One of the reasons that I love horseracing so much is that it is a world of wonder, where anything can happen. Like a good Christmas movie, belief is everything, faith is rewarded, and, if at first you don’t succeed… there’s always tomorrow.
As the character Kris Kringle says, in Miracle on 34th Street, the imagination is a wonderful country (a bit like the French nation or the British nation) where you can do almost anything that you like – including imagining how you’ll spend the proceeds from this week’s blog selection (Empire Steel in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day).
But, as anyone who’s ever watched A Christmas Carol knows, not everyone has an imagination – which is why the disbelieving, faithless, miserly Scrooge is obliged by the ghost of Christmas Future to witness his own alternative reality, one where he’s derided for not dancing at parties and generally despised for not eating enough geese (note to self: always dance / never turn down a good dinner).
Scrooge isn’t the only Christmas character that has to be confronted on Christmas Eve because he can’t access his own imagination. In It’s a Wonderful Life, a distressed George Bailey (played by James Stewart) is forced, by the angel Clarence, to experience how differently the lives of his friends and neighbours would have turned out if Bailey hadn’t been around to help shape them.
So just imagine for a moment, as Bailey was forced to, what would life be like if we didn’t have horseracing at Christmas…
Some people would have to spend it all alone, rather than being “on their Tod” – because there’d have been no famous jockey called Tod Sloan, and no rhyming slang to describe the experience.
Shoppers wouldn’t “jockey for position” in the supermarket aisles. Nor would I be able to win “hands down” at Trivial Pursuit – because that’s only something that came about because jockeys could relax their hands on a horse’s withers, if they were winning a race very comfortably. Nor, come to think of it, could I finish my Christmas shopping and consider myself to be “in the home straight” (not that that’s happened yet).
There’d be no King George VI Chase at Kempton, and so nothing to watch on telly on Boxing Day – except Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. And even that would be significantly shorter than the current two hours, fifty minutes (excluding ad breaks) – because there’d be no Royal Ascot scene. You know the one – where Eliza Doolittle shouts “Come on Dover! Move ya bloomin’ arse!” And that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
So here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas: dance, eat, enjoy a Christmas movie or two, and imagine how happy you’ll be when you get to Kelso Races, for the Festive Fling Racemeeting, on Friday, 29th December.