A Question Of Dignity

It has been a non-racing ten days as I have been spending time preparing for my in-laws Diamond Wedding celebrations.

Sixty years is a long time to be together, especially in this day and age where marriage seems to be viewed in some quarters like any other commodity – one that can be thrown away when interest has waned.

One present I worked on, which has almost been a twelve hour a day task for a week, was building a DVD of their lifetimes. A combination of family photographs from their childhood days in the 1920’s through to the present day and I interspersed news archive from over the years.

It really bought home just how life has changed in the last 80 odd years.

The longevity of my in-laws marriage also made me think of racing and, as the seasons change, the differences between flat and national hunt.

I make no secret of the fact I prefer the jumps scene. Partly because I find the racing itself more enjoyable and exciting but, as importantly, the horses seem to be around for ever.

You only have to look at the racing news over the past week to see how many top flat runners have beef “retired” at three or four years of age, Sea The Stars , Ghanaati and Look Here amongst them.

There are very few flat horses who reappear again and again, generally those who do are low class with no breeding potential. Of course, there is always the exception which proves the rule, the most notable being Yeats, who was retired earlier this month – seemingly part of the fixtures and fittings at Royal Ascot, having won the Gold Cup four times.

With National Hunt it is different, the horses keep coming back season after season and we never tire of the big clashes, even if it is the umpteenth time the horses in question may have lined up together.

The runners really do become part of the furniture they are around long enough to etch a place in the hearts of racegoers. When the great jump horses ,who have been around for years, finally do hang up their racing shoes or, like Inglis Drever, finally pass away. They really are missed, like losing an old friend.

Of course the jump horses, especially the males, will tend to be around longer as they have no value at stud, with 99.9% of jumping males having had their “tackle” despatched.

Perhaps us human males feel a twinge of sympathy for their emasculation?   

So as I celebrate my in-laws long marriage, I also celebrate the start of the national hunt “season” proper and look forward to the return of some old friends, starting at Aintree tomorrow – bring it on.

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As a footnote to the flat season, congratulations to trainer Mark Johnston for training 200 British winners in a season.

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