Saturday, March 19, 2011

Yesterday's heroes

Unfortunately my observations on the difficulty of winning handicaps with exposed horses has again proved to be eerily pertinent: as had happened with Kadouchski the previous day, Ethics Girl yesterday ran a blinder to finish second to an unexposed up-and-coming youngster. Assisted by a perfect ride from Franny Norton, Ethics ran a terrific race at Wolverhampton last night, having as easy a run through the race as possible before being brought with a perfectly-timed challenge in the last furlong - only to find that her welter burden of 9 stone 12lb and the concession of 17lb to the regally-bred, lightly-raced Rainbow Quest four-year-old Blackmore (pictured drawing away from her again in the final 100m) meant that she was being asked an impossible task. She went down by just over a length, with nine lengths back to the third. She's a marvel. She resumed on the19th June, exactly nine months ago, and since then she has raced on average roughly once every two and a half weeks, having 16 starts during these past 39 weeks for three wins, four seconds, two thirds and two fourths. As this photograph of her cantering to post yesterday suggests, she has thrived on this regime to the extent that she is currently in the form of her life - and she seems to have come home from her latest race in similarly good heart. Her antics in her day-yard recently had been showing that she was remaining in high spirits; so it was very pleasing to see her putting on a similar display this afternoon. I'm only sorry that her advancing towards me on two legs meant that this photograph caught me by surprise so that, by the time I pressed the shutter, she was filling the frame too well, with her ears and her hind hooves consequently missing from the shot. However, even without her extremities, I think that we can see that she remains raring to go! She really is a thoroughly admirable racehorse.

We have, of course, been treated this week to a truly special Cheltenham Festival, during which two races (to my mind) stood out: the World Hurdle and the Gold Cup. I'd been bold enough after the World Hurdle to predict that that would prove to have been the race of the meeting, but that prediction, of course, proved premature as yesterday's epic Gold Cup topped even the clash of the titans who are Big Buck's and Grand Crus. Those two mighty horses had combined to provide us with a great race between two great horses who were each assisted in their task by receiving a perfect ride (and my nomination for Ride of the Festival would go to Tom Scudamore on Grand Crus, who put in as perfect a losing ride as Franny did on Ethics Girl yesterday - but, of course, we know that, for no valid reason, losing rides never seem to be eligible for Ride of the ... competitions). However, yesterday's Gold Cup featured three very special performances as Long Run, Denman and Kauto Star (each, too, benefitting from first-class rides) all carved their names even deeper into the roll of heroes by taking part a truly special race. After my rash post-World Hurdle statement, I should be wary of making premature verdicts on races, but I feel bold enough to suggest that, even though we are only just past the midway point of the third month of the current 120-month decade, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup might end up being regarded as the steeplechase of the decade. After a Festival with these treats, then, how do we get back to normality? Well, by enjoying a perfect dawn like the one shown here on the Heath today, perhaps. That would seem as good a way to 'move on' (to use the 21st century vernacular) as any.


Nathan said...

Great summary and fantastic photo's John :-)

John Berry said...

Thanks Nathan. Spring's such a lovely time of year.

Nathan said...

Absolutely John, it's my favourite season :-)