I wake, and think: it’s Frankel day. Of course, in my mind, every day is Frankel day, but today we shall see him out on the downs at Goodwood, with only the plucky Farhh willing to take him on. Farhh is not a mug, but it’s a long way from the Thirsk Hunt Cup to tackling the best in the world. He’s a good, tough horse though, and a trier, and his heart has not been broken by Frankel, as I suspect Excelebration’s has been. It’s very sporting of his owners to run him, and he’ll chase the champion home with gusto.
Every time I write of Frankel, I try to express why he thrills me so. Today I think: it’s the purity. There is no weak spot, no caveat, no question mark: there is just sheer, untrammelled glory. Even the best horses have off days; Frankel never does. He is never, ever less than blastingly brilliant.
He has never been beaten in his life; he does not know what defeat looks like. He is beautiful and mighty, every inch of him speaking of power and grace. His dancing stride is the most astonishing thing I have ever seen on a racecourse. Crowds stir and murmur when they see him, awed in the face of magnificence, and then explode into cheers of acclaim. His jockey, Tom Queally, says that he has never sat on a horse who wants so much to win. I hate to use the word machine about a delicate, complex thoroughbred, but Frankel is a pure racing machine. It is a privilege to be alive to see him.
This afternoon at 3.10 he will complete his latest victory lap on the rolling green turf of Goodwood, and if Shakespeare was a racing man he would say that gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here.
As for my own dancing champion, she is as happy as a nut, because her back has been soothed, and the nicest woman in Scotland arrived to fit her saddle. The moment the perfect bit of kit went on her, Red breathed out a sigh of relief, and came the nearest that horses ever can to a smile. Life lesson, because she always teaches me life lessons: attention to detail. The small things can make a huge difference. ‘How lucky you are in your work,’ I said to the saddle fitter; ‘you go about the country making horses happy.’
Out on the water, two great women won the first ever British gold medal in the women’s rowing, soaring away from the field and winning in a hack canter. I felt again the absurd national pride; I felt proud too that it was women who got the first gold for Blighty. Mrs Pankhurst would be happy, I thought. (The mazy wanderings of my mind are often not really fit to go out in public.)
Suddenly, this morning, I missed my father so much I did not know what my name was. I don’t know why, but he is with me a lot at the moment. Perhaps it’s all the equine life. Perhaps it was watching Tina Cook yesterday, and knowing how she lost her own father in February, and how proud and pleased he would have been to see her win a silver medal on her lovely horse. Perhaps it’s just what happens.
I am not sunk in melancholy, I am mostly fairly cheerful. My heart is filled with wild, untamed love for my mare. The family are gathered; both brothers here, which never happens. The garden is blooming. I have Frankel to watch. But sudden, swamping tears came in the field this morning. I had to walk away from the mare. This is not her stuff, I thought; I must not dump on her. I have a strong feeling that one must never demand of horses what they cannot give. They do not exist to please or fix humans; we are here to care for and tend to them. But she was particularly sweet and affectionate after I recovered myself, and even though that was probably coincidence – when she has her sweet moods, they are quite entrancing – I felt passionately grateful to her. I really wish my father could have met her. I think he would approve.
And now I return to the glory part of the day. If there were a racing Olympics, Frankel would win all the golds. Horses may not be here to please us, but this one has the capacity to lift the most burdened heart. His great, galloping hooves will leave imprints on the memory of everyone who watched him. He is the essence of greatness, distilled in gallant equine form.
I love Red when she has this slightly wild aspect:
And the Pigeon, all grace and stillness:
And the mighty champion:
Lovely photograph sadly uncredited.