Thursday, August 20, 2015

Did I miss much?

I was silly yesterday because when I ended up the chapter writing about Josh Pearce's first winner, I meant to illustrate the chapter with a photo of Josh riding out here a while back.  But I forgot, so I didn't.  Hence that photograph is illustrating this first paragraph here.  Josh's winner, though, of course was not the only notable racing event yesterday, because a couple of hours later York in general, and the Benson & Hedges / Juddmonte International in particular, re-established its former reputation as "the graveyard for favourites".  It was a surprise to see the race won by a 50/1 shot who had seemed beforehand to have few pretensions to winning the race, but the horse (Arabian Queen) and her owner, trainer and jockey were all very popular winners.

I actually think that Golden Horn's defeat contained one very positive element: it has demonstrated that a top-class horse can be beaten, yet the world keeps turning, and no one thinks any the less of the horse.  Golden Horn (pictured with Mick Curran in the paddock at Clarehaven on Sunday 7th June, the day after the Derby) and Gleneagles were both declared for the race; Golden Horn, was beaten in it while Gleneagles wasn't, but it was Gleneagles, not Golden Horn whose status was diminished during the day.  It's been really ludicrous recently - even more so than usual - for incidences of connections of top-class horses not running in a big race for no reason other than the fact that they feel that there is a chance that their horse might be beaten.  So it's good to be reminded that a champion can be beaten without it being a disaster.

It's always good when a horse such as Sea The Stars or American Pharoah is beaten first time out, because then there isn't subsequently the ongoing worry of losing an unbeaten record.  Because, after all, all an unbeaten record ever proves is that a horse has been campaigned with a large degree of caution.  And I even include Frankel in that, even if I do so rather timorously - but surely he have run in the Arc if it were not for the fear of his losing his unbeaten record?  Nijinsky was beaten in the Arc (and the Champion Stakes) and Secretariat was beaten four times as a three-year-old - but the place of neither in the pantheon is any less secure because of that.

A horse's reputation rests on the races he wins, not on the ones which he doesn't, whether that failure to win comes from running and being beaten or not running.  Anyway, everyone can now enjoy Golden Horn's career more happily (and this particularly applies to his connections) because the stress and worry about the fear of him losing his unbeaten record no longer applies.  And hopefully this positive aspect can be remembered by the connections of, say, Gleneagles. And on this subject, it might be worth remembering that the most successful and popular stallions at Coolmore over the past 30 years have been the ones who have been campaigned rigorously and fearlessly, and who never ducked a challenge because of fear of defeat: Sadler's Wells, Caerleon, Danehill, Danehill Dancer, Montjeu, Galileo, High Chaparral.

And now for something completely different.  Thirty years ago I had the chance to go to university (to Oxford, to read theology at St. Peter's College) but declined to take my place.  Did I miss much?  Or, rather, did I miss more by not going than I would have missed by going?  Who knows?  A couple of recent snippets of  'news', though, have suggested to me that tertiary education isn't all that it's cracked up to me.  (Although I should emphasise that I'd have been going to one of Britain's three great universities, ie Oxford, Cambridge and Hull, whereas this nonsense which I am about to outline took place at places - I hesitate to say 'universities' - of less distinction.)

Firstly we have "the new super-consumers on the menswear market": the 'vetrosexuals'.  We have this gem of wisdom from Daniel Easters, "senior lecturer in Fashion Marketing Management at Nottingham Trent University", courtesy of BBC Radio Five Live (ie Cornelius Lysaght and John Hunt).  The vetrosexual is, apparently, a younger, better-dressed version of the metrosexual.  They are people who "have increased self-awareness" and are "more confident" when they go shopping.  "These guys are much savvier, much more self-conscious; they're into sports, body, fashion.  They're much more image-conscious and health-conscious due to things like Twitter, Facebook and the advent of the selfie."

And then we have the project of Will Brooker, "a film and cultural studies expert at London's Kingston University".  He is (or believes, or says, that he is) going to spend an entire year living as David Bowie.  He is, so we are told, "attempting to get a greater understanding of the enigmatic pop lizard by adopting his eating habits, reading the same books he reads, and dressing in his clothes.  He'll even sample the star's dubious 1970s diet of milk, red peppers and cocaine" (except that he is substituting 'energy drinks' for the cocaine).  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusion as to how effective this experiment will be if the cocaine is replaced by 'energy drinks'.  I suspect that this circus will be about as effective as a project to replicate the life of a jockey, except without riding horses, going to the races, or minding one's weight.

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