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All-Star cast for Kempton classic

The original cast for the delayed Boxing Day special at Kempton is due to reassemble on Saturday, with only a few minor changes.

In his bid for his record fifth King George VI Chase, Kauto Star is still due to face ten rivals, chief of whom — in case anyone had forgotten during the period of limbo — are judged by the market to be Long Run, Nacarat and Riverside Theatre.

One jockey will be missing; Tom Scudamore was yesterday ruled out of the ride on the 2009 runner-up Madison Du Berlais after damaging a kidney in a fall at Sandown on Saturday. “I took a bit of a kick,” he said, “and a scan has showed I'd torn a bit of kidney, and I've got to go back in two weeks for another scan.”

His replacement on the David Pipe-trained ten-year-old will be decided later in the week.

Despite his retaining stable, that of Alan King, sending runners to Warwick the same afternoon, Robert Thornton will retain his ride on Forpadydeplasterer.

The Irish raider , runner-up in his last seven races, will be stepping up to three miles for the first time and, though the forecast rain is a matter of some concern to trainer Tom Cooper, the nine-year-old will line up.

“Soft ground is something we could do without,” he said yesterday, “but the plan is to travel over and have a go. And he won't get beat for lack of fitness, we've been able to keep on the go since Christmas.” The sympathetic reaction to the admirable grey chaser Monet's Garden's current illness — the Nicky Richards-trained 12-year-old is suffering from a life-threatening hoof infection — leaves no doubt about how much most of those involved in the sport, whether as participants of observers, care about the animals who provide their livings and entertainment.

Rules about their treatment have rightly been tightened up over the years and yesterday the British Horseracing Authority confirmed that a high-profile jumps trainer will next month face charges relating to a serious welfare breach.

Howard Johnson, who has had stars like Inglis Drever, Direct Route and Tidal Bay under his care, has admitted running a horse that had undergone a neurectomy, an operation to desensitise the back of the of the foot by partially removing the nerves that serve the area. It is normally used as a last resort to alleviate the pain associated with navicular disease (the very problem plaguing Monet's Garden) and can be effective on animals in retirement. But horses having had a neurectomy are forbidden to race, on the grounds that if they cannot feel pain — a warning signal — they have no defence against doing themselves further damage.

The chaser Striking Article ran eight times after undergoing surgery. The neurectomy was discovered during a post-mortem after the horse was destroyed after suffering a fatal injury at Musselburgh. Johnson will also face charges over the administration of anabolic steroids to three different horses.

Belfast Telegraph


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