Friday, 19 June 2015

Ascot, Day Four. All about the love.

At 11.45am on a quiet Scottish Friday morning, the following telephone conversation takes place.

Older Brother: ‘What are your thoughts?’

Me: ‘Well, I’ve got to go with Illuminate because of the twinkle in Richard Hannon’s eyes every time he mentions her name, and Hughesie has got to have a winner at some stage this week, and she was so impressive first time out. And then I love Stravagante but I know they are very sweet on Balios and you can’t rule out Ol’ Man River; he’s in my Ryan Moore placepot, because, well, Ryan Moore. The new sprint is going to kill me, because Tiggy Wiggy is one of the loves of my life, and I’m also a huge Limato fan, but I think the American horse might blast past them both, and when Wesley Ward says he likes a horse he is not messing around. So I have to have a Tiggy loyalty bet at eights, because I can’t desert her and if I did she would know, and I’m putting Hootenanny in an accumulator. And then I’m incredibly fond of Lucida and Found, but I think Arabian Queen is a huge price at 16-1 and she might be my little each-way shout of the day, she ran so well at Epsom and David Elsworth is so clever. The next is impossible, but I’ve got Dashing Star in my Ryan Moore placepot, because, well, Ryan Moore, and my each-way fancy at twelves is Watersmeet because I’m such a fan of Mark Johnston and his whole team and his horses are so brave and tough. By the time the Queen’s Vase comes around I’ll be on my knees. I don’t understand about Aloft, because he’s never gone anything like this distance, but he is the class horse in the race and it’s Ballydoyle and, well, Ryan Moore. My each-way saver is on Great Glen because I have so much admiration for Ralph Beckett and I’d love him to have a winner at the Royal Meeting. But really, I don’t know at all. It’s all love and hope today.’

At which point, I pause for breath.

‘What do you think?’ I say.

Pause. Older Brother: ‘I have no strong feelings.’

I look at my mother. ‘He has no strong feelings.’

She shakes her head.

‘Our mother is shaking her head,’ I say.

Today is all about the love. I thought that yesterday was not, so much, but then I fell head over heels for Time Test, who gave perhaps the most supremely satisfying performance of the week. You can’t really choose, because there have been so many great horses, great rides, great finishes, mighty displays. But there was something about Time Test which promised glory in the months ahead. And he was such a nice, handsome fellow. He’d been difficult and fractious as a youngster, but Roger Charlton had worked some magic on him, and got him to settle and feel comfortable in his own skin, and he went through the preliminaries with aplomb, and relaxed beautifully in the race itself, and when Frankie pressed the button, the horse stretched out his lovely stride and powered away.

The love for Tiggy Wiggy is for lots of reasons. She’s very beautiful and full of character. She’s a fiery little person, and she has to be ridden on her own at home, to keep the lid on her. When she gets to the races, it’s as if she can’t stand all the nonsense, she only wants to get on and run. She’ll do circus tricks in the paddock and going down, but the moment she gets to the start, she calms down and focuses, and when she blasts out of the stalls, she just wants to go as fast as her fine legs will carry her, which is very fast indeed. There are people who say she hasn’t trained on, which is quite an odd thing to say about a filly who finished third in the Guineas, even though a mile is not really her distance. But there is, I suppose, a suspicion that she may never be as imperious again as she was in her first season. I love her because she is idiosyncratic, and ravishing, and as fleet as fleet, and I hope they just let her go today, and she puts her best foot forward. The mighty American challenger may get the better of her, but all I want is to see her run her race.

All I want for any of them, really, is to run their race, and come home safe. I have thesauruses filled with adjectives at my disposal, but it is hard to put into mere words the joy that these dazzling thoroughbreds give me. They are all power and beauty and heart, with that hint of wildness still in them, that herd memory, which raises them above the common. There is a purity in them, which lifts the most jaded human heart. This human heart, anyway.


And down in her quiet field, my own little champion, so slow she could not even win a selling plate, is enjoying her breakfast:

19 June 1 5184x3456

With a little help from her friend:

19 June 2 4827x3456

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