered an overdue correction in a price that had come to seem artificially low -- in the dubious expectation of some heedless public gamble -- at just 5/4. Carlton House was matched at 100/30 on Betfair, but had settled back to around 9/4 last night.
Several of his rivals have been cut by the bookmakers, above all Pour Moi, which has now halved to 7/2 since Andre Fabre pronounced him the best Derby hope of his career. (© Independent News Service)