Owner fears for people's horse after top trotter goes missing
The owner of Unicka, a wildly impressive winner of last year's Italian trotting Derby in Rome, has made an impassioned plea for the return of his star after the four-year-old was reported missing from his Tuscan stables on Tuesday morning in a case with echoes of the Shergar mystery.
Trotting has suffered a decline parallel to that of thoroughbred racing in Italy during recent years but the wide-margin successes of Unicka has brought much-needed positive publicity.
"People came from every corner of Italy to have selfies taken with her but now I am living a nightmare," said Gianluca Lami, a tanning tycoon whose horses run under the Scuderia Wave banner.
"This horse has brought a different dimension to horseracing. Unicka is not our horse, she belongs to the whole of Italian equestrian sport."
The kidnapping of top horses is far from unknown in Italy, with the most infamous case involving the unsolved disappearance of leading stallion Lemon Dra in 2006.
Lami told the Gazzetta Dello Sport he had received no contact from the kidnappers.
"If it is a question of money, then call me and we will find a way," he said. "Perhaps they want to ruin a dream; to return horseracing to the ghetto."
Shergar was seized in 1983 by senior IRA figures who hoped to secure £2 million in ransom money. The kidnappers wrongly believed the horse was the sole property of the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims.
In December, Clares Rocket, a champion greyhound worth an estimated €1m, was stolen from kennels belonging to the Tipperary-based trainer Graham Holland. The dog was later recovered by armed officers from a car on a road between Waterford and Limerick.