In today’s Racing Post Lee Mottershead commented on the overuse of the superlative ‘great’ when talking about above average racehorses. It is a road I have travelled many times and doubtless will do so many times in the future as it seems commentators and journalists are ever more eager, no doubt in an effort to ‘sell the sport’, to over-egg the pudding.
Enable is a cracking good filly but on Saturday she won a King George & Queen Elizabeth receiving a stone from the runner-up. She won going away, I grant you, which is always the mark of a top horse. But winning a race she had every right to win does not confer on her the status of a ‘great’. She might become a genuinely great race-mare but she is not there yet.
For the sake of argument let us confer the order of greatness upon Enable. If the winning of two races against her own sex and a race where in effect she was a stone well-in at the weights allows her to be enrolled in the pantheon of great racehorses what superlative can we confer on Frankel or Brigadier Gerard or Ribot? If Enable’s achievements confer the order of greatness upon her how can we attribute a more defining superlative on the above that does justice to their greater achievements? Achievements that thus far outweigh what Enable has achieved by a magnitude of several digits, I would suggest. Even if she wins the Arc Enable will still not have achieved enough to be described as ‘great’. As Lee Mottershead wrote, aping the sentiments I have expressed many times on this website, only when she returns to the racecourse as a 4-year-old when she will be giving and not receiving weight will we discover her true merit.
Horses such as Red Rum, Arkle and Desert Orchid will always be remembered as legends of the sport, their achievements no doubt standing the test of time; to describe any one of the three as ‘great’ is almost an insult so profound were their influence on the racecourse and on the memory of those of us fortunate enough to have lived in their time.
Enable is without doubt the shining star of this flat season and I do not want to belittle her, I fully expecting her to remain unbeaten this season. Let’s not though build her reputation up too much too early. After all, remember the superlatives laid like rose petals before Churchill and Caravaggio, two horses now racing to retrieve reputations that at the moments are a wee bit torn.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.