JOHN Quinn’s top-class dual-purpose performer Countrywide Flame has been retired after being found to be suffering from a degenerative bone disease.
Winner of the Triumph Hurdle in 2012 under Dougie Costello before landing a second Grade One in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth, the five-year-old went on to run a fantastic race to finish third behind Hurricane Fly in last season’s Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Also runner-up in last year’s Cesarewitch and fifth on his last run in the Chester Cup in May, Countrywide Flame was ruled out for the jumps season in October with a leg injury, but further deterioration has led to connections drawing stumps altogether.
“Unfortunately he’s got bone degeneration in his two hind joints and while we can keep him comfortable, there’s no coming back from that I’m afraid,” said Malton-based Quinn.
“The initial injury wasn’t coming right as fast as we expected, so we looked into it and investigated it further and this came up, unfortunately. He’s been a horse and a half.”
Royale Knigh, meanwhile, will try to add another ‘National’ to his record at Catterick on Thursday, January 9.
Trainer Dr Richard Newland is aiming the seven-year-old at the North Yorkshire Grand National after he proved his aptitude for marathon trips when winning the Borders National at Kelso. He absolutely hacked up in Scotland, and Newland thought a 9lb rise from the handicapper was fair.
“I was happy when he went up 9lb,” said the Worcestershire handler.
“The handicapper had every reason to overreact but in those long-distance chases the fields can get very strung out and distances can be exaggerated.
“It was a realistic rise, I thought, and we’re hoping to take him to Catterick for the North Yorkshire Grand National.”
A DOUBLING of testing-in-training samples taken is one of the measures announced by the British Horseracing Authority following the completion of a review of its anti-doping and medication control policy.
The number of post-race testing samples is also to increase by 20 per cent after the BHA renegotiated its contract with the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory.
Other measures include an increased investment in research including the continuation of hair sample analysis techniques in order to explore the feasibility of regulatory hair sampling.
The sport has been in the headlines this year after well-publicised cases involving trainers Mahmood Al Zarooni and Gerard Butler saw the pair disqualified for eight and five years respectively, with the latter dropping his appeal last week.
BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: “The two high-profile investigations have brought the BHA’s policy into the spotlight.
“The objective is that via enhancements to our testing programme and strategy, as well as the significant penalties handed to those who have breached the rules this year, we increase the deterrent against the use of prohibited substances.”