Sport and Art In One – Turf Talk: 29 July 2019
SPORT and art can generate tears from the most stoic of humans.
I’ll wager that not many readers are ballet fans, much as you would be thrilled if you gave yourselves the chance.
Question: who are the fittest people in the world?
Answer: ballet dancers. Knowing that a great ballerina has been battling with or somehow coping with this or that injury to foot or leg, yet performs physical and artistic feats on a stage to take the breath away adds much to the gasps of an audience.
Some years ago, my wife and I took a stoic couple for their first ballet. (If you want to try this yourself then get hold of a video of the ballet Manon. It is less about tutus and the corps de ballet than are the wonderful Swan Lake and Giselle – often the recommendations for a first viewing – and is more earthy and real).
The stoic couple – owners of a 500 acre historic stud farm in Ireland, she South African he Anglo-Irish, more on the stiff upper lip Anglo side – sat in the best seats to see Dame Darcey Bussell as Manon.
In the last act when Manon and Des Grieux are expiring, lost in the desert near New Orleans, Manon leaps high and falls in a dying fall. Darcey B made it seem that she fell from that height slowly, more slowly than gravity would dictate. The riveted Opera House audience sucked in its collective breath and the orchestra did the rest.
After the long curtain calls, that ballerina being a national heroine and the entire ensemble having been brilliant, neither of the stoic couple could speak. One was in bits, along with many others. The stiff-upper-lip chap was transfixed and took over half an hour to be able to utter a word.
So much for art. What about sport?
You can talk about Rugby World Cups (and I do, Cymru am byth), Cricket World Cups (just won one of those with high emotion), impossible Olympic gymnastics, going bonkers in an athletics stadium and getting promotion from one football division to another. We are wrung out with emotion.
But the world stops and stares – as if at Darcey Bussell falling slowly from a height – when half a ton of glorious thoroughbred racehorse strains every sinew in an exhibition of power, balance, resolution and bravery the like of which is not matched on any other sports field.
So it was with ENABLE. Now. don’t worry. I am not going to go on and on repeating what you already know. You have perhaps read it already in Turf Talk’s publication yesterday.
But this is about the tears.
On 11th December 2017, this publication offered the David Allan Column THE RACE OF THE CENTURY.
It was. It has been mentioned a thousand times since the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on Saturday at Ascot. Brough Scott – on that ITV broadcasting that we discussed a month or so ago right here – was wheeled out as the septuagenarian guru who has seen it all to pronounce on the incredible – and I mean incredible – battle up the hill between ENABLE and the wonderful CRYSTAL OCEAN.
The RACE OF THE CENTURY still is – the race of THAT century. As they shout on the street corners, READ ALL ABA’T IT ! on the link above. But Brough thought, and pondered, and concluded “the best race he had ever seen”.
The runners on Saturday demonstrated all that is great about mile and a half racing. Every commentator and journalist made the same remark about Dettori having Plan A, changing to Plan B, then C and actually D with the draw at Ascot plus the tactics of the other world class runners making life difficult for that other national heroine ENABLE, all the while powering along at a seriously strong pace.
Knowing what we were seeing. Knowing that CRYSTAL OCEAN was the current Longines Best Racehorse in the World. Knowing that Frankie had made several attempts to avoid going round Swinley Bottom three or four wide, thus having to come from farther back and alarm trainer John Gosden by going earlier on the hill.
Seeing that he was not using his whip. We and anyone watching stood and screamed.
He did head her at one point. Didn’t he? She – again with no need for the whip – said “Screw that” and fought back, pushing on ever more strongly with a 48 year old in the saddle who was a bag of nerves beforehand trusting her now just as he had been en-trusted with her.
Exhilarated yet humbled by the magnificent creature whom he was driving.
As they crossed the line, with CRYSTAL OCEAN as bold in the records as was BUSTINO going down to GRUNDY in a similarly titanic battle on the same sward 44 years ago, the supremely knowledgeable and huge Ascot crowd – far more knowledgeable than a Royal Ascot crowd – frightened the gods with its roar and then in many cases sank – or at least stood still- all wrung out and spent.
In this writer’s case, hand across mouth to stop the noise of sobbing, control was difficult as those tears flowed. Soon, there was no point in the hand, so many others were in the same state of “in bits”.
ENABLE of course is a heroine of terrestrial television, not limited to DSTV equivalents i.e. Sky or Virgin Media. Mind you, I commend to you both the excellent ITV and the Attheraces commentaries – both well worth a listen on replay. “That was a horse race!”.
ENABLE is known “far and wide”. Her heart must be massive. Her ears are enormous. And for the statisticians in this brilliant digital age of knowing everything, she has defeated 43 other Group 1 win-ners so far – some of the 43 several times over.
FRANKEL defeated 24. SEA THE STARS, whom many rank alongside FRANKEL because he did it at a mile and a half as well, defeated 18. Yes ENABLE is 5 now, but she only raced thrice at 4 and twice at 5 so far, winning 9 Group 1s along the way.
Question: how to market racing more broadly?
Answer: concentrate on the emotions. Sport and Art. In one. – tt.