08/02/2010 3:35PM



Following the exploits of the sensational- and oft injured- Hungarian sprinter Overdose is like trying to keep track of a fast rising political star behind the old Iron Curtain.

First he's there, ready to race, then he's injured and out for a few months. Then he's set for a race at Ascot, or maybe Haydock, but then neither. He's in France with an expert harrier working on his sensitive feet, then he's in England for a winter vacation. He's trained by one man, who sends him to Germany, where he's trained by another.

It was easier to read between the lines of official Soviet photographs to figure out who was in and who was out in the Soviet hierarchy.

That Overdose is highly talented there is no doubt. His 4-length "victory" at the expense of Europe's best sprinters in the 2008 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp proved that beyond a doubt. That his win in the 5-furlong Group 1 dash was annulled because one of the gates had failed to open, forcing the race to be declared void, was a pity. It also had central European observors muttering that the West was still out to get them, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Not counting the Prix de l'Abbaye, Overdose, a 5-year-old British-bred son of Starborough, himself the winner at three of two Group 1 miles in the Prix Jean Prat and the St. James's Palace Stakes, is still undefeated- and virtually unheaded- after 13 starts. He has run in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Italy as well as in France and beaten all-comers. He is, however, plagued by bad feet, a problem that has seen him run just once in the last 15 months and twice since November 2008.

After his pyrrhic victory at Longchamp on Oct. 5, 2008 , Overdose was sent to the Capannelle where he embarrassed the locals with a 10-length annihilation of the 6-furlong, Group 3 Premio Carlo & Francisco Aloisi. He returned to action at his hometown Kincsem Park in Budapet with French ace Christophe Soumillon flying in for the ride in a local 5-furlong dash the following April which he won by 8 lengths. Then his problems began.

He had thrown a shoe in Budapest and reinjured his foot. The injury was a serious one, so his Slovakia-based Hungarian owner Zoltan Mikoczy sent him to Nantes, France to be cared for by a leading harrier at a rehabilitation center, but the problem only grew worse. 

Mikoczy complained that what Overdose required was rest, but what he got in Nantes was aggravation, as his minders there overworked him. Mikoczy said that the French took Overdose's connections for simpleminded eastern Europeans. On August 14 of last year, he announced that Overdose would be unable to seek his much sought after revenge in the Prix de l'Abbaye.

Instead, he was sent to Amanda Perrett's yard in England where he was fitted with an orthopedic shoe. Overdose's health was improving in October of last year when his Budapest-based trained Sandor Ribarszki announced that he was quitting Hungary for a move to Germany- or perhaps England, or maybe France- and that he would be taking Overdose with him when he was completely recovered.

A week later, disaster struck. It didn't strike Overdose directly, but the implications were ominous. Owner Mikoczy was arrested in Romania, charged with stealing meat processing equipment He was busted on a Romanian highway while traveling in a convoy of his assistants on their way back to Slovakia. According to the Hungarian press, Mikoczy was strip searched on the side of the road and thrown into the clink without further ceremony.

Overdose got the all-clear healthwise after being returned to the Budapest stable of his the Germany-bound trainer Ribarszki in late November, at which time Mikoczy was till languishing in a Romanian prison. That is something no one would wish on one's worst enemy even 20 years after the fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but there were theories afoot that trainer Ribarszki was attempting to take advantage of owner Mikoczy's legal problems.

Indeed, Mikoczy was released from prison on December 3. A few days later he announced that Overdose was not going to Germany with Ribarszki or anyone else, but that he would be staing in Budapest. Rumors that the undefeated sprinter was being offered for up to $7.5 million to pay for the businessman's debts were denied by Mikoczy. The Romanian courts had given him a suspended sentence, but Mikoczy said he would fight to have his conviction overturned just as hard as he would fight to keep control of Overdose,

The saga took another turn in January, when Mikoczy allowed the horse to be reunited with Ribarszki at Hoppegarten in the eastern suburbs of Berlin. But Overose would only remain in Germany if Ribarszki was successful in receiving a license to train there.

Well, Ribarszki got his German license and plans were made to run Overdose in a 5-furlong conditions race at Hoppegarten on May 9. That would serve as a prep for the 5-furlong, Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock Park in England on May 22, after which he would be sent to Royal Ascot for the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes.

But complications were already arising to undermine this latest scheme. Mikoczy said that while Overdose was being handled in Germany by Ribarszki, his official trainer was now Budapest-based Jozef Roszival.

Speaking from Bratislava, Mikoscy explained it this way. "Overdose is registered in Hungary and Jozef (Roszival) is the trainer there for my team of horses. Sandor (Ribarszki) is not licensed in Hungary and that's why Jozef is named as the trainer."

But it all came to naught when Overdose suffered another setback. Hoppegarten and the Temple Stakes were out. The new plan was to prepare him for Royal Ascot in the listed, 5-furlong Achilles Stakes at Haydock on May 29.

But Overdose couldn't make it for that race either, and so was ruled out of Royal Ascot altogether. Now he was being aimed at the listed, 5-furlong Prix Hampton at Maisons-Laffitte on June 25. That would presumably serve as a prep for the 6-furlong, Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket on July

All the time, the main goal for the sprinter who is so fast he is practically invisible was stated as this year's Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp on Arc Day, October 3.

Mice and men working at cross purposes might have had better luck with Overdose than Mikoczy, Ribarszki and Roszival. On June 15, Mikoczy announced that Overdose had suffered yet another setback and that the July Cup was out of the question. The Hampton was a possibility, but so was an allowance race at Munich on July 4 and a listed race at Naples on July 17. 

Neither came to pass, for Overdose was destined to make his long awaited retrun in Bratislava in a 5-furlong local listed race worth $12,000. Ridden by Czech-based English veteran Gary Hind, he led throughout and held rather comfortably for a half-length score in his first outing in 15 months.

A relieved Mikoczy then announced that Overdose's immediate goal would be the 6-furlong, Group 2 Goldene Peitsche, a race he had won in 2008 prior to his Prix de l'Abbaye contretemps. In the meantime, it was decided that he would run in a specially designed 5-furlong race at Kincsem Park on August 15 in Budapest, since he needed another tightener before traveling to Baden-Baden.

That will give his legions of loyal Hungarian fans who are members of the Overdose Fan Club to see their darling run one last time at home. Overdose is the best horse trained in Hungary since the extraordinary mare for whom the Budapest track is named. Kincsem was undefeated in 54 starts, winning major staying races in England, France and Germany as well as in Hungary from 1876 to 1879, once carrying 168 lbs. to victory.

All of Hungary will be keeping its fingers crossed that Overdose will show up at Kincsem Park on the 15th. If successful that day, it will be on to Baden-Baden and then Longchamp for some unfinished business.