Elite sport is about finding out the very best so Sea The Stars winning the Arc is very useful: From now on the great horse will be a benchmark. Isn’t that great? As well as everything else, he’s handy!
There won’t be a top horse that looks through a bridle in the next fifty years that will not end up being compared to Sea The Stars, and in all probability come up short.
On Irish racecourses, that used to be a role filled by Nijinsky. He was the byword for panache, as in x, y or z went past “like Nijinsky.” Well his memory can take a rest now. There’s a new symbol in town.
And the great part is that it’s a perfect symbol. No ifs or buts. There is nothing to crab this horse on. Physically he’s outstanding, as he is on pedigree. Sea The Stars has a perfect temperament and a peerless combination of speed and stamina. All of it has contributed to a perfect season where any combination of ground, trip and opposition has been swatted away with élan.
In the wider sporting context it is impossible to overstate the impact of this horse in what remains a major, and truly international, sport.
This corner bows to no one in its appreciation of the tennis maestro Roger Federer, a man whose will-to-win is clothed in a grace and style that makes him the outstanding sportsman in the world today. But there remains the Nadal question: How can Federer be the best of all time when its evens him and Nadal every time they step on court?
Cristiano Ronaldo is apparently the world’s finest footballer and yet would you have him in your five-a-side ahead of Messi or Rooney? Even in golf, which apparently is still being passed off as a sport, Tiger Woods is exhibiting signs of frailty when it comes to closing out majors.
But then there’s Sea The Stars, a horse bred and raised in Ireland, trained and ridden by Irishmen, whose streak of brilliance through the last six months makes him the outstanding Irish sports story of 2009.
And yet when we come towards the end of the year, and the inevitable 2009 reviews, will that be reflected during the awards season. Not that they really mean anything, certainly not to Messrs Oxx and Kinane. But it’s still annoying to think the Sea The Stars story might get overlooked.
We all know the big yarn will be the rugby grand-slam, a totally meritorious success that still can’t hide the fact that being champions of Europe makes Ireland the fourth best rugby side in the world.
And the world in rugby terms is a pretty small place, more of a commonwealth in fact, with the remnants of empire joined in substantive terms by a few bits of France with a little slice of Argentine pampa thrown in for good measure.
In reality the rugger brigade are veering dangerously close to ‘World Series’ and ‘Super Bowl’ territory in terms of appeal to the bits of the globe that used not be coloured red.
In contrast there is hardly a corner of the world that doesn’t feel the tingle of competition between one thoroughbred running faster than another. It’s not just in Europe that Sea The Stars is now a benchmark of excellence but far beyond.
In theory there is no reason why he should not now travel to Santa Anita next month and run in the Breeders Cup. The synthetic surface looks like the ideal middle ground between turf and dirt and anyway it seems like those old rivals Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman could end up being his biggest rivals.
But every gut instinct remains against it. Is it a fair ask to send a three year old six thousand miles at the end of a campaign like this to run in what is basically now an afterthought? It really looks like he has far more to lose than to gain in going to America. The mind keeps going back to Dancing Brave and the dreadful sense of anti-climax that came in Los Angeles twenty three years ago.
Maybe it’s just rank sentiment talking but the Sea The Stars story deserves a better ending than that. In fact it’s already got the perfect one.