Alex Massie

Department of Equine Hyperbole

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Sea the Stars winning the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images.

So long, then, Sea the Stars. A shame you won't run as a four year old or in the Breeders' Cup but hardly a surprise that you're heading straight for the stud farm. The BBC News last night suggested you were the greatest horse we'd ever seen and an editorial in today's Times suggests you may "without much quibble, be considered the greatest" of all champions.

This is a typically unecessary piece of hyperbole. It doesn't diminish Sea the Stars one bit to note that there is room for quibble here. Comparing horses from different generations is even more difficult than measuring human athletic achievements across the years, not least because even the ratings don't pretend to tell the full story.

True, you could argue that Sea the Stars won a "modern" Triple Crown (Guineas, Derby and Arc) and that this hasn't been done before*. You could also argue, quite plausibly, that had he been tested more thoroughly he might have earned a higher rating.

As it is, however, Timeform, who know about these things, rate him on 140, alongside Dancing Brave, Shergar and Dubai Millenium as one of the four greatest horses of the past 35 years. That's pretty heady company in itself, but still a little behind Mill Reef (141), Brigadier Gerard (144) and Sea Bird (145).

This doesn't diminish Sea the Stars at all. On the contrary it demonstrates how fortunate we've been to see a horse of such greatness perform this summer. But while we rightly garland him with honours, it's enough to say that he's one of the greatest we've seen these past fifty years without having to resort to any unecessary hyperbole.

*Though if memory serves, only a jockey-error kept Dancing Brave from winning the Derby - his sole defeat on the track. Jockey-errors count of course. But still...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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