Frenchman steps in to rescue bid by Mellottie

ENGLISH challenger Mellottie had Sunday's International Cup mission salvaged with a little help from the French at Sha Tin yesterday morning - though clouds still hang over the eight-year-old's soundness.

The 1991 Cambridgeshire winner passed the pre-declaration veterinary inspection only after last-minute remedial work from Patrick Biancone's chiropractor, Jean Claude Fruchon.

Prior to Fruchon's manipulation, Mellottie had walked very stiffly and pulled up looking lame behind after only a light canter.

He had been due to work solidly under crack Irish jockey Mick Kinane but that gallop was cancelled once it became obvious that the powerful-looking colt had pulled out feelingly.

The Royal Hongkong Jockey Club's senior vet, Keith Watkins said yesterday: ''I saw the horse last night when he was troubled over his right hind.

''But he certainly trotted up much better this morning after he had had his back seen to. He doesn't have to be officially passed again as this morning was the official check on all horses but I will definitely be keeping my eye on him. I will have another look tomorrow morning.'' The Jockey Club have until 10am on Saturday morning to substitute first reserve Northern Fire Ball for Mellottie should the latter's condition worsen.

But trainer's son Keith Reveley was much more optimistic yesterday afternoon than he and his team had been after yesterday's abortive work session for Mellottie. ''It was really great of Jean Claude to come to our help,'' he said. ''He wasn't obliged to and he seems to have helped a fair bit. He even said he would have another look at him tomorrow.

''He lifted Mellottie's back legs up and moved them around and you could really hear some bones snap back into place.

''Hopefully that has done the trick and it is no more than a few twinges caused by the journey over.

''Mellottie was a lot better after seeing him and we are very much hoping to take our chance on Sunday.

''We will know a fair bit more tomorrow when we see how he is and have back the results of blood tests.'' Reveley was also worried about the work Mellottie has missed, adding: ''He hasn't done anything since he arrived and I was hoping to give him a good blowout this morning followed by a proper piece of work on Friday.

''Now we will have to give him another day off to let him get over the back manipulation and hope to be able to get the good gallop into him on Friday.'' There is no doubting that on his best form, Mellottie would certainly let local hero River Verdon know he'd been in a race in Sunday's $4.5 million showpiece event.

The form of Mellottie's Cambridgeshire win worked out excellently as second-placed High Premium took this season's Lincoln, the first big race of the British Flat season.

The French are propelling diminutive filly Urban Sea towards Cup glory with her own specially imported supply of French mineral water. She has the best form in the race and any worries about her lack of size were dispelled when she had some light work on the grass yesterday morning.

The French Bowl runner Silicon Bavaria looked a treat yesterday and trainer Robert Collet, who sent out Le Glorieux to win the Japan Cup and the Washington International, seldom ventures overseas unless he feels he has a real winning chance. He arrives today.

Steve McKinnon, the young Australian trainer, is happy with the condition of his Bowl contender Zaparri.

The vets confirmed yesterday that the American horses are all over the slight temperatures they incurred on the journey here. They added that the remaining Australian, New Zealand and Japanese runners have arrived in fine shape.

American jockey-turned-trainer Willie Shoemaker won't be coming to see his Glen Kate run in the Bowl as he has Group runners performing at home in Arkansas.

Shoemaker was paralysed from the neck down in a car accident but he is now fully cogent and has no trouble speaking.

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