Country Mouse on rugby and racing

England’s glorious win over the French at Twickenham last weekend highlights the joys of sport. On paper, victory looked impossible. There was hardly any singing in the first half as we awaited our fate; then, slowly, it dawned on us that we were playing rather well. Fear became hope, and hope became belief. By the end, none of us could hear ourselves for shouting. It is the unpredictability of sport that makes it such a thrill.

At the Cheltenham Festival this week, emotions are running equally high. There is no race meeting of such raw emotion in the world. Jump racing offers a passion the Flat can never match. Desert Orchid, Best Mate and Arkle are household names; flat racing has no stars of that stature to compete for the nation’s attention, and yet it enjoys a far bigger percentage of the prize-money.

Even worse, it was announced this week that Ireland’s top two year old, Holy Roman Emperor, is to be retired to stud before even starting his three-year-old career. We will never know how good he is. Sadly, he was raced to breed, rather than being bred to race. That is not something of which that the so-called Sport of Kings should be proud.