Race horse galloping at Pau - photo by Calina

Race horse galloping at Pau – photo by Calina

As a true horse-lover I have a very conflicted relationship with horse-racing, and nothing brings me to tears faster than seeing horses giving their all, galloping flat out for the line. I know, pretty pathetic, huh?

I haven’t bet on a horse race since backing the beautiful grey Dark Ivy in the Grand National yonks ago, a race which he did not survive.

Lots of things about racing make me feel incredibly guilty for what we inflict on horses, but just sometimes I see a race that makes me realise why thousands, if not millions, of people are hooked on it.

First there’s a very recent one, a filly, Market Quote, doing it the hard way, left totally flat-footed in the starting gate:

Slightly similar, we have the 2009 Kentucky Derby, a race which truly needs seeing and hearing to believe. It’s worth watching before reading further, I promise!

Calvin Borel’s tactics on Mine That Bird are as jaw-dropping as the horse’s downright phenomenal acceleration. This combines perfectly with the fact that the poor commentator is having a truly terrible day. He just doesn’t seem to see this horse at all, either in his initial run-through of the field (when he finishes naming horses, there’s a distinct pause – while, I’m sure, someone points out this Mine This Bird, trailing by a long way), or even after he has hit the front and is flying down the track with the finish line looming! Fabulous stuff, anyone backing that horse that day must have screamed themselves hoarse. Wonder if there were any heart attacks among fans?

Being a hardcore Eventer, races over fences are more to my taste, and this

is still my favourite Grand National – 1990, Mr Frisk right up the front most of the way, jumping like a buck, holding off a determined challenge from the older, more heavily weighted Durham Edition, to win in a time that still stands to this day. Very impressive, but hard to watch for a horse-lover.

However, this race is the one that rouses the most emotions, it is my Ultimate Tearjerker: One Dreamer in the 1994 Breeder’s Cup Distaff.

My sources say that the mare wasn’t even supposed to be in this race, she was so outclassed – apparently she was only entered because her owner was something to do with the sponsorship, and wanted a runner. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the commentator’s remarks, and obvious shock, tell a big story.

Heavenly Prize, Sky Beauty and Hollywood Wildcat were vastly her superiors on previous form, and One Dreamer went off at long odds of 47-1. Maybe on that day there were some jockey errors which affected the others, but I think that grey filly just stuck her neck out under Gary Stevens (who gives her a great ride, and who has literally just come out of retirement to race-ride again) and excelled herself – she just totally refused to be beaten. It was her day, nobody else’s. My best ever horse, my Horse of a Lifetime, was a grey mare, so maybe I’ve got a bit of a Thing about them, and that’s why this one moves me to tears, every time.

I did a bit of research a while back and found out that One Dreamer is still in her owner’s broodmare paddocks in Florida. I hope that’s true. What a mare. Every time I watch this race I end up totally emotional and sobbing. It’s the best horse race I’ve ever watched. I hope you enjoy it too.

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