Twice Over is striking to look at, all the more so because he is top-class and still racing at the age of six. Flat racing needs more like of his ilk
It has always seemed incongruous that the Flat turf season commences in the long shadow cast by the Grand National build-up. There appears no satisfactory way around it – although the opening skirmish this year was scheduled not at Doncaster, in time-honoured fashion, but Catterick.
Here is evidence that efforts to kick-start the turf campaign with resonance have been abandoned. It is probably the right decision. Only after Aintree, when the pendulum swings irrevocably towards the Flat, do we notice the spate of well-bred three-year-olds already victorious in maidens at Kempton.
Racing under both codes is no longer seasonal. The point was reiterated in a different way on March 3, when Super Thursday at Meydan saw a number of high-class horses make the journey from Britain. None more so than Twice Over, who bagged a Group 2 worth £115,384, and at the time of writing was all set to contest the $10 million World Cup. No problems with tariffs in Dubai.
Several aspects to Twice Over’s Group 2 triumph were heartwarming. In contrast to his Dubai World Cup effort last year, when he was also drawn wide and met with early trouble, the horse found a clear passage under Tom Queally He was more than comfortable on the Tapeta surface and pre-race concerns that Meydan’s sharp bends would compromise him proved without foundation. He made a majestic sight. He made an even more majestic sight in
the paddock. Twice Over is a physically imposing six-year-old who has improved with age but, more importantly, he strikes a chord with the public.
He has become an old friend, a reassuring presence in major races – and all because a breeding prejudice against his sire, Observatory, denies him a place at stud. Long may that prejudice continue. Long may horses of his ilk carry the torch. Long may we be regaled by the deeds of horses like Twice Over. The most striking thing about him at Meydan was the fact he was there at all. He was embarking on his fifth season.
In his case, the requisite guesswork over the likes and dislikes of inexperienced horses has given way to uncluttered appreciation of his talent. Racing has made significant progress on the collective realisation that it must change. This will have a beneficial, clearly measurable effect in time, yet consumer-driven initiatives alone cannot revive the colour in a fading fabric.
The fade started in the mid-1970s. From 1975, when Grundy triumphed, 21 of the next 25 Derby winners did not run beyond their three-year-old season. The breeding industry’s financial equations rendered them too valuable to race, with negative ramifications for the sport.
Twice Over exposes the fallacy of putting the cart before the horse. Only when the process is reversed can Flat racing hope to attract and sustain a regular audience.
Eider spectacle brought racing into disrepute
By the time you read this the Eider Chase, run over an extended four miles on a bog in late February, will be a distant memory. But only by the grace of God.
With half a mile to run, the prospect that none of the 12 runners would complete the course was all too real. As it turned out, Companero somehow clambered over the final fence, while Giles Cross was so exhausted in finishing second that he looked like he’d just returned from the Somme.
Quite what the Newcastle executive was thinking in allowing the race to go ahead is beyond comprehension. A personal view is that the sorry spectacle brought racing into disrepute. Any other conclusion is hard to reach from the way Morgan Be was handled.
Having jumped the penultimate fence in third place, Morgan Be was quickly pulled up. Yet when it transpired that nothing else was left standing, he was asked to jump the last to claim third-place prize-money of £3,624. The inference is all too plain. The subsequent post-mortem ran up countless blind alleys. It was immaterial, though obviously welcome, that there were no equine casualties. And the debate on reducing the race distance was superfluous. In less demanding conditions there is no issue with running four-mile chases. However, conditions at Newcastle were demanding in the extreme.
Faced with a similar predicament in the future, racecourse executives must surely reschedule the race for another day – or abandon it altogether. Failure to do so would be to invite a public relations disaster. The last thing racing needs is to confront the charge that it asked 12 horses to tackle an assignment so arduous that none was able to complete it. Such an outcome came far too close for comfort at Newcastle.