Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bonus post: I pay homage to Estimate. Or, memories of the Queen’s Vase.

You will know by now that the scriptwriters threw away caution and probability, and wrote the fairy tale.

Estimate won the Gold Cup for the Queen: a brave little filly sticking her neck out to see off the big boys. I’ll write about it tomorrow at extravagant length, because it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in racing. Sometimes I have to resort to cliché, because only cliché will do: there was not a dry eye in the house.

In honour of the great moment, I’m putting up the post that I wrote during this week last year, when Estimate won the Queen’s Vase.

I remember vividly going down to see her in the pre-parade ring, and fearing for her; she was so slight and mere compared to the great, muscled colts that she was up against. She’s grown bigger and stronger with age, but she is still a delicate-looking sort of lady, and today she had a packed field and a doughty set of stayers taking her on. But whilst she may not be physically huge, what she does have is a bottomless, never-say-die, mighty racing heart.

This is what I wrote, one year ago:

In the Queen's Vase, the Queen herself had a nice filly called Estimate. She'd won well at Salisbury last time out but this was a big step up in class and trip. She went off favourite, mostly I think because of sentimental Jubilee year bets. I had thought she might have the right stuff, but then I saw her in the ring, and she was a small mare, narrow in the neck, with a sweet but plain face. It was two miles, and the other horses looked so big and muscled and powerful by comparison.

And, I thought, it really would be too good to be true, on this Diamond Jubilee.
The ordinary little brown mare galloped to the front and did not stop and won as she liked. The crowd went mad. Posh gentlemen took their hats off and waved them in the air as if they were at a football match.

I rushed to the winner's enclosure. There was Estimate, suddenly looking rather beautiful, flushed with her great victory. 'Where is she? Is she there?' said people in the crowd, looking around for the Queen. Would her Majesty descend from the Royal box? Yes, she would. There she was, walking across the grass, and cheers and whoops and roars rang out.

Suddenly, everyone realised it was the Queen's Vase, which meant the cup would be presented by a member of the royal family. 'I suppose she can't really present it to herself,' said the lady next to me, laughing happily. 'Your Majesty, here is your cup, well done. Oh, thank you Your Majesty.' Everyone was very excited by this stage. The Queen, serene in lilac, was smiling all over her face, and giving Estimate a regal pat.

Then, the ramrod nautical figure of Prince Philip appeared, and picked up the trophy, and gave it to his wife. I know it's silly to get soft about the Queen, but I am quite silly, and I have to say I had a tear in my eye. There was something so touching about the two old people and the young filly and the cup and the delirious crowd. The lady next to me was wiping her eyes.

My mother, when I rang an hour later, was still misty with emotion. 'You know,' I said, 'there really was nothing to her, that filly, but she ran like a titan.'

'Oh, she was glorious,' said my mother.

'But then,' I said, 'it's sometimes the way with those great mares. Dunfermline wasn't much to look at; Quevega is just an ordinary brown mare.'

'Yes,' said my mother. 'Sometimes, if they look too much like flashy colts, they are not much good.'

I told her the story of the Queen and the crowd in the winning enclosure, and the whoops and the cheers and the clapping.

I walked away with a big fat smile on my face, even though I had not a penny on that filly. I probably should be a grouchy old republican, but I can't help it, I love the Queen. Her untrammelled delight when her brave little horse won her that shiny cup really was one of the sweetest things I've seen in racing.

So, it was a great day.


A great day indeed. And now we have had another to match it.

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