I have always loved the way that Sir Henry Cecil looks at his horses, taking them in with all their quirks and individual quiddities. If you do an image search on his name you will find so, so many pictures of him with that understanding look in his eye, his hand often on the horse’s neck or head. I have never seen a horse like Frankel, and I have never seen a trainer look at his horses the way Henry Cecil does. And I find I cannot type this post without wanting to cry.
The word masterly is interesting; Henry Cecil is of course, a master of what he does. But there is never a sense in which he ‘masters’ his horses in an ego-driven way. It is all softness and knowing and empathy with his charges ways of going on. And finding ways to settle them and campaign them and, to my eyes, love them more than a little too.
Frankel will be ‘let down’ back at Warren Place with his master, but then he must take up his new life elsewhere. This morning there is a little part of my heart that hurts for Sir Henry, the ultimate horseman, here, with his best horse.
The title quote is from Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, Prince Khalid Abduallah’s Racing Manager.
If you look at the word fallen for too long it looks odd, like we should pronounce it with a short ‘a’ sound like in cat.
And I suppose one automatically thinks of feet when thinking of fallen arches. That’s fair enough, apparently twenty-five percent of the American population suffer from them. In some African countries though, it’s a rare phenomenon, that scientists link to the wearing of shoes (bad) not wearing shoes (good). Shoes with arch support paradoxically allow your arches to simply collapse; rather like what happens to one’s middle if you never wear a pencil skirt beyond the age of sixteen and have no need to hold your stomach in…
When I was reading all this about fallen arches, I started getting other imagery coming through.
Destroyed ancient cities with marbled smashed arches crashed to the ground
The broken rainbow I saw last Saturday with the high arc section of its arch missing
A day when the golden arches of McDonalds are a forgotten brand of yesteryear
The American racehorse who was not quite out of the top drawer
Triumphal city architecture to make us shudder
Those unnecessarily sharp comments that we live to regret
And so on.
Saturday is a quiet day for blogging and I imagine there are not many that will read this post so I will also allow myself a fallen arch of narrative thread.
Frankel is due to make his last appearance at Ascot today, but connections report some slight concern about the state of the going. It is currently: soft, heavy in places. He may make a late withdrawal on account of it. I know some people who are going, people who will be devastated if the greatest horse most of us have ever seen is taken out of the race. My own heart prefers that we do not run our national treasure if the ground will be more than a minor inconvenience.
We do not want any fallen arches for the beloved Frankel. It will be an anxious wait.
Original image can be seen here
and the small matter of some very good horses in their own right.
Best price is 1/7 on, still makes my stomach turn somersaults though. An unbeaten record is always a worry in racing; each race becoming not so much, will he win? rather, what if he loses?
On the possibility of the mighty Frankel being found out over the 2 extra furlongs, judges will say, it’s highly unlikely and, on all known form, it is. My own observation is that he’s never looked like stopping over the mile, so fingers crossed.
I wanted a horse more than anything in the whole world when I was a girl, life dictated that instead I should have a roaring allergy to the real thing, so the nearest I got was when the fair came to town.
The blog hasn’t mentioned it once. This does not mean it all went over my head. I think I have sat through most of the games, even if my glasses were only pressed into action from time to time so I could actually see events properly.
The blog hasn’t mentioned Wimbledon either, the Irish Derby or Royal Ascot (Frankel & Black Caviar if you please), or indeed the fact that Usain Bolt was beaten into second in Jamaica at the weekend. To all intents and purposes this blog has stopped writing about sport. Some people will probably be quite happy about this. I am not. The challenge is how to write about every event without breaking out the knackered superlatives and cliches. It’s hard to do. I could write this morning, along with hordes of others, about the glory of the Spanish football team, but why bother – it’ll be out there anyway and I have nothing I could add to the discourse.
We all see the same thing on our screens (if I am wearing my glasses), hear the same commentary and pundits, there’s no need for me to describe it, or imagine how it might feel to be Spanish or Italian last night, or this morning… The truth is, I have nothing new to say about any of the events I have mentioned. I thought I might have the glimmering of a conversation in my head about expectation versus reality when England went out of the football and Black Caviar ran at Ascot, but it started to turn all philosophical and I couldn’t be bothered to carry on with it. I have, for the sake of reminding myself I do like sport still, written something about Mario Balotelli. I started it last week, and it took me a few days. By the time I had finished it, last night, a thousand pieces roamed the worldwide web with similar sentiments.
Mario Balotelli was seen last night crouching on the pitch, I fancied he had his head in his hands. I know how he feels.
As Italian manager, Cesare Prandelli said, he is going to have to learn to ‘deal with it’.
You and me both Mario, you and me both.
Frankel pulled me back a little from the brink yesterday. I don’t mind saying I shed a tear or two, not when the race was won, but a little way into that wide verdant straight; at the point when Frankel indicated he was ready to go on from his pacemaker, Bullet Train. It seemed to me as if the horse was saying, with a slight nod of the head, to the man on board, Tom Queally, ‘Come on mate, let’s go.’ And they did. And I thought to myself, ‘Fuck me, it’s Pegasus’ and he doesn’t even know it, he just is.
That’s why I believe in Frankel, because he will do his best, regardless. He won’t fall out with the owner, the trainer, the lad, or even the jockey – he’ll just put his head down and get on with it, in his own remarkable, mythical style. One day, perhaps, Frankel won’t win. I don’t want to ever see it, but if I do, I’ll still believe because I’ve seen the essence of the horse.
That’s where I have a problem with Chelsea. I can’t ever get to the spirit of the side. They remind me alternately of a bunch of mercenaries with no loyalty, except to the self, or a cadre of the worst kind of public service union members who work to rule, to the detriment of their service. There is one exception to this: Didier Drogba, whose gradual transformation from habitual box dropper and tantrum thrower to staunch goal-scoring servant, shines brightly enough to cast many of his team mates demeanours into sharp relief. Drogba, of course, looks like he may have played his last game, and Di Matteo, whose main attribute seems to have been that he is not Andre Villas Boas, is uncertain of his future.
And that sums up why I can’t believe in Chelsea, a club that is run at the top by a plutocrat, and on the pitch by the whims and moods of the dressing room. Di Matteo has done well they say, and why should they not, given the 2012 silverware, but haven’t the recalcitrant squad of AVB’s reign merely consented to play since the caretaker manager came in? On their finest night, instead of being able to fully enjoy the scenes of celebration, a neutral looks at the assemblage and sees a lot of luck, not much soul, and not nearly enough of whatever it is that Frankel and Drogba have got.
This post was partly inspired by a conversation with a Chelsea fan not long after AVB had departed. A lifelong fan, his disappointed and pained recognition of the pumped-up egos in the Stamford Bridge dressing room was palpable. This morning I imagine he has a well-deserved headache and a hoarse throat and natually all the previous suffering is instantly forgiven. Football fans have strong stomachs, suffering goes with the territory, no joy without pain. That’s all fine and understood, but I can’t quite forget the head-shaking of earlier this year and the expression of the fact that his team wilfully and frequently just chose not to turn up at the game.
Once upon I time, I followed racing closely: I read all the form, checked all the results, knew the going across the country, who was hot, who was not, and who might have a little bit in hand of the handicapper.
I could never imagine a day when I would no longer do any of the above, but it came, and my life is the poorer for it. On Saturdays, especially Saturdays such as today, I used to smell the expectation in the air. Not just for racing either, for events like West Ham -v- Blackpool and Bayern Munich -v- Chelsea. I even wrote a poem about the Champions League Final once…
Now, these things pass before my eyes and I don’t seem to care. And I want to get back to the place in me that does care, even if it’s only a little bit more than not at all, because that feels more like me. So, if Frankel in the Lockinge in the town of my birth can’t raise the heartbeat a little this afternoon, I may as well give myself the sporting last rites and take up wood turning, or something.
S’pose it’s the height of laziness to reblog your own post.
Note to Self: Fuck It & Live Life Like Frankel?