Goldikova energised to go the extra mile
Her every step now leaves a valedictory impression, and already she walks alone.
Goldikova is the only horse ever to have won three times at the Breeders' Cup and on Saturday, in her final start, she will try to make it four. Little wonder if she was followed so jealously out of the quarantine barn yesterday morning, for one of her final public appearances.
Admittedly, her trainer drew a certain amount of attention himself. Freddy Head's helmet was in harlequin silk, and as he pulled himself over the pommel of his pony he evoked memories of the day in 1988 when he won an unprecedented second Mile here. Miesque long set the standard for the mare who has illuminated his second career, and it was only last year that Goldikova eclipsed her record of 10 Group One wins. Head visited Miesque when he was here last year, but his ancient darling died during the winter. She was 27, and her bequests in the paddocks included the top-class Kingmambo. Perhaps Goldikova's genes will some day be guaranteed by a great stallion, too.
"But I think she'll miss all this," Head said. "Maybe she will get a bit sad in her paddock in Normandy. I'm very happy, that she's finishing this way, but I'm sad as well because she has been part of my life for five years. I've known good horses, maybe some as good as her. But one that can do so much for so many years? No. That we have never seen. She has run against the best of four different generations."
The mare seemed energised by her breeze over the dirt track, having strolled out with a suitably seasoned deportment. She was beaten for the third time in four starts last month, just shaded by Dream Ahead in the Prix de la Forêt, but Head is unperturbed. "That race is always like a re-entry for her," Head said. "The winner is a very good horse anyway, but the goal was always for her to be 100 per cent for the Breeders' Cup. I think I can't have her better than she is now. She's a year older, but she never changes, and she has never had a day of problem in her whole life."
Goldikova must start from the rail this time, after again overcoming a wide draw last year, and Olivier Peslier may face a white-knuckle ride. "Yes, you need a bit of luck," Head shrugged. "But that is a horse race. Last year was something incredible. To be back is unreal, but maybe it is not so tense this time. Win or lose, I just want her to finish in a good way. I'm very lucky to be here, to live a moment like this."
Few top-class Flat runners persevere to such an age, but six is young for a steeplechaser and the British Horseracing Authority yesterday stipulated that entries for the John Smith's Grand National must be at least seven years old in future. They must also have made the first four in a chase over three miles or further, following a safety review that has already prompted modifications to some of the most demanding fences.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Beidh Tine Anseo (2.30 Musselburgh) Showed plenty of dash in winning three novice hurdles last season and shaped nicely on his return.
Deceptive (8.00 Wolverhampton)
One To Watch
Double Dealer (Mahmood al-Zarooni) was tanking when meeting traffic at Newmarket last Saturday and roared home for third when breaking free.
Where The Money's Going
Goldikova continues to be supported for the Breeders' Cup Mile, Coral going 7-4 from 2-1.
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