Magazine article The Spectator

Tales from the Track

Magazine article The Spectator

Tales from the Track

Article excerpt

For me little that is memorable, and even less that is sheer fun, has been penned about football, apart from Gary Lineker's definition of the game as 'Twenty-two men chasing a ball - and in the end the Germans win'. Horseracing, though, has always attracted both purple prose and anecdotage.

Sea The Stars' winning of the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Coral Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has made it a special year for racing books. Most of us will never see as good a horse again and in Sea The Stars: The Story of a Perfect Racehorse (Racing Post, £20) the newspaper's excellent team have put together a vividly illustrated record every enthusiast will treasure.

We forget the now veteran jockey Mick Kinane's wry observation after their 2000 Guineas victory: 'They said he couldn't win the Guineas because he was a Derby horse. Now they are saying he can't take the Derby because he is a Guineas winner.' Sea The Stars was, of course, the first in 20 years to win both.

In Chinese culture eight is a lucky number and Hong Kong-based owner Christopher Tsui brought the same seven companions with him every time to watch Sea The Stars run.

His mother Ling, who championed Sea The Stars' dam Urban Sea, noted that in Chinese history 'Emperors were all looking for a "Thousand Miles Horse". The criterion was that the horse had to be calm, strong and tireless. He had to have a champion's spirit and he had to have speed. However, they never mentioned the change of gear, the conformation and the beauty, so Sea The Stars actually has more qualities than the "Thousand Miles Horse" that our emperors so wanted.'

Trainer John Oxx quietly noted the horse's exceptional athletic 'presence' but for me Alastair Down hit the button, too, when he observed how Sea The Stars, after looking vulnerable for a few strides, swatted away his challenger in the Eclipse. 'I am all for pure class in the racehorse but for me it is never the whole story without a spot of blood, sweat and sinew thrown in.' Truly exceptional horses have to have attitude as well as ability.

Marcus Armytage has turned out another entertaining collection of racing accidents and apercus. Turn Me On, Guv (Racing Post, £16.99) chronicles the odd things that happen to racing folk in and out of the paddock.

History now, but I liked the one about jump jockeys John Francome and Smith Eccles leaving the Stewards Room one day after an official had disqualified the latter and awarded the race to Francome. …

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