Fine line between genius and madness

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human species there was a clear link between neuregulin 1 gene and creativity, a variant of this gene had been associated with mental illnesses. We saw today the genius that is Sprinter Sacre, the simplicity, the ability, the awe, all controlled. But did we see the signs of madness on Tuesday in the form of Simonsig and Zarkandar.

Whenever I see a horse that looks like he’s not be putting it all I’m always reminded of a phrase well used by James Willoughby, the “dark side”, below is an extract from his blog where Aidan O’Brien gave him “an amazing insight into his philosophy as a trainer”:

“But in faster work, the best horses were actually prepared to give more and dig deeper. And this was a significant part of what made them successful. In particular, what enabled his champions to rack up sequences, he implied, was a growing confidence that the feelings of all-out exertion wouldn’t hurt them; that they could give more freely and not back off from the increasing pressure on their system. But, if a young or developing horse pushed itself too far because of the flight response, it might be reluctant to mine its talent so deeply again. In my words not O’Brien’s, it could see the “dark side” of competition and learn that running hard hurts.”

I am firmly of the opinion that Zarkandar has seen this “dark side” and shared these thoughts when previewing the Champion Hurdle earlier in the month:

Zarkandar’s temperament? Yes, I was worried firstly by the switch from Ruby Walsh to Daryl Jacob following Ruby’s great ride in the International Hurdle, and initially thought it was due to using his stamina and forcing it a long way from home, but I think if you look back at the Kingwell a few little alarm bells should start to ring. Never travelling, sluggish, hanging across the straight with Jacob having the whip in the correct hand. My hope in him being a Champion Hurdle winner diminishes following every replay. However, his sluggish and lazy style of racing means one thing, Jacob will surely be sitting just off the pace and look to be winding it up as they approach two out, that is where the race begins in earnest, and will begin to unfold.

Given the cloud the Nicholls yard was under last year, Zarkandar dug deep in the Betfair when his trainer admitted he was running on the back of a rushed preparation. In the Champion Hurdle last season he was a running on fifth when a sick horse. I’m not a horse shrink, hell I can’t even read people right, but that wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience. Yes this year he came out all guns blazing early on, grounding out a win off top weight in the Elite, then beating Grandouet and Rock On Ruby in the International, but that Kingwell run looked to hurt and his run in the Champion confirmed it. Daryl Jacob was kidding him throughout the race rather than trying to use his stamina, he came to the last when Daryl first drew the whip and from then on in he was running on the spot where you’d expect a stayer to rally and close on the principles. Have we seen the best of him, well he’s certainly seen the “dark side”. But before the Champion, we were due to see the second coming that was Simonsig. Today we had the “black aeroplane” and we were all expecting to see the anointment of the “grey aeroplane”, what we saw was a fizzed up cotton ball. He was keen throughout, just as he has been previously, running on the back of an interrupted preparation. They are the mitigating circumstances. He lacked fluency, he lacked composure and in the final stages he lacked backbone. His first crack of the whip was as they approached the last, and he ran down the subsequent fence, following the second crack he was shirking it. Green? More Dark Green. Today Sprinter Sacre had a match race with Sizing Europe from the top of the hill; Tuesday Simonsig had a match race with Baily Green. One was genius, the suggestion of two is madness.