"Round the paddock she would go gazing imperiously at her adoring crowd"PICTURE: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos
Creature of beauty the best I ever saw
Ten-year-old Susie Eddis is the winner of the under-15 category of the Martin Wills awards for young racing writers. Here is her winning entry.
AN OLD lady was sitting contentedly next to a blazing fire among her three grandchildren. She was feeling quite weary by now after watching the racing on television all afternoon.
"Granny," asked one of her grandchildren, "who was the best horse you ever saw?" Granny sat back and placed her Racing Post beside her, taking a sip of her extremely strong tea and looking thoughtful.
"It's hard to say, there were so many good horses when I was a child, amazing jump horses like Kauto Star - he was meant to have been nearly as good as Arkle who was also amiraculous horse. Also great horses like Big Buck's who didn't lose for four seasons. Frankel was amazing. I think the first one I remember was Rooster Booster. So it's hard to say which one was the best. But there was one horse who was like something from a fairy tale which I didn't think I'd ever forget."
"Tell us about him granny, tell us about him." The children listened eagerly. Granny sat back and smoothed her skirt.
"Well, it wasn't ahim, it was a her, and she was a beautiful bay filly with a zig-zag blaze on her face like a lightening bolt. She had been a rather scrappy sort of foal and had been quite cheap to buy, but then she bloomed into an exotic palm tree. She measured 17 hands and half an inch - far bigger than any of her rivals and she towered above them like a goddess.
She won her first race, and then her second, and soon she had emerged from being one of the beginners to the best. People were talking about her and would go to the races just because she was running there.
In the paddock before her races, she would walk quietly until she spotted her jockey in his loud pink and green silks with a ridiculous floppy, pink bow tie which made him look like a clown. Then the filly would also become a circus horse, lifting her knees right up to her mouth as she pointed her toes far out like an elegant ballerina. Even if she had been dressed in plumes and feathers she could not havelooked more like a show girl. And goodness, didn't she know it. She didn't walk, she strutted, with her great, big, pointy-toe dancing step. Her hind legs in two white stockings were like chorus girls, doing a different dance, yet she was always perfectly balanced. Round the paddock she would go, gazing imperiously at her adoring crowd who were waving their flags and banners with her name on it, never acknowledging her dulllooking rivals. Her adoring audience used to go quite mad."
"But granny, was she any good, could she run well?" Again, Granny smoothed her skirt. "She certainly could, she was the best, she could make brilliant horses look slow, putting them all to shame. She ran 20 times, first against fillies like herself, beating them all, and then the very best of the colts as well. Her style of racing tantalised the crowd as she would drift at the back, until she caught sight of her destination and would pick up pace swiftly, lengthening her vast stride to whisk patronisingly past all her rivals. Finally, having won 19 times from 19 runs she came to the Breeders' Cup Classic, against the very best colts in the world.
The atmosphere at Churchill Downs was electric, the banners with her name were everywhere, waving constantly. Ladies were dressed in her racing colours, and men had copied her jockey and brought themselves posh pink bow ties. As she danced her way to the start with her pony, people wept with emotion for she brought tears to their eyes.
"Into the stalls she went and then out again the other side. But wait, was something wrong? The filly always came from behind, but the jockey seemed to be almost trying to pull up. The crowd watched in confusion and alarm including me, watching in this very room. They raced on but surely she did not have a hope? And yet suddenly her jockey said go, and go she did. It was as if she had grown wings as she lowered andlengthened, stretched and strained. She was gaining on the herd before her as she drove towards them. Now she was with them and overtaking, and the crowd were screaming her home, more desperate than they'd ever been in their lives for anything. But the poor, brave filly, the one they called God's own horse, had been given too much to do. A horse called Blame crossed the line first, with the wonder filly less than a breath behind. She was beaten by her own jockey."
The children sat, solemn and entranced. "What was the magical horse called though Granny? You haven't said."
"Oh, I'm sorry dears, I forgot you didn't know. Her name was Zenyatta."