Rewilding fall mars Nathaniel's success
Nathaniel won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the first three-year-old to do so for nearly a decade, but no one who was at the track or watching on television will remember it for that. Instead, they will remember the moment at the top of the straight when Rewilding, one of the big-race winners at the Royal meeting here last month, snapped a cannon bone in his near foreleg and crashed to the ground.
At least the television viewers were spared the grim spectacle that followed. Ascot was already shocked almost to silence as Nathaniel crossed the line in front with Workforce, the favourite, in second place after hanging left across the course throughout the final furlong. Then, as every gaze returned towards the two-furlong pole, Rewilding clambered to his feet and started to gallop towards the winning post as his broken leg flapped hopelessly in the air.
He eventually stopped 50 yards from the post. The screens went up, the vets were there in moments and Rewilding was put down a few seconds later.
For 30,000 spectators at Britain's premier track, though, the defining image of their day at the races was already etched in the mind.
John Gosden, Nathaniel's trainer, had just won the King George for the first time, 51 years after spraining a wrist when he fell off a sofa watching his father's Aggressor win the same race. He was just yards away from the line, and went to do what he could for Rewilding.
"I think people watching misunderstand," Gosden said. "I've seen horses galloping loose in the paddock do exactly what he did to himself. It's a freakish thing, he's put the leg down wrong and broken the cannon bone.
"He ran down the track in front of everyone and he stopped. He was very calm and collected. He had to be dealt with because the leg was completely gone. He was in no pain, that's the extraordinary thing about this. When they break a leg like that it's as though nature anaesthetises them, they feel absolutely no pain. They feel more with a cut in fact, it's very strange. I fed him a bit of grass and he was very well dealt with by the vets."
Tim Morris, the director of equine science and welfare at the British Horseracing Authority, said that there had been no choice but to put Rewilding down.
"Rewilding suddenly and completely unexpectedly suffered a major fracture of the lower part of his near-fore leg," Morris said.
"These things do occasionally happen in horseracing. The horse was caught and examined and the decision was made that humane euthanasia was the only option. It is a great regret but it was the right decision for the horse."
Charles Barnett, Ascot's chief executive, said: "This sort of incident is terribly regrettable, especially on a flagship day like today. We express our profound sympathies to Sheikh Mohammed [the owner], the Godolphin operation, the trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni and jockey Frankie Dettori."
Workforce was also reported to have been struck into during yesterday's race, sustaining a cut to a hind leg which could explain why he was hanging so badly in the closing stages. Along with Nathaniel, he is now likely to be trained for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, a race he won last season.
Nathaniel is now one of the leading contenders for that race, which is likely to be his next and final start as a three-year-old, and as well as looking forward, it is also possible to look back and wonder how he might have fared in the Derby at Epsom.
Gosden withdrew Nathaniel just before the Classic, as he feared that the ground at Epsom would be riding too fast for the colt, who had previously finished a close second in the Chester Vase behind Treasure Beach, who then went on to finish second in the Derby and win its Irish equivalent.
Lady Rothschild, Nathaniel's owner, paid stg £75,000 to get him into yesterday's race as a supplementary entry, and the 11/2 chance received a smart ride from William Buick, Gosden's stable jockey, to win by two and three-quarter lengths.
"It was a messy race," Gosden said. "I gave William no instructions, I think he was very savvy to make the slow running early so that when Debussy [Rewilding's pacemaker] had the green light to go on he would be in pole position, which he was. He rode a very smooth race and he saw it out well.
"I think he would have been a better horse if they'd run it stronger all the way but then Workforce would have been better if they'd run it all the way.
"We will have to supplement again because we hadn't even broken our maiden when they shut the Arc, but it will be wonderful if we can meet [Workforce] again in the Arc in October."
Nathaniel is generally a 6/1 chance for the Arc.
Sunday Indo Sport