When Future King went up to win at Te Rapa at the beginning of October but failed to finish the race off, he went down in rider Vinnie Colgan’s estimation.
The Matamata jockey had been aboard for the colt’s maiden win, an emphatic 1 1/2-length Taupo joyride a month earlier, a performance that not only stamped him as a galloper of rare quality but also quickly erased the bad memory of his debut defeat at Te Rapa seven months earlier.
It transpired that after his maiden third placing on debut that the son of Encosta de Lago could hardly walk and Cambridge trainer Roger James had no choice but to the colt aside.
It wasn’t the first time James’ hand had been forced.
A similar thing had happened after a Te Teko trial win in August 2011.
Colgan’s first ride on Future King had been a memorable experience and he’d been looking forward to his second ride on the horse, so was bitterly disappointed when the four-year-old entire let him down.
"I didn’t even know he couldn’t walk after that race till Roger told me. All I knew was that he’d gone up to win and hadn’t let down and I thought ’you colty prick’," Colgan said at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Colgan’s faith was fully restored on Saturday when Future King produced an explosive burst on his way to a slashing 2 1/4-length Rating 65 1100m win.
It was only after Future King’s win that the full extent of his troubles were revealed.
James explained that three times after racing - once after a trial and twice after races - they’d inspected Future King in his stable box and and he had been unable to put his full weight on his front legs.
He had consulted vets worldwide in a bid to diagnose the problem but to no avail. The closest diagnosis he could get was "extreme shin soreness".
The worst case was after his second placing at Te Rapa on October 5 when James inspected him after the races and found him favouring a leg and "so stressed he was panting".
The next morning, James inspected the horse and found him favouring the other leg.
"The reason he was so stressed was that both his legs were sore and he could only take the weight off one of them," James said.
"His shins, you can’t touch them - he’d eat you. He’s put me through hell and back. But that’s the mark of the horse when he can come out and produce a performance like that. That’s how good he is. He’s a very, very good horse. A seriously good horse."
Now a winner of two from four, Future King looks to have the racing world at his feet - if he can stay sound.
The early signs in the wake of Saturday’s win were positive, James said yesterday.
‘‘He appears OK. Obviously we haven’t worked him but he appears a whole lot better than he has before,’’ James said.
James will give Future King some time in the water - either swimming or in an aqua-walker - before he makes plans on his next start.
Colgan said Future King - a daughter of the former James-trained smart mare Foxwood - had immense talent but he first needed to get the confidence of racing pain-free.
He said the horse was always on the move before the race, trotting and jig-jogging, as though he expected to be feeling some pain in his legs.
- © Fairfax NZ News