Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve; or, a story of sheep

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Down the stairs at noon I stumped, still not up to much. I wish there were a poetic way of saying this but there is not: my entire head is filled with snot. Luckily, the incredibly kind Stepfather had been round to give the dog her morning walk, so all I had to do was make some eggs, take some iron tonic, and think about the blog. Because this is the day; it’s the absolute mandated day when you must do round-ups, and write end of year lists, and record stirring events.

For a horrible moment, I could not remember a single thing that happened this year. Was it Libya? Was this the Arab Spring? It seems so long ago. Was this really the year that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed? I do remember that each week the Euro was going to crash, that Greece tottered, and riots broke out.

All right, said my addled brain, yes; it was that year. I suppose I have to write about that. Everyone will be writing about that, because that is what is decreed on this 31st day, but occasionally I don’t mind spying a passing bandwagon and leaping aboard.

Then I thought I should really go out and take you some pictures. I heard on the wireless that it was raining in the south, but it was lovely here, the sun gentling the hills. I should take a picture of them on the last day of 2011, for posterity. So I swaddled myself up, on account of my cold, even though the weather continues mild, and took The Pigeon out to look at the view.

I was so glad I did. Everything looked quite shimmeringly lovely. There were the sheep, white as paper, gathered in a tight huddle in the meadow. They made a perfect picture. Then they started moving, quite fast. My brain is very stupid with this cold, so it took me a moment to work out what was going on.

At first I thought the farmer was moving them. I could see a black dog. But then they started charging about, much faster than normal. And I suddenly registered that I could hear barking. Sheepdogs do not bark at their flock.

The sheep split, veering into two tight groups, galloping in different directions. Even from three hundred yards away, I caught the sharp air of panic.

Shit, I thought. They are being chased.

My neighbour was out, saying goodbye to some Christmas guests. ‘J,’ I bawled. ‘I think a dog is chasing the sheep. The sheep are going nuts.’

The neighbour is a man of doing. He is always performing wonderful practical things, of which I know nothing. He fixes my outside tap, and checks the gutters. He always knows what the weather will do. Without pausing, he leapt into his truck, and roared off down the drive.

I was too far away to get to the sheep, but I was so enraged by the crazed dog that I started yelling: ‘Hey, hey,’ in some vain hope it might hear me and stop. I could see it quite clearly now. It was laying about the poor sheep left and right. I could not see if it was biting, but prayed that it was only chasing. The terrified ladies were running up and down the sloping meadow, racing for their lives.

Come on, J, I thought. Come on. Suddenly there he was. If it were a film, this would have been the moment when the Indiana Jones music broke out. The black truck streaked across the turf, going straight for the errant dog. It stopped, and the neighbour leapt out, trying to corral the animal. I could hear him yelling in fury, his voice shaking with anger. The dog dodged him, back and forth. Back into the truck the neighbour got, for more wild chasing. It was like the Dukes of Hazzard. If it had not been so serious, it would have been funny.

The neighbour saved the sheep. They huddled in a tiny, dense flock, under the trees to the west. I hoped that they were only exhausted, not hurt. The worry is that this kind of shock is exactly what leads ewes to cast their lambs. Watching the whole thing unfold, I realised keenly why farmers are so protective of their sheep. They are such vulnerable creatures. As the neighbour charged to their rescue, like some knight in an old-fashioned book, I felt like cheering and hanging out flags.

Once the drama was over, I turned to find The Pigeon standing like a statue, at my heels. It was as if she sensed that something very serious was going on. I blessed her good temper and obedient manners; even when she was young and predatory, going after rabbits like a panther, she never chased sheep. Sheep and deer were the two things I trained her never to go near, and she took the lesson well.

And so it turns out, on this last, sunny day of the old year, that instead of recalling world events, and cataclysmic geo-political shifts, and events on the home front, I give you a little story about sheep. I smile as I write that; for some reason it feels appropriate. I have no idea why. Anyway, if I had gone over the old year, I would have had to write of all those funerals in May. I’m not sure I want to write that, just today. Better, perhaps, to have a little ovine tale, with a happy ending.


This is what the last day of 2011 looked like, in the north-east of Scotland:

31 Dec 1 31-12-2011 14-15-22

31 Dec 2 31-12-2011 14-15-56

31 Dec 3 31-12-2011 14-16-39

31 Dec 4 25-12-2011 16-25-12

31 Dec 5 31-12-2011 14-25-01

31 Dec 6 31-12-2011 14-25-09

31 Dec 8 31-12-2011 14-26-35

31 Dec 9 31-12-2011 14-27-36

31 Dec 10 31-12-2011 14-27-56

It's a bit stupid to get sentimental about dogs, just because it is New Year's Eve, but the greatest constant this year has been the sweet and loyal companionship of this dear creature, and I don't take that for granted for a single moment:

31 Dec 15 31-12-2011 14-25-32

31 Dec 15 31-12-2011 14-27-03

31 Dec 16 31-12-2011 14-25-39

And, of course, there is the hill:

31 Dec 17 31-12-2011 14-26-22

31 Dec 18 31-12-2011 14-26-31

I suppose that, away from all the antic world events, this will always be the year that my father died. I miss him very much.

Dad 31 Dec  19-12-2011 13-06-17

And I miss my darling Duchess, who was as fine a dog as I have ever met, elegant and funny and charming, and not quite as others. She died the night of my father's funeral. I think of her every day, as her sister and I take our morning walk.

Duchess February 2011

But there were joys as well as sorrows. I planted a lot of trees. I saw many of the oldest friends. I watched the magnificent Kauto Star rewrite racing history to win his fifth King George, something no horse has ever done. It sounds a bit strange to put a horse in the joy column, but in times of trouble and uncertainty, there is something amazingly simple and profound in watching a brave and true creature doing what he was bred to do, with such brio:

Kauto star fifth King George by Press Association

Wonderful picture of him acknowledging the cheers of the crowd, by Steve Parsons for the Press Association.

Oh, and if we are talking of great horses, I was also privileged to watch the mighty Frankel drive all before him on the flat. He was another once in a lifetime horse, and I'm not sure I shall ever forget him blasting off in front in the 2000 Guineas, leaving everything else trailing in his wake.

And, of course, in the joys versus sorrows, The Dear Readers are writ large. I did not expect, when I started this blog, that it would demonstrate to me so clearly the kindness of strangers. But that is what it has done. You are magnificent, and I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year.

Friday, 30 December 2011

More Women

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Feeling very ropey indeed, so this shall be brief. But there must be some more women of the year. I am all about the women, now.

Baroness Trumpington – who, at the age of 89, flicked Lord King the V-sign as he was making a speech in the House of Lords, when he looked at her and said something about 'some of us getting pretty old'. The fuck-you look on her face was beyond price. She served at Bletchley during the war, which I always think one of the noblest and loneliest of callings. It has been calculated that the work at Bletchley shortened the war by two years, but the people who worked there were not allowed even to admit of its existence until quite recently. They are getting some of their due now, but not enough.

The women of the Military Wives Choir – I watched the brilliant documentary about them on the BBC, and it made me cry. Here was a group of stoical, rather overlooked women. Their job was just to get on with it, as they counted the days until their beloveds came home from Afghanistan. Then a miraculous choirmaster took them and made them into a shining entity that took the Albert Hall by storm, and beat all the boybands and manufactured X Factor nonsense to have the Christmas number one. In fact, on the strength of that, I'm going to nominate Gareth Malone too, as my honorary woman of the year, even though he, of course, a gentleman.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – I've always been a huge admirer of hers, ever since I saw a programme on the BBC in which she featured. She is one of those women who is almost too wonderful to be true. Nothing seems to faze her. She has brought good governance to Liberia, and is the first women ever to be elected head of state in Africa. This year, along with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakel Karman, two other remarkable women, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Elizabeth Warren – I love her for so many reasons I cannot count the ways. I love her calm intelligence and her coolness and grace. But this year, most of all, I love her for her stirring defence of the social contract, which you may see here.


All right. That's enough now. My head feels like it's about to fall off. No pictures today, except for one of another tremendous female, without whom no day would be complete:

30 Dec 1 26-12-2011 12-47-21

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Women of the Year

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Ill in bed. Feel most doleful. It’s only a stupid Christmas bug; I have been reading about it on Twitter and hoping it would not reach the north east. I missed a high, windy, sunny day. The Lovely Stepfather came and brought medicines from the chemist, and took The Pigeon out for a walk.

‘Was she good?’ I called, wanly, from my bed.

‘She’s always good,’ he said, sternly. ‘She is a good dog.’

She came and lay down next to me, her coat cool and smelling of the outdoors.

Then I slept until tea-time, when I stumped down in my pyjamas to heat up some watercress soup.

I have decided, in my swimmy, not well mind, that I am going to do the women of the year after all. That BBC thing is still making me quite grumpy. Not the panda, I really don’t care about the panda, but the woman who married Prince Albert is sticking pins into my poor, seared, feminist eyes.

Since I am not feeling at all butch, I’m going to do them in gentle stages, three or four a day until we get to the New Year.

And, according to the woman rule which cannot be broken, we start with:

Aung San Suu Kyi – she is my woman of every year. She covers all the finest qualities in a human: courage, grace, fortitude, intelligence, wisdom. Now that she is released from house arrest and the generals appear to be thawing a bit, there is a glitter of hope for Burma.

Hillary Clinton – this is slightly surprising. I used to have a visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. I remember when she was campaigning against Barack Obama in the primary for the Democratic nomination, watching her and thinking she was a phony. She seemed brittle, and inauthentic. Now, as Secretary of State, she has come into her own. She does not have to showboat about in front the cameras, she can just get on with a serious job.

It turns out she is very, very good at it. Her formidable intellect is being stretched at last. She would go on this list alone for the speech she made about gay rights. She made one very simple, very profound declarative sentence, and you know how I love a declarative sentence. She said: gay rights are human rights.

Rachel Maddow – I said I would put her on my list, and I do, with bells on. Her show is consistently informative, fascinating, funny, and often shocking. She has a lovely habit of digging down into the news and finding the nugget that the received wisdom has missed. I also like the fact that in a rather feverish climate, where the people who hate The Gay, as Maddow calls it, really do seem to hate and fear it, she quite naturally refers to ‘my girlfriend Susan.’ (Susan should probably go on the list too.)

Most impressive of all, in a political atmosphere of unprecedented partisanship, she routinely invites Republicans onto her programme, where she questions them firmly, but with unbelievable good manners. She may be the politest political host I have ever seen. And above all, she has a really delightful black dog, not unlike The Pigeon.

Clare Balding – There has been a big fuss this year about women in sport being overlooked, especially when the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist was exclusively male. Quietly, without fanfare or fuss, Balding goes on being one of the finest sports presenters in the business. She heads the BBC racing commentary team for The Grand National and The Royal Meeting at Ascot, and she never puts a foot wrong. She is impeccably well-informed, always humorous, and really loves the horses that she commentates about. I think she should quite soon be made a Dame.

Now my head has gone quite swimmy, so I am stopping. More excellent females tomorrow, including The Military Wives, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


Obviously no pictures today, but here are a few lovelies from the last two weeks:

29 Dec 1 20-12-2011 15-30-12


29 Dec 4 19-12-2011 12-03-45.ORF

29 Dec 5 16-12-2011 14-09-55

29 Dec 5 18-12-2011 12-40-25

29 Dec 7 12-12-2011 15-48-18.ORF

29 Dec 9 19-12-2011 11-59-01

29 Dec 10 20-12-2011 15-31-26

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

In which I write about absolutely nothing at all

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I don’t know that to write about today. I hate that. I quite often start the blog whilst cleaning my teeth in the morning. (I hear the voice of Bagehot in my head: don’t let the daylight in on the mystery. Because of course my blog is identical to our gracious Queen.) Then I think about it a bit more on the morning walk. Then I obviously have to concentrate on work and other things, but it comes back to me when I am cooking lunch.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were a great, gaudy stream of consciousness? Imagine if I just sat down and all the words in the world streamed out. But, unlikely as it may seem, I do think about it. Some days, there is an obvious subject. Sometimes, it is instinctive. I may be feeling an emotion in which you must share. (Oh the poor readers, I think, as I am taken over by a strong force.) There may be a vast political event, although I have found that sometimes I avoid those, because they are too big, and I am too paltry. Some days there is a big, fat nothing, and you get extra Pigeon pictures and I hope nobody notices.

Then there are the days like today: a series of false starts. Hares begin running in my mind, and just as they look promising, they bugger off over the horizon, never to be seen again. I did think of giving you the entire story of the King George, fence by fence, and don’t breathe a sigh of relief, because I shall almost certainly do that before the week is up. But I am quite tired today, in that rather deflated no man’s land that comes between Christmas and the new year, and even half a bottle of iron tonic would not get me up to par for that big post.

There was the huge fuss on Twitter, which has now been called Pandagate, because the BBC put up its twelve female faces of the year, and one of them was the lady panda from China. Yelps of outrage on one side; calm down dear on the other. I wandered vaguely in half way through, and it was rather like coming late to a cocktail party and only getting the tail end of the scandale du jour. (I found it much odder that one of their faces was a woman called ‘Princess Charlene’ who married the bogus Prince Albert of Monaco. Brain could not compute that on any level.) I wondered if I might write about that, but then I decided it really wasn’t that interesting.

Then I thought I could do my own women of the year, but that needs thought and care and a great many visits to The Google, and I am still on holiday, and really want to return to my secret indulgence of catching up with my favourite American political programmes on the MSNBC website. (Rachel Maddow might go on my women of the year list.)

Finally, I just opened my fingers and began to type. And this is what came out. It’s not marvellous, is it? It’s what the pundits would call a process story. It’s a faint wander round the rather desultory functioning of my post-Christmas brain. But there must be blog. The fingers must tap tap tap on the keyboard. Sentences must form, and paragraphs be created. I still feel slightly angsty that I gave you only pictures yesterday. There must be prose. That’s my mysterious imperative.

The winds are getting up outside my window. The sky is the colour of aquamarines. My house is quite silent. The Pigeon is curled up like an apostrophe on her bed. I have made some watercress soup for strength. Later, for a real treat, I shall watch the King George again, and read my special Christmas copy of The Banned List by John Rentoul, which I gave to myself. I love it so much I have to read it very, very slowly, to make it last. Then, who knows, I might go back to Twitter and see if people are still cross about lady pandas.


Raining now, so cannot take the camera out. Here are a few pictures from the last days:

28 Dec 1 26-12-2011 12-50-37

28 Dec 2 26-12-2011 12-51-34

28 Dec 3 25-12-2011 13-02-57

28 Dec 4 25-12-2011 16-21-16

28 Dec 5 25-12-2011 16-25-16

28 Dec 9 24-12-2011 14-07-09

Lovely Younger Niece, on our Christmas day walk, with the wind in her hair:

28 Dec 10 25-12-2011 16-25-43

Can't resist another picture of The Pigeon in her Christmas bow:

28 Dec 11 25-12-2011 16-34-10

And with her Grace Kelly face on:

28 Dec 12 24-12-2011 14-05-47

And the lovely, glimmering hill:

28 Dec 13 24-12-2011 14-07-23

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

No Words Today

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

On account of far too many yesterday. Today I am silence de glace.

Here are some pictures for you:

26 Dec 1 26-12-2011 12-43-54

26 Dec 2 26-12-2011 12-44-02

26 Dec 3 26-12-2011 12-44-15

26 Dec 4 26-12-2011 12-44-29

26 Dec 8 24-12-2011 14-06-38

26 Dec 5 26-12-2011 12-50-37.ORF

26 Dec 11 26-12-2011 12-45-22

26 Dec 12 26-12-2011 12-47-19.ORF

26 Dec 13 26-12-2011 13-16-38.ORF

26 Dec 15 25-12-2011 16-17-52

Oh, and because I can't resist, the magnificent champion from yesterday:

Kauto Star after fifth King George

By David Ashdown, from The Independent.

Monday, 26 December 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

After this morning's crazed post, I have to give you the news.

I thought it would be: ah, the old fella could not quite do it. Not at eleven; not after that gruelling race at Haydock; not against the brilliant young pretender. I thought I would be out in the air, with The Pigeon, rationalising defeat in my sad mind.

Instead, I can tell you:


The old king is still the king.

I am not at all ashamed to report that I am still crying. I was a fairy tale after all. It really came true.

No horse has ever won five King Georges. FIVE.

I shall tell you the story of the race when I have gathered my wits. By the state of the wits, that may be sometime next week.

I have seen a lot of great races in my time. I think, I think, that this was the best thing I ever saw in racing.

I wish my dad had been here to see it too.

A Boxing Day fairytale; or, the Old King versus the Young King

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

This is another of my shaggy horse stories, and very long, so you might like to get yourself and nice cup of tea and sit down. I would apologise for length, but it's Christmas, so I am giving myself the present of self-indulgence.

I grew up in a racing household. My father was a jockey, and then a trainer. This should make me less sentimental about horses, not more. We wept over horses disappointed, horses lost, horses failed. But at the same time there was a brusque, all in a day’s work attitude to the whole shooting match. I remember looking, with clinical fascination, when I was six, at the hole in the neck of a horse called Dolge Orlick. He had a breathing problem; in those days, the vets used to cut into the windpipe, and insert a silver plug. Being plugged, it was called. Looking back, I think it was quite macabre, but as a child I found it interesting, and normal.

My dad was a man who regarded racehorses as the tough, working creatures that they are. He was a hard betting man. He generally bet with head over heart, although he did have a fatal tendency to listen to the last person he met on the way to the rails. There’s a whisper for this, they would say, and Dad would throw all his morning’s studying of the form out of the window.

So it is quite odd that I have developed a passionate love for certain horses, which waxes stronger as I get older. I still sit up late at night watching my old Desert Orchid videos (so old that they are actual videos, which are practically museum pieces), and weep ancient tears of joy each time I see him win the Gold Cup against impossible odds.

The horse I love the most, just now, is Kauto Star. The regular readers will know something of this; I have written of him before. Today, he goes out to do the improbable, perhaps the impossible. He is, at the age of eleven, attempting to win his fifth King George VI chase.

The King George is the great Christmas tradition of the National Hunt world. It is second only in prestige to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. In some ways, it is a tougher race to win. Kempton is a flatter track than Cheltenham, but this means that the horses run faster and freer. As a result, you will often see the field strung out back to Sunbury, as John Francome likes to say; there are times when even good horses get pulled up, having gone much too fast in the early stages; sometimes, only a handful of the starters actually finish. It is a classy, tough, questioning race. It requires great talent, and great stamina, and great guts.

Last year, Kauto Star, the owner of that race, got beat out of sight by a young fellow called Long Run. He had already been beaten in the Gold Cup; in his last appearance of the season, at Punchestown, he was actually pulled up, something almost unheard of for this mighty animal. Everyone said he was finished. He was too old, he had lost his enthusiasm, his majestic talent had faded. He was now a footnote, in the racing history books; a nostalgic memory of Christmasses past.

Then, in November, he came back to Haydock, for one last try. Long Run went off hot favourite; Kauto was a patronising six to one. People were even saying that his brilliant trainer, Paul Nicholls, was an idiot to run him. There was an air of crossness, that the old horse was being asked too much.

He jumped like a stag; he galloped and stayed; he had his ears pricked as if it were a joyful walk in the park. To the screaming delight of the crowd, he came back to his great glory, and won by eight easy lengths. Long Run looked ordinary, tired, prone to amateurish mistakes.

And so the debate began. The interesting thing about racing is that there are so many unknowns. It is very much like that mad Donald Rumsfeld pronouncement: there are the things we do not know we do not know. You can follow the form book religiously, and still something will trot up at 20-1, out of a clear blue sky.

Thoroughbreds are high, aristocratic creatures; they have temperaments, and delicacies. They have moods. There have been days, in the past, when the real Kauto did not show up. No one knows why. I have seen him be so good that nothing could touch him; I have seen him be pedestrian. This is why, sometimes, after a race, you will hear trainers, or jockeys, say: there are no excuses. There is just the mystery.

For some reason, the old Kauto Star came back to his glorious best that day in November. So the debate is: was that an anomaly? Did Long Run, the great, youthful challenger just need the race? Will the form book be vindicated today, and the old king relinquish his crown?

People who know, people who follow these things, are saying: head, or heart? What they mean is that in their heart they want the auld fella to have one last, valedictory, victory, but they think the young monarch will stamp his class on the thing.

I am all heart. In this, I am not my father’s child; I defy my upbringing. I want this great, old horse to win so much that I can feel it racing through my body like electricity.

As I write this, I think: why do I love him so much? I have never met him, have no connection to his yard. Paul Nicholls was not one of the trainers I knew in my young life; Ruby Walsh, his marvellous jockey, is a man I have never encountered.

It is all about the horse. I love him because he is beautiful. I love him because he often races with his ears pricked, which is quite rare. I love him because he can jump so outrageously that it makes you catch your breath. I love him, at the same time, because I have seen him make crashing mistakes and still stand up. He is a very well balanced horse; what this means is that he can commit an error which would bring anyone else down, but he somehow finds a fifth leg.

There is something else too. Sometimes, with very talented horses, when things do not go their way, they fold under pressure. This sounds slightly counter-intuitive, but it is true. It is a bit like humans; those who are brilliant at something are often not grafters, because they never have to be. They are not trained in it; things come too easily to them; there is no muscle memory of scrabbling and scraping. But I have seen Kauto Star fight, through the mud, under great challenge. I have seen him stick his damn neck out in the closest of finishes and refuse to give up. For all his perfect conformation, he’s not just a show pony. He’s a battler. I think perhaps I love him for that most of all.

My head says: that day at Haydock was his last great glory day. It is too much to hope that he could smash all records, defy the experts, rewrite the history books. The young fella has everything on his side: the form, the age, his own considerable talent. On top of this, racing is such an imponderable business, there is quite likely the possibility that some rank outsider should come and steal the crown. When Desert Orchid first won this race, he was 16-1; everyone who knew anything said he would not stay. To the utter amazement of the experts, he jumped out in front, tore along like a child off to a party, and never came back to his field.

And beyond all that there is what the old boys call luck in running. This means: no one bumps into you, squeezes you out of the rails, causes a traffic jam in front of you. There is the thing called half-lengthing. This happens when two horses are running up alongside each other. One is a half length ahead. It takes off at a fence; the one just behind takes off, instinctively, at the same time, without being in striking distance of the fence, and crashes into it. Kauto is too canny a campaigner to be caught out by such a huckster’s trick, and yet, it is always a danger.

And there is the old, old thing, that the real Kauto might not show up.

I want him to win because he is the most marvellous, complete, brave, talented racehorse I have seen since the unforgettable Desert Orchid. He is a once in a generation creature. But my low realistic mind says: if he does not do it, that’s all right too. He has given us so much joy. He has nothing left to prove. His name is already carved with pride. He has broken more records than I can count. I have cheered him home, watched Ruby’s gleaming smile, cried tears of joy.

Perhaps it is too much to ask. Perhaps all I want is for the auld fella to come home safe.

By 3.45pm, the result will be in. I shall either be literally jumping for joy, whilst The Pigeon barks her head off, or the two of us shall be stumping up the beech avenue, coming to terms with a fairy tale that could not quite come true.

Here are some lovely Kauto pictures for you.

On the left, with the great Denman on the right, photographer unknown:

Kauto and Denman photographer unknown

Battling through the mud to beat Imperial Commander by a nose, by the Press Association:

Kauto and Imperial Commander photograph PA

After this year's Betfair Chase, photographer unknown:

Kauto at Betfair photographer unknown

Ruby riding with one hand, by the Press Association:

Kauto at the King George by Press Association

At this year's Betfair, with Long Run trying to get on terms on the right, photographer unknown:

Kauto at the last Betfair photographer unknown

Winning his 2009 King George, by Getty Images:

Kauto in his last King George Getty images

This year's Betfair. That is an eleven-year-old horse who everyone said had had his day. Watching him leap like that I think: he does not know he is past it:

Kauto in the Betfair photographer unknown

I love this one, by Edward Whitaker. The lovely fella out in the field, free as a bird:

Kauto out in the field lovely photograph by Edward Whitaker for the Racing Post

And by Tom Jenkins, loafing away in his box:

Kauto photograph Tom Jenkins

This was one of the Gold Cups, not sure which one; photographer unknown:

Kauto Star and Denman photographer unknown.

Another lovely shot, photographer unknown:

Kauto Star photographer sadly unknown

Ruby pats him as they win their fourth King George, photographer unknown:

Kauto winning the fourth King George photographer unknown

With his trainer, Paul Nicholls, photographer unknown:


Right. That's enough Kauto madness. Here is a quick avenue, Pigeon and hill:

26 Dec 1 26-12-2011 12-50-34

One of the Dear Readers hoped that The Pigeon would get a really, really big stick for Christmas. SHE DID:

26 Dec 2 26-12-2011 12-46-40

Rather moody hill:

26 Dec 3 26-12-2011 13-16-44

Well, my darlings, let's wish the old horse the best of British luck.

PS. Suddenly realised that, in all the excitement, I have not even mentioned that the lovely Master Minded is also running in this race. He is a two and two and a half mile specialist; we have not seen him stay before. There is so much attention on the Kauto-Long Run clash, that the brilliant Master Minded is almost forgotten, even by me. I am not quite convinced that he is a three miler, but who knows? He could be the one who springs the big surprise. I love him anyway, and I hope he jumps a clear round and goes well.


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