Tom Symonds’ blog: a summer of stars

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  • The aptly named Thousand Stars triumphed in Sunday’s Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle) for the second year running. He is aptly named because there are just so many stars of sport out at the moment, and none so more than in horse racing.

    Thousand Stars is Ireland’s version of Overturn and one who would scale the Heights of Abraham for you with sheer grit and determination. His 2010 County Hurdle triumph still lives long in the memory as he announced himself – Rooster Booster style – as a horse about to burst out of handicap company.

    In winning on Sunday he defeated the highly progressive Nikita Du Berlais and confirmed that he does stay a truly run three miles, as he has often looked to be suited by the intermediate distance of 2m 4f. He is unfortunate that while he can win his battles, there are certain others – namely Big Buck’s and Oscar Whisky – who win the wars. It is a testament to him and his trainer Willie Mullins that he is able to turn out in May and June and plunder France’s biggest hurdling pots.

    Camelot, the St Leger and changing the Classic programme

    As human stars await the Olympics, the racing world also waits for something that most thought would never happen again. Racing’s traditionalists could be about to have the proof of their argument in its truest form.

    Although the hitherto “old-fashioned and unobtainable” Triple Crown is now looking like a truly possible achievement, there are still some that called for the British programme to be pushed back so that the Guineas start later. Some refuted this as “moving the goalposts” while others concurred, as it would help some horses come to hand without having to rush them.

    No one likes change, and in this instance I would be against it. As veteran trainer Clive Brittain suggested, trainers are actually better equipped (in terms of facilities) to prepare a horse for the April and May Classic trials than those of yesteryear. One must remember that before Nijinsky won the Triple Crown in 1970 there must have been those who wondered if it had become dated, as it had not been achieved since 1935 when the unbeaten Bahram won for the Aga Khan.

    While a decision on Camelot’s participation at Doncaster in September will probably wait, it seems that the racing world are almost relying on Coolmore to honour racing by granting Camelot the opportunity to conquer fashion and restore the jewels in the forgotten Crown. It would be an achievement of mind-blowing proportions if he were to take part, let alone triumph in the St Leger.

    In addition, it would be under the young yet ultra-cool and seemingly unflappable Joseph O’Brien. Strangely, a similarly youthful Steve Cauthen steered Affirmed to US Triple Crown glory in 1978. This neatly leads us to I’ll Have Another, who reminded us all of the brittle nature of the thoroughbred when succumbing to a tendon injury the day before his date with destiny.

    The Americans definitely defeat us in the “let’s go Triple Crown mad stakes” and rightly so. David Cameron might yet allow a projected image of Camelot on to Big Ben, like the one of I’ll Have Another on the Empire State building. However, with the current Leveson inquiry David Cam-has-elot on his plate.

    Union Rags filled the gaping void by winning the Belmont Stakes in tenacious style under new big-race jockey John Velazquez. If the horse showed tenacity, then his owner-breeder Phyllis Wyeth must have instilled it in him. Wheelchair-bound Wyeth’s story is astonishing and her desperate need to hold on to this horse was rewarded with a Classic triumph.

    Each Olympics tells part of my life story

    A Golden Age indeed. The recent Diamond Jubilee gave London an appetiser of what the Olympic mayhem may be like. The Jubilee was a fantastic celebration of tradition and ritual that people are proud to be born in to. At the helm is someone who people truly adore, as she is the unmoved monarch who epitomises what it is to lead a nation and Commonwealth.

    Exciting times are in store, with Royal Ascot playing host to an International equine battle and Wimbledon and the Olympics to follow.

    I find it quite frightening how different one’s life can be in every Olympic year. Since being in prep school (St Richard’s) for Atlanta in 1996, I have been to secondary school (Worth Abbey) for Sydney in 2000, James Fanshawe’s for Athens in 2004, and lastly Nicky Henderson’s for Bejing in 2008. My best memory would still be the injury-prone Kelly Holmes’ 800 and 1,500m wins – now that was true grit. As for London 2012, I am at Dason Court and I hope to still be here for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, otherwise something has gone horribly wrong…

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