Goodwood: One extreme to another
The bigger picture here is all about the panorama beyond, but yesterday it was the detail on the track itself that provided a defining snapshot of the British Turf.
Within barely half an hour the two biggest races of the day summoned opposite extremes, from a headlong descent of five furlongs to a gradual crescendo over two miles. Age cannot wither variety like this, and the prizes were duly claimed by veterans of eight and seven respectively, in Borderlescott and Illustrious Blue.
At the same time, equally, their competitive longevity was placed in chastening perspective when Age Of Aquarius, heavily backed for the Artemis Goodwood Cup, went lame when leading early in the straight. Pulled up and dismounted, it is feared his career could be over.
In the circumstances, it was comforting to see both this race and the Audi King George Stakes won with such undiminished ardour. Here, palpably, were creatures that love their vocation. Nobody, equally, should ever presume to instruct those who work with thoroughbreds every day, rain or shine, in the dilemmas
prompted by their cherished charges.
The way Illustrious Blue ran down Electrolyser, who had been left in front when the favourite broke down, was suffused with an animal relish and fulfilment. And this is his home track in every sense. For one thing, it is only a few miles up the road from his stable at Angmering Park; but there is also something about its singular topography that seems to bring out the best in him.
As for Borderlescott, who won the Stewards' Cup here way back in 2006, he seems to be coming right back to his best in time for his hat-trick bid in the Coolmore Nunthrope Stakes at York next month.
As the stalwart of an even smaller yard, Borderlescott's wins in that championship sprint show
that horseracing can warm the heart, as well as break it.
“I think he's better than ever,” trainer Robin Bastiman said. “He's unbelievable. It does take a bit longer to wind him up, but once he gets wound up, he goes. The engine's still there, that's the main thing. He just has this will to win and I can't wait for the Nunthorpe now.”
Ridden for the first time by Kieren Fallon, replacing the suspended Neil Callan, the old horse challenged down the centre and held off Group Therapy by half a length in a bunch finish.
“I was dying to get the ride today and he made it easy for me,” Fallon said.
“You wouldn't think he'd had a race. He doesn't use any gas at all, he's totally switched off. I nearly had to push him down to the post, whereas most sprinters are using up energy before the race. But as soon as he gets into the gate, he lights up.”
Not that all the old achievers here yesterday were on four legs. Richard Hannon seems to be getting even harder to beat in his sixties, relaxed and mellow as he has always seemed.
Kalahaag's win in the maiden was his 200th at Goodwood, but he dismissed the landmark. “It took 40 years!” he exclaimed.
Come to that, he had already been training for five years when Knight was born. But it was that kind of day — one that explored the whole spectrum, the whole landscape.