Ultimate Sniper sent for enforced layoff

By Garrick Knight

This season’s dominant three-year-old colt, Ultimate Sniper, will miss the season-ending Harness Jewels and November’s New Zealand Cup carnival.

Advanced scanning and x-rays on the dual Derby winner revealed a knee complaint that requires time in the spelling paddock.

“Effectively, he’s got an immature body and a terrific heart,” said part-owner Phil Kennard.

“The vets say it’s a minor knee issue and have prescribed three months in the paddock right away.

“After that, we can swim him for six weeks, before doing more tests.

“If he has come right by then, we can press on and look to race him again.

“There’s nothing really for him at the Cup Carnival, and the Inter Dominions aren’t on the radar, so it’s probably Auckland at Christmas that will be our target.”

Ultimate Sniper has swept all before him this season, winning the Sires Stakes Final, Northern Derby and New Zealand Derby at Group 1 level, as well as the rich Sales Series Pace at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve to accrue almost half-a-million dollars in prizemoney.

But despite his dominant New Zealand Derby win at Addington on April 5, his connections, including trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, felt like something wasn’t quite right.

He had galloped out of contention a fortnight earlier and lost his undefeated streak when going rough in Auckland last month, too.

“We were a little bit suspicious after watching the last 75 metres of his Derby win,” said Kennard.

“Natalie has mentioned a few times that he’s felt quite fragile, too.

“So, the day after the Derby, we talked to Mark and Natalie and Mark made the suggestion that we send him north to Matamata for scintigraphy and x-rays.”

“We haven’t got the full report yet, but his knees are definitely bothering him.”

Similar issues arose with Ultimate Sniper’s full brother, Ultimate Machete, who was recently retired prematurely after suffering another leg injury.

“We learnt a lot from Machete about not going too early with the breed and that’s why this fella didn’t race until he was three.

“So, we’ll do the right thing by him now and hopefully we will be able to enjoy racing him for years to come.”

Kennard was philosophical about the news, especially since the horse had already had such a rewarding season, as well as the fact he and wife Glenys also won the Miracle Mile and New Zealand Cup as owners, with Spankem and Thefixer respectively.

“This is just all part of the thrills and spills of racing; you take the good with the bad.”

“This year has been pretty good to us, but just like in a financial year, we all go back to square one on August 1 and start from zero.”

Ultimate Sniper was the $1.50 favourite for the $150,000 3YO Emerald at Addington on June 1, but his stablemate, Jesse Duke, will now firm in to clear favouritism.

Their stablemate, and last year’s Harness Jewels 2YO Emerald winner, Another Masterpiece, was also withdrawn by Purdon and Rasmussen on Tuesday.

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