I find it baffling that so many people get so irritated by Aidan O’Brien’s comments about how good his horses are. At Newmarket last weekend we enjoyed what was billed as a vintage renewal of the Dewhurst Stakes — a clash of the old powerhouses with Godolphin’s Emotionless locking horns with Ballydoyle’s Air Force Blue.
In the end, Emotionless failed to run his race and was found, subsequently, to be injured. But even had he been fighting-fit, it is difficult to see how anything could have stopped Air Force Blue. He was stunning. And so, as the press huddled round the victorious trainer in their familiar anoraks, O’Brien uttered his oft-repeated observation: “We’ve never had one like him”.
Social media lit up almost at once, with its sneering, scoffing ridicule directed at the trainer. It seems to me that too many racing fans latch onto childish news themes rather than enjoying the hope that springs eternal from the performance of a brilliant two year old.
True enough, O’Brien is not averse to regularly updating his “fastest ever/most exciting/best yet” notebook, but I can forgive him that in exchange for sending out horses year after year that allow us to live in hope that one day a bubble will never burst.
Air Force Blue could yet be the best ever. History suggests he won’t be, but we go racing to see the history books re-written and so that we can live forever in hope rather than wallow in cynicism.
The press is full of relatively high praise for the current October programme for this backend of the Flat season.
A handful of years ago, when Frankel was in his pomp, the newly formed British Champions Day enjoyed a heady period of elbowing itself out of the racing pages and into some mainstream news flows.
Regular readers of the blog will know how much I value such moves. The gloom-merchants assured us that it wouldn’t last, that the year would come when there were no stars, there’d be nothing but mud and sludge at Ascot in late October and the folly of the concept would be laid bare to ridicule. Well they can wait another year.
Saturday’s card at Ascot brims with quality, albeit not with on par with what we enjoyed at Longchamp the weekend before last. But Longchamp will never be eclipsed, nor should it be. It stands alone. So I’ll head to Ascot this weekend, not to mourn the absence of endless Group 1s (4 is ample, thanks) or warm baguettes (they are overpriced in the Bois du Boulogne, intriguingly), but to celebrate a fairly decent end to the domestic season for racing fans. Sometimes, “fairly decent” is just fine.
Not so very long ago, a rival to the Racing Post advertised itself on TV with the premise, from memory, around something along the lines of “We’ve got everything you need, but nothing more”. It looked like a jibe at the flabbiness of the Post, with its bloodstock pages, Classifieds section and other such suspected detritus that saw the staple racing daily run to over a hundred pages.
In truth, I am yet to experience the day where I head straight to the Bloodstock World page of the excellent RP. Pinhooking and sires’ reviews don’t get my pulse racing like the action on the track or the gossip in the corridors of power.
All that said, however, it was difficult not to be fascinated at last week’s Tattersalls October Yearling Sales in Newmarket when Frankel’s first foals came under the hammer. Across the piece, they didn’t quite fetch the eye-watering sums that some had predicted, but the spectacle of baseball-cap sporting multi-millionaires gently ratcheting up the stakes into the millions for blue-blooded yearlings was theatre at its very best.
One day, I might dust down my own baseball cap, dig out my ill-fitting jeans and try not to develop a twitch at the wrong moment in that hallowed auditorium.
It’s difficult to look beyond Ascot this weekend, and I’ll be praying the rain stays away to give us the long-awaited clash between Solow and Gleneagles. If they both line up we might finally have a clash over a mile of the generations worthy of its championship status. And Gleneagles will win.