On the 26th December 2016 we saw the dominant chaser that is Thistlecrack romp home in the King George VI chase at Kempton Park. A fine performance from undoubtedly the most exciting chaser on British soil, beating his stablemate and long time favourite of many, Cue Card.
Trainer, Colin Tizzard eluded to the Gold Cup being the target for the ‘Big Orange Monster,’ back in March 2016 and Thistlecrack (best price EVS for the race) looks set to make the dreams come true for his owners in 2017.
Whilst few can doubt his class, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of frustration upon hearing some comments after the race on St Stephen’s day, Tizzard’s animal is already being compared to the 5 time King George winner and global superstar, Kauto Star. Why must we always seek a higher target to be immediately beaten with these equine athletes? Can we not just enjoy a horse for their success in the present moment?
We who favour the National Hunt side of the game can be guilty of jeering at the flat fans for the theory of favouring early retirement in return for higher stud fees, many horses only competing to the age of four or five before bowing out a Derby winning stud, or an Oaks winning broodmare. Are we any better by not allowing our valiant winners some time to enjoy the spotlight? At least the likes of Golden Horn and Taghrooda were allowed to enjoy their time champions in their own right. Where as, year after year I find myself reading comparisons of present National Hunt horses to the hall of famers of old, regardless of their recent achievements.
Norton’s Coin, 100/1 winner of the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup with trainer, Sirrell Griffiths.
It makes me sad to see these broad comparisons between horses with such potential and those who have (rightfully) retired at the top. I can understand the rationale behind it, but are we not selling ourselves short of enjoyment? Has 2016 not taught us to revel while they’re among us? With the tragic passing of Vautour and Simonsig last year I think it’s imperitive we learn to, ‘compare when fair,’ as opposed to constantly poking holes and aiming to a higher level.
Above all, it’s important to remember – these fantastic animals wont be around forever so let’s embrace them while they are.