ITV BROADCASTS THE ARC ON SUNDAY. IT WILL BE GREAT TO BE PART OF IT AGAIN.
The first winner I saw was TOPYO who won at 80-1, ridden by Bill Pyers, a gregarious Aussie who had befriended me when I had ridden out in Chantilly that summer. After the race we all repaired to Bill’s house for bucket loads of champagne. Tokyo’s win was a surprise to everyone but not half as big as the shock Bill got next morning when the police arrived and took him off to the nick.
Some viewer had recognized him as the man involved in a collision a year earlier and in his chaotic way Bill had failed to answer the summons. He spent at least a couple of weeks in the clink. He said he went out for exercise “on second lot.”
Watching MILL REEF in 1971 was a huge thrill as he was the first English winner since 1948. With Lester Piggott failing even on Sir Ivor in 1968 and Nijinsky in 1970, there seemed to be a hoodoo on us for the Arc. It seemed scarcely credible that a year after Nijinsky had been hailed as “Horse of The Century” until his Arc defeat, Mill Reef should come along in the same generation as Brigadier Gerard who trounced him in the 2,000 Guineas.
DANCING BRAVE is the best of all Arc memories. Pat Eddery’s delivery was the greatest waiting race ride I have ever seen and the finest piece of equine acceleration I ever expect to witness. Best of all we were covering it live on Channel Four and Dancing Brave came so late, so fast and so wide that the French coverage we were taking completely missed him crossing the line. With fantastic calm producer Andrew Franklin made me flannel for time while he edited the replay to cut in an individual shot we had from our own camera. That is what is now the accepted coverage and even then you only get Dancing Brave in the last few strides!
SEA THE STARS was particularly exciting because we had agreed to do a book about him if he won. The moment he passed the post we knew he was worthy of it. What a horse. Whenever people start building hope up as the world did with Churchill back in the spring you have to remember that they have to measure themselves against Sea The Stars: a Group One victory from a mile to a mile and a half every month from May to October. Even Frankel never got near that.