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Champion Petrushka is retired after injury; Tributes paid to triple Group 1 winner.

Byline: Jon Lees

PETRUSHKA, champion three-year-old filly in Britain and Ireland last year and described by Sir Michael Stoute as "the best middle-distance filly I have trained", was retired yesterday after it emerged she strained a tendon when running disappointingly in last week's Coronation Cup, writes Jon Lees.

Her well-beaten fifth behind Mutafaweq at Epsom was initially put down to an apparent inability to handle the track, but the discovery of an injury to her right foreleg left connections with little option other than to bring an end to her career.

Stoute paid tribute to the filly's previous achievements: "She was brilliant in the Irish Oaks, the Yorkshire Oaks [where she beat Love Divine] and the Prix de l'Opera where she had to overcome the outside draw," he said. "She also had the speed to win the seven-furlong Nell Gwyn Stakes by four lengths.

"I sympathise with her syndicate of owners, for they were all greatly looking forward to her four-year-old career. What a pity they are not breeders!"

All the top middle-distance races had been among her possible targets this year, but her 20 shareowners in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing

syndicate will at least reap another benefit when she is offered for sale at auction at the end of the year, either at the Keeneland November Sales in the United States or at the Tattersalls December Sales in Newmarket.

Harry Herbert, Highclere managing director, said: "It's a real shame. Her run at Epsom was too bad to be true. Michael had hoped she'd at least be in the shake-up, so it wasn't surprising something came to light.

"She's strained the tendon, not bowed it. She's not lame. There's a

lesion which only a scan can see. But, for an animal of her calibre, that's that, and there isn't time to put it right.

"It's a sad end but she has given us enormous fun. She was a first Classic winner for Highclere, which was very much the fulfilment of a dream and ambition of ours, not only from the company's side, but also for the 20 owners."

Petrushka won five of her nine starts and just under pounds 400,000 in prize-money. She started favourite for last year's 1,000 Guineas after her impressive win in the Nell Gwyn, but finished only third before running fourth in the Oaks behind Love Divine.

However, she struck top form with a five-and-a-half-length defeat of

Melikah in the Irish Oaks, the first in a Group 1 hat-trick, completed at York and Longchamp.

Although she was only fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare, her owners were celebrating again at the end of the year when she was named Cartier European Champion three-year-old filly.

Johnny Murtagh, who rode her to the Group 1 hat-trick, said: "She was a

fantastic filly who had plenty of speed. The Irish Oaks was great, but perhaps the better performance was at York, with three Oaks winners in one race."

Herbert added: "Fillies like this don't come around very often and her record speaks for itself.

"She looks sure to make a tremendous impact as a broodmare as she is not only a beautiful filly to look at, but boasts an outstanding pedigree, out of a half-sister to Spectrum and from the family of Millenary and Sun Princess."

As a pointer to her sales potential, champion mare Dance Design, the winner of the 1996 Irish Oaks, was sold for 2,500,000gns at Newmarket in 1997.

CAPTION(S):

Petrushka: sure to command huge interest at the sales later this year
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 15, 2001
Words:592
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