Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Look Of Eagles

I had a strange dream last night. Yes, another one - but this time I had all my clothes on. 
I had just finished running a race and had performed rather well, out-sprinting Tony McCoy on the rise to the line. My dogs were terribly pleased; they wagged their tails, jumped up at my chest and woofed approvingly. 
We turned a corner and all of a sudden I was surrounded by dogs - 63,000 of them! There were terriers up on balconies, collies on a huge tiered viewing terrace and retrievers on the lawned paddock around me.  
They were all wagging their tails and yapping with delight - with the exception of a handful of bull-mastiffs at the back, who were paying out packets of pigs ears to happy looking whippets with winning tickets in their paws. 
This, I imagine, is a rough approximation of what Faugheen must have experienced at Cheltenham last week. While the enthusiastic greeting of another species must have been totally incomprehensible, the aftermath of Faugheen's Champion Hurdle victory must also have been bizarrely uplifting for the horse. 
His closest human companions crowded around him in the Winner's Enclosure; cameras clicked and the crowd cheered. All eyes were on Faugheen and, tellingly, he was the only one of the four horses present that initially took a few steps backward in alarm. The placed horses, including two more from the Mullins' yard were quite aware that they, the vanquished, were not the ones in the spotlight. 
Faugheen now knows that he is special. It may have no bearing on his future performance, but I bet he is a completely different horse around the stable. He will have gained confidence and assurance from the experience. 
Anthropomorphism can be a dangerous thing; beasts do not share human thoughts (much though I admire Wilbur, the pig, in the book of Charlotte's Web). Faugheen knows nothing of prestigious trophies, antepost bets or official ratings. 
However, having observed the hero's welcome accorded to our champions, it strikes me as little wonder that horses such as Best Mate and Big Bucks developed a "swagger" when parading in front of their admiring public. Nor is it a surprise that Arkle, the best steeplechaser of all time, was generally acknowledged to have acquired the "look of eagles". 
One of the most admirable horses in training missed the festival last week for the first time in seven years. Please give a cheer for Knockara Beau, now 12 years of age and our selection this weekend, if you see him at Kelso on Saturday.


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