Friday, 4 December 2015

May the Force be with You

I saw the Star Wars movie this week. No, not The Force Awakens, the latest in the franchise, I mean the first one made in 1977. Heavens! What drivel. 

After 38 years of successfully avoiding the inevitable, I was finally forced by a seven-year old to sit down for two hours (which I’ll never be able to live again) and watch as Luke Skywalker battled the heavy-breathing bloke in black, who (according to wikipedia) subsequently turns out to be his Dad, while saving the girl of his dreams, who is actually his twin sister. It sounds like a case for Jeremy Kyle. 

How on Earth (or Alderaan, Tatooine or even the planet Naboo) did anyone imagine that it would be worth making another six or possibly even eight films? It made me feel sorry for the underrated Flash Gordon, produced just 35 years ago with a similarly flimsy plot line – but with immeasurably more fun and better music, despite the best efforts of the London Symphony Orchestra who played for the Star Wars team.

But Flash Gordon isn’t the only star to suffer from a lack of recognition. In an ironic twist of fate, it turns out (according to a poll published in the Sunday Times last week) that Luke Skywalker is only the fifth most popular character in his own film, accumulating less than half of the votes accorded to Han Solo and only three quarters of the votes attributed to the baddy Darth Vader - or the Daft Waiter, as my daughter likes to call him. 

Fame is a fickle friend and there is no accounting for where she (or he) will settle. So it was interesting to read the comments attributed to Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer of Coneygree, in the Racing Post Online on Monday. “I want him to be considered great,” she said of last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. “I don’t mind if he’s compared to Denman but prefer it to be Arkle.”  

Such comments could be considered blasphemous by some fans of the sport – as Arkle set a standard that few believe will ever be equalled (even by the Grand National winning Pineau De Re, our selection in the Becher Chase this Saturday). And yet, in a recent poll of 5,000 members of the public, conducted on behalf of the racing industry, just 5% recognised Arkle’s name as belonging to a racehorse.  

Clearly racing (by which I mean racecourse management teams, racehorse trainers, the governing bodies, bookmakers and racing enthusiasts) has a huge job to do to educate our friends and family (and anyone else who will listen) with regard to the history of racing and those that deserve legendary status. Fortunately, a knowledge of racing is no barrier to enjoying a great day out at the races - and bringing your friends racing is a great way to get them interested in a passion that can last for life.  .  

So: Good luck to the Bradstocks (and thank you for trying): I hope Coneygree fares better than Skywalker in his quest for fame. May the force be with you.

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