It is Sussex Day. My heart beats like a big brass drum. Even as I run around, down to ride the mare (our best one yet, leaving me smiling so hard I thought my head would fall off), up to HorseBack for my work there, back to the computer to put on a respectable day’s word count, my mind is filled with Dawn Approach.
I love Toronado. He is just the stamp of horse I like: fierce, clever, strong, burly – a real competitor. At the time of the Guineas, I rather hoped he might stage an upset. But as the season has gone on, my heart, which was won last year by Dawn Approach in his two-year-old incarnation, has gone back to him. It was that awful moment in the Derby, and the courage he showed when he came out so quickly after that debacle, and lit up the Royal Meeting at Ascot. He won that day on heart and character as much as talent, and that is why today I shall be roaring his name.
He has a very slight look of Red. Well, he is chestnut, and he has a white blaze. He is of course related to her through the Northern Dancer line. I can’t tell you how glorious she was this morning; the kindest, sweetest, most relaxed ride. As I slid off and stood with her for a moment, in quiet and gratitude, I told her that I would be watching her cousin later in the day. She nodded and looked at me out of the corner of her quizzical eye. She often looks at me as if to say: I’ll just let the old girl do her thing. She quite obviously thinks that the thing is sometimes a little peculiar, but she is too polite to say so.
Up at HorseBack, the filly foal is galloping round the field as if she is practising for the Sussex herself. In the round pen, men for whom a night’s sleep is a dreamt-of luxury (PTSD, like Macbeth, murders sleep) are smiling with almost disbelieving delight as the dear quarter horses they work with perform quiet miracles for them. It’s a good day for the equines.
But only one equine champion fills my mind now. I want Dawn Approach to blaze, to stamp his class, to make the crowds gasp and roar. He is today’s great love, the one that makes my idiot old heart beat. I shall be shouting his shining name.
Just time for some very quick pictures:
This girl was very wonderful at HorseBack this morning. She made a veteran who has been through things I can’t imagine very, very happy:
The foal, going like the blazes:
My ivy. Bet you weren’t expecting ivy:
My champion girl:
Giving me The Look:
Happy trails, my darlings. May all your horses win.