The Sydney and Melbourne Spring Carnivals could be without one of their biggest drawcards this year with Gosford trainer John McNair declaring his gun galloper Hay List was making a slower than expected recovery from a leg infection.
A dual Group 1 champion, Statue Of Liberty gelding Hay List enjoyed his second elite level success in April winning the All Aged Stakes in Sydney before travelling to Queensland for the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
Originally nominated for a trio of Group 1’s in the sunshine state, Hay List’s winter campaign was cut to just one run where he finished a brave second to arch nemesis Black Caviar in the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) on May 14.
Following the withdrawal of Peter Moody’s glamour mare Black Caviar from the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m), Hay List hit the top of the odds as the raging favourite.
McNair however was forced to scratch Hay List from the 10,000, subsequently won by Peter Snowden’s star mare Beaded, due to the leg infection.
Sent home for a spell after also suffering a bout of colic, Hay List is now facing a new battle as the horse’s infected leg has recently re-swelled setting back his progress.
The re-flaring of Hay List’s affected leg came as a devastating blow to McNair who believed they were in the clear, Hay List having shown good response to initial treatment.
“On Friday we actually thought we were out of the woods and we slowly started to take the antibiotics away from him, but the leg has blown up again,” McNair said on Wednesday.
“We have had our concerns with him and obviously we will have to go back on the antibiotics.
“It just goes to show you that you can never relax with some of these things.”
“If this doesn’t improve soon the spring might be out.
“I won’t look at anything until I’m comfortable the horse is over everything.
“When he’s back in work I’ll start thinking about looking for races then.
“Looking at it at the present time, the way it is, this is going to drag on for a quite a bit longer than what I was anticipating, so it’s starting to look more the spring is a little less likely, put it like that.”
During the spring of last year Hay List enjoyed three wins on the trot with victories in the Group 3 McEwen Stakes (1000m) and Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley in September, followed by his October win at Flemington in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m).
He then encountered the formidable ‘Black Flash’ for the first time, Hay List suffering an injury-marred lead-up to his clash with Black Caviar in the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m).
Despite the hype over the sprint showdown, on Emirates Stakes Day Hay List could only manage to finish a disappointing sixth to Black Caviar beaten over 11 lengths.
Hay List was examined by a veterinarian on Wednesday at McNair’s request, but aside from a raised temperature he showed no signs of soreness or other adverse health.
“There is not soreness there which is a good sign, but seeing this leg blow up the way it is, that is a concern,” McNair said.
“He (the vet) wants to keep assessing him,” McNair said.
After making the decision to continue Hay List on his current course of antibiotics, the veterinarian will make a second inspection on Thursday.
An ever-dedicated horseman, McNair is admittedly distressed over Hay List’s health issues saying the recent passing of Les Bridge’s great mare Hot Danish, also caused by an infected leg, was in the back of his mind.
“I think it’s frustration as much as anything and also the knowledge that a horse like Hot Danish, that something similar caused her demise,” McNair said.
Although missing the spring would be a sad event for McNair and the racing fans in Australia, the trainer said he would not risk the health of his favourite horse just to run him during the carnival.
“If we miss the spring, then we miss the spring,” he stated.
“That does not worry me, I would be disappointed, but it would not worry me as once the horse gets through it that is all that really matters.”