Ten command performances- Racing: Slogger who battled to summit

Ten command performances that lit up 1998

JUVENILE EARS may have been clipped after some racing aficionados got round to viewing the video of the Grand National of 1998.

This was the race that was run in porridge ground made treacherous by the persistent downpour, a race when only six of the 37 runners finished, a race in which three of the combatants fought their last battle.

When you watch a replay of this murderous contest it is easy to imagine that someone has been meddling with the recording equipment. The race appears to be run almost entirely in slow motion. The winner takes almost 11 minutes to get round, in a time over two minutes slower than Mr Frisk's course record.

The little horse which towed the bulk home like a tug that day goes by the name of Earth Summit. He is perhaps the slowest good horse there has ever been.

On the Gloucestershire gallops of his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Earth Summit occasionally has to be pulled off the main track to let other horses by. When a member of the string requires confidence-boosting by slaughtering a workmate they put him side by side with this established plodder.

If, however, they had made the Titanic out of the same material as Earth Summit's body there would have been a lot of little ice cubes floating in the north Atlantic. This equine creature's relish for toughness is unprecedented.

He has fought all his life has Earth Summit. As a young horse his hooves used to curl forward like Aladdin's slippers, but he has overcome that physical infirmity. Aintree continued his National collection as he already has the Scottish and Welsh versions in his scrapbook.

In addition, Earth Summit appears to have survived a racing Armageddon quite sweetly. He has won over the Liverpool Himalayas this season and a recent second place at Haydock to Suny Bay, Britain's top-rated chaser, may have been the best performance of his life.

Earth Summit will soon be 11 and entering the vintage category, but no sign of deterioration to bodywork or engine have emerged. His personal sustainment follows the extension of the National Hunt dream - that you can buy a horse cheaply which wins the sport's most high-profile race. The gelding's six owners paid pounds 5,800 for their noble beast and have subsequently enjoyed 10 victories from 36 starts and over pounds 370,000 in prize money.

The Summit Partnership will not remember their horse for how he has enriched them. They will select, instead, the day in April when he won perhaps the most arduous race ever seen on a British racecourse.

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