A very sweet day with the family, and great joy as the Older Niece arrives from the south. A very sad day in the wider world, as the mighty Sprinter Sacre is pulled up at Kempton with an irregular heartbeat.
There have not been great shining stars this season. There have been lots of good horses, and lots of touching stories, especially those with family connections, with sons riding for fathers and brothers for brothers. The Moores, the Tizzards, the Scudamores and the Skeltons have all touched the heart. But there has not been a titanic champion, driving all before. There has not been one which sends shivers down the spine, every time, as Master Minded did in his pomp, or Kauto Star or Denman did. The last of the great champions, Hurricane Fly, for whom I hold a burning flame in my heart, was even a little bit ordinary on his reappearance, although he still managed to smash a record for the most grade ones ever recorded. There have been tough horses, and willing horses, and surprising horses, but not one who is head and shoulders above everything else. Those do, after all, not come along very often.
Sprinter Sacre is such a horse. His recent form simply reads 111111. Last season, he won for fun, playing with the opposition in top class races. All those who love racing held their breath to see this emperor back to survey his kingdom. To watch him stop half way, and trot back shaking his regal head, almost in bafflement, was a sadness indeed.
Horses come back from heart problems. He will get the best care in the world. But the fear is that the curtain has come down, and it will be an awful long time before we see his like again.
From a lovely Boxing day walk:
And what used to be Red’s view, this morning, looking rather dramatic and ominous:
The silver birches, because we have not had those for a long time: