Injured Ejaz ruled out of 3yo series
Clements’ top three-year-old fractures knee in last run, return to racing is touch-and-go
Trainer Michael Clements stood out for his embarrassment of three-year-old riches, but will now head towards the first leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge without his flagbearer, Ejaz.
The talented gelding’s 3YO odds were slashed further when he scored first-up in a Class 4 1,200m event on March 12, but it appears that the duck-and-weave gallop to the line has not been without ill-effects.
Ejaz seemed fine after the race but, on the next day, he pulled up sore.
Further vet checks confirmed Clements’ worst fears. Ejaz had succumbed to a slab fracture of the off-fore knee, spelling the end of his three-year-old campaign there and then.
“Ejaz has broken down. He was very sore and lame the next day. There was swelling and heat in the right front knee,” said Clements.
“We did some X-rays on the same day, and it was confirmed he had a slab fracture to the right front knee, in the last carpal bone.”
Fortunately, such an injury is treatable. Ejaz went under the knife the next day.
“Dr Dan Shaw (Singapore Turf Club veterinary surgeon) performed the operation on Tuesday. He inserted a lag screw into the knee,” said Clements.
“The operation was successful. Ejaz will be out for three to six months.
“It’ll be a rest period, during which he will have monthly X-rays to check on the injury and how it is healing.”
Whether the four-time winner (from five starts) will see the racetrack again is up in the air.
“The prognosis is guarded. I won’t say it’s 50/50 because nobody really knows. But I know a lot of horses do come back, while for some, it doesn’t work for them,” said Clements.
“But he definitely won’t race for a while.”
Clements may find some answers in an identical case at his yard – Tiger Roar. Falcon Racing’s 2021 Singapore champion three-year-old has always been plagued by bad knees before the same ailment as Ejaz compounded matters in 2022.
By all accounts, the son of Wandjina seems to be on the path to recovery, although Clements would not count his chickens yet.
“Tiger Roar had a knee chip surgery a couple of years back, but at his most recent setback, he had a similar slab fracture,” he said.
“He’s now close to six months into his recovery. He’s progressing well and is now doing some swimming and long hand-walk.
“We assess him constantly, and so far, so good. But we still need to see if he can make a full recovery and return to racing.”
While Tiger Roar had a history of knee issues, the fact that Ejaz was as sound as a bell exacerbates the blow to his connections, the Al-Arabiya Stable.
“It was so sudden. Before that, he’s never had a day’s worry,” said Clements.
To the Zimbabwe-born handler, the zig-zagging run in the home straight might have been the culprit.
At the 300m, Ejaz was running into dead ends behind a wall of runners, forcing Nunes to switch back to the inside in search of clear room.
He did find daylight through a gap between runners, but under pressure, he struggled to draw clear to scrape home by a nose from the fast-closing King Zoustar.
“I think he fractured his knee in the closing stages of the race. Manoel had to switch him to get a run and it probably happened then,” said Clements.
“But because he’s such a big-hearted horse, he still held on. He raced through the pain.
“(Owner) Mansoor (Gandhi) is devastated, but that’s racing. We hope the horse can make a comeback.”
Clements can still count on 14 other three-year-olds to choose from for the first leg, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) on April 8.
But only a handful, including the likes of Petrograd, Coin Toss and Pacific Star, would be suitable – timewise and distance-wise.