CHAMPION sprinter Sacred Kingdom has made a whirlwind recovery from a life-threatening colic attack and will attempt to win his third Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint at the end of the year.

Alan Aitken reports in today's South China Morning Post that the world's joint top-rated sprinter and six-time Group One winner was struck down with a twisted bowel as he was in the process of boarding a flight to Japan in the early hours of Thursday morning.

What should have been a routine trip turned into a nightmare when the horse became agitated and was then found to be suffering from obstructive colic, but the quick response of the Jockey Club veterinary team has saved not only his life but quite possibly his racing career.

"It's a relief. He's out of danger and he's a tough boy - you wouldn't know anything had happened to him at all," trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai said yesterday. "He's walking around and looks bright again. He'll stay in the hospital at Sha Tin until Monday then come back to my stables, but the vets are totally in charge of Sacred Kingdom's feed for the time being."

Sacred Kingdom was rushed back from the airport then later opened up in the equine hospital at Sha Tin early on Thursday so that surgeon Dr Chris Riggs could untwist the section of the horse's bowel that had become folded around itself, blocking and cutting off blood supply to a two-three metre section of the horse's small intestine.

Riggs said on Thursday night the success rate of the procedure was high when the affected horse could be quickly placed under expert supervision, as had been the case with Sacred Kingdom.

"The initial hours are the most crucial and having the equine hospital here available as and when we wanted it, so we could get Sacred Kingdom on the operating table quickly, was important. The prognosis with getting horses to race again after colic is quite positive," he said. "Off the top of my head, the one that springs to mind here was Fuji Sunrise. He was operated on for quite a severe colic even before he arrived in Hong Kong and went on to be quite a successful horse."

Yiu said the Jockey Club vets had indicated that Sacred Kingdom could quite possibly resume training as early as May but the gelding is likely to have a longer break from racing.

"They said eight to 10 weeks and he can start training but there is nothing for him anyway then so we'll be looking at starting him racing again in the new season," the trainer said. "It's probably better for him to have a longer break and get completely over it but they are actually quite optimistic that we will get the horse back. Hopefully, he can recover top form and we can target the international sprint again."

Meanwhile, the Macau Jockey Club has pulled off a coup in attracting top-class New Zealand trainer Paddy Busuttin to Taipa.

Busuttin, 56, trained the legendary stayer Castletown to win the Wellington Cup three times on end in the 1990s and subsequently enjoyed a highly successful nine-year career in Singapore until returning home in 2006.

COLICE - A horse's worst nightmare

  • Colic is common in horses because of their intestinal design
  • The extent can range from moderate pain because of fermenting feed in the bowel to a dangerous twisted bowel
  • The pain can make a horse kick and roll on the ground, causing the hind gut to twist, cutting off the blood supply which can then lead to leakage of toxins and cause the horse to go into shock
  • Surgery has a high rate of success
  • Colic afflicts many racehorses. While racing in America in 1932, Australian legend Phar Lap died, though some say he was poisoned.