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The power of a horse race

What follows is an attempt to explain to those of you who couldn’t give a seasonal fig for horse racing one of the reasons that those of us that do love it, do.

It’s because of the story: the true story. In fact, a horse race is so true I want to attempt to separate it almost entirely from the world of story. It’s not easy and here is why. They say there are only seven types of story out there, literature being based on one, or another of them. And what we are inclined to do is (sometimes interchangeably) impose one of these seven narratives onto our own muddled existences. We do this backwards, to understand the past, and we do it forwards, to better enjoy, or ‘plan’ the future. However, the fact of the matter is that we only know the now, this present moment, and in this moment there is no particular story to be grabbed on to, unless we want to take down a reel from the shelf of life and roll it both backwards and forwards to make the present, the now, cohese with the past and the future that exists only in our minds.

And as complicated as that sounds, that is pretty much what we do. For example, many of us will have played the showreel labelled ‘Christmas’ on a loop for the last few days. We tend to think in narratives and we have accompanying reels for just about every mundane, and otherwise, scenario. And we do it so very well that the storytelling about ourselves, our lives and others becomes an automatic way of being and before we know it those stories are not just super-imposed onto the current context of our lives, they become our lives. Our minds become a dark space waiting for a reel to flicker into life. The flickering stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and others, start to run our thinking. Our thoughts fit the narrative from the shelf…

I am not against stories, but I am cautious of the way we let might let sloppy ones run riot in our own heads, unexamined and rarely called to account. The power of a narrative tool, used judiciously is a beautiful thing, but the reality is that we are awash with cheap, emotive and polemic narratives that do us all a disservice. Our unquestioning acceptance of our own and consequently other people’s stories about our lives, their lives: Life… leads us into an unthinking loop and when we tire of those narratives, we reach for the alternative but equally manufactured ones via tv remote, or a book, or the computer.

It is in this state of narrative-induced inertia that we en masse sponge up the stories of advertisers who infer to us that we’ll be more cool if we buy an iWhatever, or we’ll capture love if we buy and wear a certain perfume. We take those stories, and we say, ‘Aha! That’s a rubbish story that is. Of course I am not going to meet a film star if I buy a coffee machine. What do they think I am, stupid?’ And we forget about it… But do we? Actually we don’t. Of course we forget much of the detail, perhaps even the actual name of the perfume or coffee machine. But our memory has a remarkable tenacity and clings onto the basic narrative like a piece of driftwood. Our brains remember the gist of it, minus some detail and part of the reason we do this is because it makes the complication of life more simple. It makes the downright dog’s dinner of human existence cohese into a more palatable selection of amuse-bouches. It also makes us buy products whose advertising narratives best fit our own…

It’s not at all our fault and it partially explains why memory is so unreliable. See that showreel labelled Christmas? Well it’s not a re-run every time you play it on the Dave channel of your mind. It’s more a story board for the future made up of the basic gist of the past, missing quite a lot of forensic detail. We tend to retrieve only an abstract impression of the past, especially the commonplace, and even that shifts with every separate retrieval.

So why hang onto the horse race, which could itself be described in narrative form? Because amongst the smoke and mirrors of so many individually nuanced stories about life, crossing the line in front is a one true fact. A fact of the matter. It stands outside my context, and yours. It is what it is. And in the seconds of victory, that can be replayed at will in detail, unlike our own plentiful faulty memories, it ties us to a present moment like the very few other facts of existence that are uniquely glorious in their own immediate context: like the birth of a baby, or a gin and tonic.

Horse racing is a factual account that sits in its own context and demonstrates the power of now. Of course when Kauto Star won his fifth King George, in his sixth run in the same race, we ran the story backwards in our minds to enjoy the possible forwards of it all that much more if he won. But nothing was certain; he might have lost. For me, the power of a great horse race like yesterday’s story…

Kauto Star’s Fifth King George the Sixth

…lies in this one thing, the thing you can be fairly sure of amongst all the hyperbole, in all our story-ridden intepretations of life – the horse wasn’t counting. We can choose to overlay the day with a fantastic and triumphant narrative, if we like, but the main protaganist, the horse, will not.

We can learn a lot from that.

Yeats & Murtagh: one of them has a story, one of them does not

Live Life Like Frankel (via On wishes and horses)

S’pose it’s the height of laziness to reblog your own post.

Note to Self: Fuck It & Live Life Like Frankel?

Live Life Like Frankel That is my motto from now on. It looks like fun… … Read More

via On wishes and horses

Mother Hubbard

Just a postscript to yesterday’s turn up: Dubawi is the only stallion by Sheikh Mo’s late beloved Dubai Millenium, so to sire a Classic winner with his first three year olds is a great achievement that will do wonders for his stud career. I saw Dubawi at the Darley stud in his first year of stud duties and he was a cheeky, chippy sort of chap. I can be happy about that.

The kids are going through a phase of calling me Mother Hubbard. There has been no mention of “Old” which is just as well! I have tested the theory of empty shelves on them in case it was a further slight on my domestic abilities, but they were *unaware of the dog and no bone connotation and therefore unlikely to extrapolate it to there never being much food in the fridge round here. If they had gone down that route I would have stood firm with the protestation that if it’s there, they just eat it thus rendering the shelves empty anyway…

I am playing a dangerous game today in the motherhood stakes. I am attempting to persuade them that an afternoon of Suffolk fresh air is just what they need. I last took them to HQ for Champion Stakes day a few years ago. The youngest was one year old and due to lack of sleep (!) I failed to pick a winner. The winners I failed to pick included Sir Percy in the Dewhurst, Sergeant Cecil in the Cesarewitch and Spanish Don at 100/1. It was a name day theme and I think that persistent underachiever trained by Brian Meehan called David Junior also featured. In order to conduct a paddock inspection I had the youngest strapped to my back in some kind of metal-framed papoose. Sorry if you were behind me that day.

Anyway, all this is a preamble to say: how can I preview the 1000 Guineas? It’s been raining overnight and the ground has eased to good/good to soft in places. It’s still forecast for light showers so by 2 p.m. we might be looking at soft. Either way, I don’t fancy Special Duty.

A look at the card tells me that I will also be renewing my long-standing and unprofitable Rowley Mile acquaintance with Spacious and that I will be closely examining her rivals Sariska and Strawberry Daiquiri on that basis alone…

As it stands the kids are being refuseniks. I have sold the dressing up angle hard (they are girls after all) and the oldest said “Yes I’ll dress up as a little witch and you (me) can dress up as a cat”. She was being sarcastic. Is the Rowley Mile ready for a makemeadiva appearance dressed as a cat? I think not.

So depending how bribery and persusion go I might get there, or not. My fancies for the day are:

Sariska in the Dahlia (maybe Strawberry Daiquiri)
Yarooh (big, big fancy in the 4.30 maiden)
Classic Vintage (not my fancy but borrowed – think ground should still be ok)

I am still trying to find a 1000 Guineas filly and I can only say that, if the ground continues to go, any close paddock inspection (without a child strapped to my back) will be of the following:

Seta, Misheer, Lady Darshaan, Pipette and Pollenator.

Sariska takes the Irish Oaks last year

*they are taking their inspiration from the Janet and Allan Ahlberg “Each Peach, Pear, Plum” illustrated classic for pre-readers.

2000 Guineas: Stand and Deliver?

I drove back to the county of birth of that famous highwayman last night in an absolute downpour. First I thought:

Have they got this rain at Newmarket? Damn. If so all my thoughts on the 2000 Guineas need re thunk and quick.

and

Damn! I left the cat out. She’s going to be so pissed off with me. Thank God the neighbour has built that funny little shed thing for her to sit in…

As it turned out Southend had not been wetted when I got there and as far as I am aware Newmarket has had had only a light sprinkling and not enough to change the ground description of good to firm.

In the past I have spent weeks going through the runners before the Guineas, but I haven’t had a minute this year. I’ve been trying to do my thinking as I’ve gone along. I’ve watched St Nicholas Abbey’s work at the Curragh, I’ve seen the Elusive one in the Craven and I’ve had eye-witness reports of the Greenham. My job today has been to try and be objective, whittle the big field down a bit to a handful of possibilities and to cross my fingers, a lot.

My shortlist:

Al Zir – I respect this horse but not entirely convinced overall
Fencing Master – I think this horse might run better than his fancied RP Trophy winning stablemate
St Nicholas Abbey – I am not in the habit of backing shorties from Ballydoyle in any case. Not convinced by overall profile and won’t be suffering from shock if it either doesn’t or does win. Great Chamberlain thought that I’m afraid!
Elusive Pimpernel – my idea of a winner. My negative was around the so called “flat spot” coming into The Dip in the Craven. Richard Hills said this morning it didn’t look to him like much of a flat spot, more a case of Ryan Moore waiting, but not in vain.
Dick Turpin – the runner my heart is most attached to. The head has some questions. He is clearly not held in as much regard as his stablemate Canford Cliffs (who does not make my shortlist for reasons of stamina), and is by a bargain basement sort of sire in Arakan. However Arakan came from a good family, despite his race career being not exactly glittering with Group prizes. Arakan’s sire Nureyev ran in the 2000 Guineas 30 years ago in 1980 and won, but was then disqualified for pushing and shoving. He caught a virus and never raced again. If Dick could avenge his grandad today I would be happy. No-one thinks he can really, but in the Greenham he was not stopping. I would settle for a place.
Awzaan – included because of his fine record over 6f as a 2yo. The general opinion seems to be he has too much speed for a Guineas horse having won the Middle Park and the Mill Reef stakes. The Newbury race was run in quite a slow time despite the ground being quick and on balance I reckon he would stay the mile. Possible winner, definite place prospects.

My proposed top three home would be (and I wouldn’t dream of ordering them):

Elusive Pimpernel
Awzaan
Fencing Master
Dick Turpin

Oh, that’s four. Damn.

Bee & My Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

This one of my few non-Rudi ravaged plants and one that has given me a lot of pleasure. That’s Rudolf Nureyev to give him his full name. Is it a sign…