It may sound odd, but I love seeing horses relax in the sunshine-drenched paddocks. The time they get to visit “Dr Green” is of the utmost importance and a vital part of their season ahead. I always feel for the poor Flat horses, as their holiday period is freezing winter with no good grass, whereas the jumpers get to unwind mentally and physically in the sunshine with lush grass.
While all these equine machines are recharging their batteries, the one machine that works overtime is the steam cleaner. This was one of my earliest purchases as cleanliness and hygiene is paramount. Those who know me will testify that I like a neat and clean atmosphere in which to work. The Karcher cleaner was bought at a bargain price, is big and scopey and – although it drinks fuel – you can turn it off and shut it away. I bet you never thought you would hear a steam cleaner likened to a horse.
As the stars of the jumps season temporarily fade into the galaxy, the Flat astronomers had predicted great things from their side of the stratosphere, and goodness me they were right. Over the past week, Black Caviar, I’ll Have Another and Frankel have been the asteroids that obliterated their counterparts.
John Francome pointed out that watching Black Caviar’s victories is rather like groundhog day as they all seem visually similar and on similar tracks. It will be interesting to see how she takes to the British racecourses.
I am loving the banter and claim-staking as to who is “the greatest”. Officially it is Frankel, but the Aussies take pride in their sporting heros and will not let that apparent error of judgement lie.
And on the subject of Frankel, it did amaze me how hollow I felt when his career was apparently hanging in the balance, as this horse promises so much and continually delivers. It only dawned on me how much he is needed when he had his “racecourse gallop” in the JLT Lockinge stakes at Newbury. Joni Mitchell was spot on, as no one really does know what they have got until it’s gone, and it’s much easier to appreciate the past than realise what you have in the present.
What I also find fascinating is Coolmore’s role in this story. They have not only got an exceptional horse in Excelebration and will do their best to topple the extra- (not sure what comes after exceptional) exceptional Frankel, but they also have rescued the breeding industry from dying with new fashions. I am sorry to say that this once again brings in our Australian cousins that I keep on banging on about.
Coolmore purchased Frankel’s damsire Danehill from none other than his owner breeder Khalid Abdulla, and turned this very useful sprinter but non-staying miler into a sire sensation.
It was key that he started his career in the southern hemisphere. As a sire he was far more dynamic than as a racehorse and, as I said before, the Aussies are the ones who train horses, not for certain trips, but as animals who can run at a high speed over what ever trip you want. So Danehill wasn’t cast as a sire of sprinters but of good speed horses. It was only later that Europe began to appreciate Danehill and he sired Derby winners and Ascot Gold Cup winners over much further than he was ever effective himself.
Furthermore, there was a time when the commercial appreciation of a Derby winner as a stallion came into question. Italian breeder Frederico Tesio had already outlined how our industry was based around Epsom’s winning post, but this became old-fashioned as Derby winners came and went as racehorses and sires. This was because people seemed to want to breed for speed.
What John Magnier and co at Coolmore have done is reaffirm Tesio’s statement by producing the best Derby-winning sire seen for many a year. Galileo was a beautifully actioned racehorse who only ran once at two but who carried all before him at three.
They say that it is important for Derby winners to drop back to a mile and quarter after their Epsom triumph for commercial stud value (like High Chaparral, Authorized and Sea The Stars), but Galileo never won again after his famous King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes victory over Fantastic Light at Ascot.
No one knew that his dam Urban Sea would go on to produce perhaps the greatest all-round performer of recent times in Sea The Stars, but Galileo had already cast his galaxy of stars and the one he has produced in Frankel is certainly one that shines brightly in any era.
Galileo is still relatively young for a sire to have had so many class performers and on all levels. Derby winners will come his way – remembering that he himself ended Sadler’s Wells’ Derby hoodoo. Galileo is the best stallion in the world and, although he was no dirt performer himself, who knows whether he may produce a Kentucky Derby winner. It was his sire Sadler’s Wells that produced dirt sire sensation El Prado.
As Coolmore continues to reaffirm the old ways, then who is to say that they won’t let Camelot bid for immortality with a Triple Crown bid? According to many this is no longer the ultimate test of the thoroughbred, but is, in breeding-speak, as dead as the Latin language.
In the USA they will not settle for Meat Loaf’s assurance “two out of three ain’t bad” as I’ll Have Another has surprised me by winning the second leg of the Triple Crown – the Preakness at Pimlico. A racing nation will hold its breath until a week on Saturday when he bids for immortality in New York where so many have failed. Of the three races, the Belmont Stakes is the one that I would have thought would suit this horse most – so you never know…
Symonds family update
As racing lives in hope of finding new champions and being continually awed by the current ones, I know that certain establishments have lost their star students and governors, with my sister Lydia completing her time at Trinity College Dublin and my father temporarily away from the helm of the farm with knee replacements. Dublin has lost someone of many talents and a dynamic that stretches from the bars of Temple Bar to the libraries and lecture halls, while I have been temporarily left without a father and, more importantly… a gardener!