Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Racehorse and a War Horse

Sometimes a horse comes along and captures the public imagination. Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Best Mate and Denman being a few of the names in recent years who have done that. These horses have the ability to make you shout out loud, experience amazing highs and occasionally, sickening lows too.
Sea the Stars was a great horse and I remember shouting him home in the Arc but we really only had a year to enjoy him and the public were just starting to get to know him when off he went to stud.

Then along comes a horse called Frankel.

In a time when racing (especially the flat) desperately needs its stars, this freakish, difficult and unbelievable talented horse bursts his way onto the scene. And what’s more, the fates give him to a man whose has both scaled the heights and witnessed the depths of despair, the fragile and publicly adored genius that is Sir Henry Cecil.
We have loved and been fascinated by Frankel since he was a two year old. The horse who could out gallop a train, whose stride was twice as long as anything else’s and yet who was always one slip of the rein away from an uncontrollable bolt into the next county.
In the wrong hands, Frankel would have been a basket case. But in the right hands Cecil has brilliantly used his lifetime of experience to nurture this quite exceptional talent, control his complex temperament, but has never broken the colt’s spirit. 
To be at Ascot last Saturday was one of those great days that will stay with you forever. Necks craning as the horse first stepped into the pre-parade ring, the crowd screaming as he surged to the front a few furlongs out, the mad dash to get back to the winner’s enclosure and then the euphoric cheers for both Cecil and his horse that seemed to go on for ever and which no one wanted to end.
I was so glad to be there.
Frankel enters the pre-parade ring on Saturday

Yesterday morning, Brough Scott sent me through his copy on the Frankel Story for our forthcoming Racing Post Annual www.racingpost.com/shop – it is an absolute genius piece of writing.

To another great horse now and we were absolutely thrilled to have a double page spread on Warrior in the Daily Mail last Saturday http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2049362/Steven-Spielberg-film-The-war-horse-Germans-kill.html
The book is also appearing on the One Show tonight, and we really hope that it is going to capture the public’s imagination.

Warrior was born on the Isle of Wight before the First World War and was one of the first horses off the boat to France with his owner, Jack Seely, in 1914.
Spending four years on the Western Front, he survived every imaginable disaster and was at all the major battles such as the Somme, Passchendaele and Ypres.
But Warrior came home in 1918 when 8 million horses, mules and donkeys did not.
Four years to the day after he had led a famous charge at Moreuil Wood, Warrior won the local point to point. 
He was still being ridden in 1938, as depicted in our book, with the horse and rider having the combined ages of 100 years (Seely, 70, Warrior, 30). 
Few horses have obituaries in the national newspapers when they die. But this one did.
They hailed him as ‘The Horse the Germans Could Not Kill’.

Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse contains the original line drawings and paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings  who first painted Warrior at the front in February 1918 and again at home on the Isle of Wight after the war.
The forthcoming Spielberg film, War Horse, is fiction. Our story is 100 per cent true. http://www.warriorwarhorse.com/
Queen Mary comes to visit Warrior at home on the Isle of Wight after the war

Friday, 7 October 2011

I spend this time of year pretty much flat out and don’t have much time to update my blog so please excuse my rather fragmented scribblings!

A few weeks ago Ed Whitaker’s stunning book, Beyond the Frame, launched with an exhibition at the Osborne Studio gallery in London, and we were thrilled with the great turnout from the racing fraternity. Jilly Cooper, who has written the foreword to the book, came all the way from Gloucestershire, Nicky Henderson was there buying up the Binocular prints, and jockey Christian Williams, recovering from two broken arms, came all the way from Wales. C4 were also there and did a great piece in the book on the Morning Line. It’s also already had great reviews in the Telegraph and Mail.

The launch of Beyond the Frame, Osborne Studio Gallery
We also have set up a new Facebook page about all our new Racing Post titles now so do have a look http://www.facebook.com/racingpostbooks

It was then straight from London to Lambourn for me for an early morning on the gallops at the yards of Oliver Sherwood and Charlie Mann to see how Sam Thomas was getting on with his filming as the new jockey presenter on the Morning Line for their ‘Dark Horses’ slot.  When you’re not used to it, it’s very hard to get used to talking to a camera as if ‘it’s a person’ but Sam is already doing a great job under the skillful tuition of C4 producer supremo, Sophie Veats. She came up with an idea for Sam to wear an arm as well as a hat cam so the footage will be interesting to see with the first piece going out on 15th October.

Sam on the Lambourn gallops with his hat and arm cams!
In the last few weeks I’ve also had my hands full with the launch of our book, Warrior.  Trying to ensure it’s out in the shops and the publicity machine is rolling to the right timings is all rather a juggling act. The book looks awesome though and we’ve now also launched its own website http://warriorwarhorse.com/. I’m hoping the Daily Mail are going to run a review of it in the next few weeks, plus we’re set for an appearance on the One Show on 18th October.  

I’ve been busy with the Bob Champion team too in the last few weeks planning some exciting events for 2012.  More news to follow on these soon.
Up and coming events include our Fish, Chips and Champagne evening on 17th November at the Bluebird in London. All details are on the website http://www.bobchampion.org.uk/

One of my meetings this week took me to the Tattersalls sales, which is a totally fascinating experience if you’ve never been – and definitely worth the visit. I still find it totally amazing that the big players pay hundreds of thousands (even millions) of guineas for horses that have never raced (and may never race!). I think The Green Monkey at 16 million dollars was the most expensive purchase ever, running three times with his best placing a third!  But of course it’s all in and about the breeding. You could sit at one of these sales all day just watching the proceedings and never be bored. 

Whilst in Newmarket, I also dropped in at the Injured Jockeys Fund for some Christmas planning. Their gifts this year are great fun – I’m loving Francome goes Crackers and Choc’s Choc – and everyone should be doing their Christmas shopping here http://www.injuredjockeys.co.uk/commerce-category.asp?div=Cards&cat=Christmas

Next week we’ll be back at Cheltenham again but with a slight diversion to Ascot on the 15th where I’ll have everything crossed that Frankel reigns supreme again. Having spent some time with the Cecil team recently, I know the pressure the whole yard feels having this colossus in their midst and I’ll be praying everything goes smoothly for them.  
One of my favourite pictures of Frankel!
To finish, I’d just like to recommend an equine back therapist, Grace Maxwell, who came out to see my horse this week. He suffers from a slight problem with the trigeminal nerve in his head and she was absolutely brilliant at explaining how the bone structure and nerve system all connects up. She practices something called McTimoney, which to me seemed a very gentle yet effective way of straightening him out (the last guy I had literally threw him round his stable!). She also explained to me exactly what she was doing and let me feel the before and after changes she made. It was fascinating that one minute his spine headed off to his right side when I ran my hands down it and when she’d done her thing, it was back heading back to his tail again! http://www.maxwellequinetherapy.com/