THE current extreme cold snap, at least for this part of the world, has robbed us of a number of high-profile meetings and races. Thankfully a number of them have been rescheduled, and the upcoming midweek programme is unusually busy for the days and week before Christmas.
If you are well organised, not racing about like a headless chicken, and have some time on your hands this weekend or over the festive period, I would heartily recommend something to do for a few hours.
This year the Aga Khan Studs celebrated its 100-year anniversary with the release of a feature-length film, the wonderfully-named Game of Chess with Nature.
This is a gem, and it enforces for me how fortunate we are to have their presence here in this country. It is also a nod to the importance they attach to Ireland, our land and our horsewomen and men.
The film follows the four seasons of the breeding and racing year at the Aga Khan Studs’ farms and training centres in Ireland and France. Alongside this, it explores the history of the operation, from its foundation by the Aga Khan III in the 1920s, through the successes of Prince Aly Khan in the 1950s, to its development by H.H. the Aga Khan and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, together with some of the household names they bred, raised and raced over the many decades.
You will be treated to interviews with both His Highness and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Irish and French farm and racing managers Pat Downes, Georges Rimaud and Nemone Routh, past and present trainers and jockeys, in addition to many industry figures.
Of particular interest to everyone, whether you are an industry professional, a casual racegoer, or even someone who does not follow the sport, is the unique archive and behind-the-scenes footage. Most will never have such unprecedented access to one of the world’s greatest equine operations, so make sure to take advantage of this opportunity.
The film was directed by Fanny Hubart-Salmon and Dimitrie Iordanesco, and I can only imagine how difficult a job they must have had to narrow down the coverage to what made the final cut. After all, 10 decades have produced champions in unprecedented numbers for an operation that breed to race, and the levels to which the present Aga Khan has taken it is simply awesome.
The second century will begin with high hopes of at least one champion, and I salute the contribution made over the first 100 years. Now sit back and enjoy this treasure.