A special one
He was a horse who ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, coming third twice, and, on a special day in 2017, winning the big one his talent so richly deserved. Special Tiara’s best day will always be overshadowed due to odds on favourite Douvan failing to fire. But I was not complaining as I was on Henry De Bromhead’s front running two miler each way, as I was on a few other occasions.
He was a great jumper and considering the pace they go at in these chases, he was some vehicle as he only fell once in his career. He “only” won six of his thirty two chases but was in the frame fourteen times. He was a horse who would attack his fences from the off. The horses who beat him included Sprinter Sacre, Altior, and Sire De Grugy.
Danced every dance
He danced every dance and his efforts earned connections over six hundred thousand pounds. He loved the spring. According to Racing Post Ratings he ran five of his best six races in March and April including all three of his Grade One successes.
He will race no more on earthly turf but, maybe, there is another realm where his like can run free, and once again fly at a fence.
RIP old son.
Before this week I had never heard of equine influenza so I am not going to express uneducated opinions regarding the illness. I think the authorities have done well in shutting down everything quickly. Better to err on the side of caution. There will be no racing until at least Wednesday but I fear we could be waiting even longer for a resumption. Hopefully no more than a few weeks but if we have to lose Cheltenham then so be it. The horses welfare has to be the most important thing.
Bordering on effortless
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Before the racing at Lingfield on Saturday I thought Kachy and Wissahickon were good things but the way they won was bordering on effortless. The double paid almost 2/1 although both were slightly bigger odds earlier. Big Country ran his race but he will be ducking Wissahickon on Good Friday. That winner is a bit special.
No tips this week due to the racing postponements so I thought I would talk about the horses who have a special place in my heart. And I will start at the beginning.
The 1973 Grand National will be chiefly remembered for the bravery of Crisp and the emergence of Red Rum. But it was also my first involvement with the race. Mum asked us all to pick a horse and my seven year old eyes landed on the name of Spanish Steps
I had no idea he was a former Hennessy winner and had been placed in a Gold Cup. I didn’t even know what those races were. I just liked the sound of the name. He did me proud by running fourth so my stake, or rather mums, was a winning one. He was fourth a year later and in 1975 he was third.
I stuck with him on these occasions. Any of my regular readers will realise I do tend to stay loyal. And this is down to Spanish Steps. He was thirteen when he finished ninth in 1976. I loved the names of the horses as Peter O’Sullevan read them out. The Pilgarlic, The Dikler, L’Escargot.
My next horse was such a favourite of mine that I named my son’s rocking horse after him
Zilzal raced only six times over the course of six months in 1989 but he was some horse. He won the Jersey Stakes as he liked and was then put in the Sussex Stakes up against defending champion Warning. Our hero won that and then went on to win the QEII.
He was retired to stud at the end of his three year old season so we will never know how good he could have been. As it was he was Timeform’s top rated horse that year and was named Champion Three Year Old.
The Iron Horse
Jumping forward a decade now. Giants Causeway was not nicknamed The Iron Horse without reason. The word surrender didn’t exist in his dictionary. Twelve races run. Eight wins and four runners up places. Six of those wins were at Group one level and two of his defeats were in Guineas races. His most memorable was probably the Coral Eclipse and one of his two battles with Kalanisi.
Falbrav has to be high on my list. Between running down the field in the Arc of 2002 and bowing out with a win in the Hong Kong Cup fourteen months later he ran eleven times, winning six. He was only out of the first three twice. He was five years old when he had his finest season and two of his defeats were dramatic.
The Irish Champion Stakes had a top class field. King George winner Alamshar was favourite with Falbrav next best. Dual Derby winner and Breeders Cup winner from 2002, High Chaparral was 4/1.
There are many who say that had Falbrav found room he would have won. The fact he was only a neck behind High Chaparral gives ammunition to Falbrav supporters (of which I am one obviously) but we will never know. What we do know is that when the two met again in California it was an even more memorable race.
This time there was a head between the two with High Chaparral dead heating for first with Johar, and our boy back in third after leading in the final furlong, before being overtaken in the shadow of the line.
There are so many others. Denman and Moscow Flyer. Desert Orchid and Best Mate. Frankel and Dancing Brave. Triptych and Salsabil. But there are others who were never champions but whose names bring a smile to those of a certain age. Chaplins Club, Padre Pio, Vodkatini (when he deigned to start), Trabolgan, who I thought was going to be the next big thing but he missed three years.
And even now there are some getting under my skin. Obviously Enable and Altior will be spoken of in years to come. But how good could Too Darn Hot be? Or Paisley Park? Or Presenting Percy?
It’s good to look back. But we have a lot to look forward to.
Have a good week all