Big can be beautiful. Persian Punch was the largest of the recent legends to have rumbled up the straight to land the Goodwood Cup but the 560 kilos of blonde German hunk that is Schiaperelli must rank the most massive of them all.
The thoroughbred racehorse has come a long way since 1808 when a horse called Bucephalus won the first running of the race that was to be officially called the Goodwood Cup four years later. Admittedly not as far as we all have from the original Bucephalus who, when we last checked, expired way back in 326 BC after carrying his gallant owner trainer Alexander The Great to victory in the Battle of Hydaspes somewhere out in Pakistan.
Happily there were no signs of mortality as Schiaparelli and Frankie The Great came back yesterday but Goodwood still lends itself to contemplation of the past just as naturally as the eye scans across the top of the grandstand from the downland to the sea. This is where Piggott and Richards and Donoghue and Archer rode, where Brown Jack and Alycidon and Zarathrustra as well as Further Flight and Double Trigger and Yeats galloped. This is history on the hill with a lot more than oldsters attending it.
Yesterday it even included the cast of the Chichester Festival’s new smash hit Enron, 15 brilliant young things making a good shot at getting Goodwood attire from wardrobe and adding the sort of verve that every racecourse should search for. But at Goodwood, and especially in the Goodwood Cup, the four legged actors have being doing that for two full centuries now.
Those who correctly thought that Schiparalli was a good 6 to 4 shot as he chased the leader Tungsten Strike up the far hill should have been around exactly 130 years ago when the same priced Isonomy pursued a horse called The Bear whose lead at that stage was a full 200 yards. For if Schiaparelli’s nine previous wins in Italy and his native Germany gave yesterday’s punters a bit of heart, Isonomy’s supporters had more than a touch British “previous” on their side. That summer he had hacked up in the Gold Cup whilst the previous year Kingsclere trainer John Porter had kept him away from the classics specifically to land a coup in The Cambridgeshire – which he did to the tune of £40,000 which in todays terms is only slightly shy of two and a half million smackers. They don’t make them like that any more.
Although in Germany they make quite a good old fashioned shot of it. The long standing policy of not allowing stallions to stand who have not raced as four year olds puts a premium on maturity which has proved a welcome balance to the emphasis on precocity in the Anglo-American market place. It has also made Schiaparelli’s sire Monsun one of the most coveted sultans of recent years and if yesterday’s winner may not be quite in the same league as the dazzling Manduro he is always, in every sense, going to be a very big horse to pass.
What he really needs is hock deep going and if the heavens opened at Baden Baden or Longchamp he could be a threat to anything. What his jockey needs is the thrill and challenge of big competition and the Jeremiahs who have been muttering that it is time for the Dettori carpet slippers should have been with me as Frankie entered and returned from the track on Schiaparelli.
Here was a talent in tune with its surroundings. As he left the walkway his massive partner suddenly backed round as the adrenalin knotted the brain. Frankie signalled his handler away and let the horse leap off to ride the energy surge On the way back after two full furlongs of almost pea-on-a-drum driving from the front, the jockey was all smiles as he visibly re-charged his batteries from the plaudits of the crowd. To the press he said things about having school fees and five hungry children to feed. Believe me, the truth is that nothing in his life can touch the genius he still generates from the saddle.
If big can be beautiful, speed is the buzz and as Kingsgate Native rocketed up the rails in the Audi Stakes there was that raw, sensuous admiration that certainly stretches all the way back to when Alexander first clamped himself in behind Bucephalus’ mane. Of course Kingsgate Native spent the early part of the year enthusiastically attacking the raw and sensuous activity of the covering shed and you don’t have to get too anthropomorphic (treating animals as humans) to be unsurprised that the horse failed to buckle down when first reacquainted with the rigours of the racetrack at Royal Ascot.
Even yesterday it is clear that if in fertility terms he fires blanks Kingsgate Native remains a gunman absolutely itching to draw. Jimmy Scott and the Michael Stoute team had wisely kept him out of the saloon, sorry, paddock until late, and as they washed him over outside the winner’s circle they marvelled at the fire in him.
A giant and a speedball, two horses to make the heart jump. To make Goodwood glorious, that is as it should be.