His day in the sun
Gary McKenzie on a memorable December 2003 Ascot winner
Not every horse can be Frankel. In fact very few go through their career unbeaten. Some such as Desert Orchid, Enable, and Kauto Star are genuine superstars despite having been defeated more than once.
But there are so many horses who run without earning fortunes or racking up win after win. But they do sometimes get their day in the sun.
One such horse was Thesis, who was the star of Ascot on 20 December 2003.
Thesis was running in his tenth hurdle race of the year having only started over obstacles in the January for Venetia Williams. He had been well beaten twice when odds-on (once by Well Chief when breaking his maiden over hurdles) and trounced when stepped up to the Grade Two Top Novices Hurdle at the Grand National meeting.
He finally got his head in front in a maiden hurdle at Worcester before following up at the same course. He was then given a break until November where he completed his hat-trick with a twenty length win in a novice hurdle at Wetherby.
He then ran third, off top weight, in a handicap hurdle at Newbury. Second that day, just a neck in front, was Sud Bleu. Remember that name.
Thesis only had 12 days to recover before running again and was third, again, but had run below his best advertised form. He had not been foot perfect in either race.
Just over a week later he faced his toughest test in the Ladbroke Hurdle where he would face 16 rivals. And I was there to watch. I only had eyes for two horses in the race. Saintsaire for Nicky Henderson and the aforementioned Sud Bleu trained by Paul Nicholls.
It was the Nicholls horse who got my vote, and the first time I gave Thesis a thought was when my nine-year-old son, who alongside his sister and grandmother, had joined me for the day out, picked it as his selection for the big race.
This is where horses make fools of us. Thesis went off at 33/1 (41/1 on the Tote). He was held up and once again he hit a hurdle. The second last.
But after challenging at the last he got in front and was two lengths too good for Sud Bleu at the line. That was a career best effort for the horse by at least half a stone. And the prizemoney of £58,000 made up more than half his total earnings.
In total he won four and was placed six times in thirteen runs over hurdles. But that day at Ascot will always be his day.
Good Luck All
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