While creative literary works about horses is definitely food for the soul, it’s also important to see factual points in history with man’s working relationship with the equine species. As Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Horse racing may have had a rough start of sorts, but all sports eventually evolve for the betterment of all those who are in it, including the horses themselves. A report in the NY Times is proof that we’ve come a long way by addressing problems for both horse and jockey, treating them as members of the team and family. In Stewart Peter’s Festival Gold, we look at some of the most important movers and shakers that made Cheltenham Festival a grand tradition and a burgeoning empire of hoofs.
Festival Gold pays tribute to thoroughbreds that changed the face of the Cheltenham Festival and in horse racing, no legend is bigger than Arkle’s. Arkle, an Irish thoroughbred racehorse, came from a long line of champions and won three Cheltenham Gold Cups despite his career being cut short by injury. His performance, according to BBC, has come to represent the pinnacle of achievement in jump racing. It is no question why this legend is simply known as “Himself”. He was put down in May 31, 1970 with the consent of his owner, the Duchess of Westminster, at an early age of 13. His skeleton is currently on display at the Irish National Stud as a form of tribute and reverence for his iconic role in horse racing. His story is one of overcoming challenges despite debilitating injuries, a trait we previously thought was exclusive to humans.
The Late Queen Mother
Horse racing is the sport of Kings but it wouldn’t be complete without a queen to grace its events. The Queen Mother first took up this interest and was immediately “hooked” after she first attended. She has been horse racing’s biggest and most important benefactor for over 50 years. Since then, royalty has become a permanent and active fixture in horse racing. John Warren, racing manager for the Queen told CNN that, “The British bloodstock industry is very lucky to have a patron such as the queen.” It is expected that the young Prince George will continue this long tradition and play a similar (prominent) role in his future social life. The Queen Mother was honoured at the Cheltenham Festival with one of the races aptly named after her in 1959 for her 80th birthday. This year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase is highly anticipated with the current champion, Sprinter Sacre, trying to recover from injuries to, once again, dominate the Betfair Betting news. As the horse racing industry grows as a sport and a pastime, books like Festival Gold will always be a welcome refresher and a living witness to the success of people and horses alike.
Did you ever want to be a groom? Funny it’s the same name for someone who takes care of the horse and marries the bride:) I know a lot of people (men and women) that choose to stick with the horse!
This story was written about my Dad’s dream of being that stable boy, probably a wish of his at 17 years old. He never was able to own a horse until much later in life, after he was already settled in and had a few kids.
We did have a some pacers and trotters when I was little, even one named Volo Queen, and he would sometimes take me along with him to the tracks in the northeast but, as they were a bit seedy and had an almost carney type of element, Mom didn’t think that as all so great for the kids – especially at night. There were plenty of characters and horses … and the gambling, always the gambling. Now I go to a track and it seems the “regulars” never leave the OTB areas near the wagering windows and big screen TVs. They’d rather watch the race on TV than lean on the rail, which is my favorite part of being at the track. There are still the sulky races at night in Saratoga during the summer, and some other places. It always makes me feel excited and like a kid again. You should go if you ever get the chance.
Things change but maybe people just have MORE of what they want. Maybe slower and simpler is old fashion – but it also seemed a lot more REAL … at least in my memory.
The next book / chapter;
Although the early June morning was unusually cool and the sky overcast, the boy’s body perspired freely beneath his thin sweater. For this morning, as on every Saturday morning, he had walked the five miles from his home to the training track just outside the town limits of Coronet, Pennsylvania. And now he stood beneath a tall elm tree, his eyes upon the drab gray sheds before him. Grim-faced, he walked toward them, his gaze never leaving the sheds—not even for the horses, who trotted about the half-mile track to his left. He heard neither the rhythmic beat of hoofs over hard-packed clay nor the clucking of the drivers to their colts as they sat in their two-wheeled training carts. And this was very unusual for Tom Messenger. He walked down the road until he came to the last shed in the row, and there he hesitated, his long, thin face grave with concern, his arms hanging loosely beside his big-boned but gaunt frame. It was many moments before he moved to the closed door of the shed, his steps noticeably shorter and slower. Looking through the window, he saw the two old men working over Symbol. Jimmy Creech stood before the horse’s big black head. As always, Jimmy’s muffler was wrapped snugly about his scrawny neck, and his cap was pulled far down over his ears. The tip of Jimmy’s prominent nose held the only color in his pale face. George Snedecker stooped to the other side of the horse, his hands feeling about Symbol’s hoofs. Slowly the boy slid the door open, and he heard George Snedecker say, “Pains in my legs again this morning, Jimmy. Makes a man wish he were dead, that’s what it does.” “We ain’t so young any more,” Jimmy Creech grumbled; then he saw the boy standing in the doorway. He nodded to him but said nothing, and turned back to Symbol. With great effort George rose to a standing position. “ ’Morning, Tom,” he said. The chaw of tobacco in his mouth was passed from one side to the other as his gaze shifted uneasily between the boy and Jimmy Creech; then he took a cloth from the pocket of his overalls and brushed it over Symbol’s neck. He said with attempted lightness, “No need to work over Symbol, heh, Jimmy? He’ll stir up enough wind to wipe him clean.” Jimmy Creech looked sullenly into George’s grinning, tobacco-stained mouth. “Sure” he said. “Let’s get the stuff on him now.” The boy stood there while they slid the light racing harness on Symbol and tightened the leather about the shafts of the training cart. Jimmy Creech had taken hold of the long reins when the boy said, “You’re really going to sell her, Jimmy? You haven’t changed your mind since last Saturday?” His voice was low and heavy with concern. Jimmy Creech turned to George, motioning him to open the shed doors. “I’m selling her,” he said quickly, without looking at the boy. “This morning … the guy’s coming this morning, just as I told you last Saturday.” “But Jimmy—” The boy was close beside Jimmy Creech now, his hands on the man’s arm, his words coming fast. “Her colt may be everything you ever hoped to own. You figured it that way. You said—” Jimmy Creech had slid into the cart seat. “I know what I said, what I figured,” he interrupted, turning away. “You don’t have to tell me, Tom.” “Then why do you want to sell the Queen at this late stage of the game?” the boy asked with sudden anger. “She’ll have her foal in another three weeks. Why don’t you do as we planned?” Jimmy Creech drew his muffler tighter about his neck, and his eyes were upon Symbol’s black haunches as he said bitterly, “I figured out one night that it was a pretty late stage in the game for me, too. I figured up how old I was and I got sixty-two. I figured that it’s no time for me to be looking ahead a couple of years, and I’d have to wait that long before I could race this colt of the Queen’s. So I figured two years is much too long for me to wait. That’s the score, Tom. I’m sorry.” “But, Jimmy. You’re being silly. You’re not old. You’re—” But Jimmy Creech was taking Symbol from the shed. The boy watched Jimmy until he had driven Symbol around the corner of the shed; then he turned to George, now seated heavily in his chair beside the door. “What’s gotten into Jimmy?” the boy asked. “Why’s he talking like that?”