In truth, ever since that rain-soaked day at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago I have been thinking about writing this piece.
Thinking about what I can say about him, how I can describe the joy he has given so many of us in Ditcheat, talking about his career and all that he has achieved and celebrate the fact that his life is far from over as his hopefully long and healthy retirement begins.
I am of course talking about Politologue, the quite wonderful Politologue who brought the curtain down on his career as he was warmly applauded, covered in sweat, rain water and Cheltenham mud two weeks ago after his gallant fourth in the Champion Chase.
I feel that the facts will give some context to his career before I talk about the lad himself.
Owned by the Hales family, another famous grey for them, I’ll never forget John’s reaction as Guey won his Champion Chase.
A four-time Grade 1 winner, a winner of two Tingle Creeks at Sandown, a Melling Chase, a Champion Chase, a Haldon Gold Cup, an Ascot 1965 Chase – in total Guey ran in 31 races amassing £1,038,065 in prize money, winning on 12 occasions and being out of the first four on just four occasions, two of them when the silly bugger tripped up.
Twice he finished out of the first four then and, in only one of his races during a 31-race career did he finish out of the prize money all together.
He joined Paul in September 2015, a twice-raced novice hurdler, bought by Antony Bromley for the Hales family from Leenders after running out an impressive winner at Auteuil under James Reveley in June that year.
Hurdling was never going to be his game, but he won a Listed hurdle at Exeter on his way to going chasing in the autumn of 2016.
It would be fair to say he was a natural from his first start at a muddy Haydock when Harry Cobden, then second jockey, teamed up with him and cantered round to beat Vintage Clouds by 10 lengths.
I am not going to chronicle his career and talk about all his starts in this piece, I am just going to talk about the significant moments and the memorable occasions and goodness me, there have been plenty.
In the younger dashing days of his first Tingle Creek, a victory which showcased his accurate jumping in seeing off Fox Norton by half-a-length, he looked a champion of the future.
He was, in fairness, more than a little unlucky to rock up in the era of a certain Altior, who despite chasing valiantly on a few occasions, Guey could never quite get him. I think we will let him off for that.
He finished his 2017/8 campaign with my personal highlight of his career in winning the Melling Chase, fending off Min under Sam Twiston-Davies in a titanic struggle in the straight as Townend and Sam asked their mounts for everything after the last.
That win showed to me everything that Politologue was about. Grit, determination and a sheer will to win. The whole way up the straight Min looked to have his number but Guey on a going day was brave and would give you every drop he had if you asked him for it.
He got away from the last slightly quicker and kept Min at bay. It was a special day and a race I will remember him for above all the others.
In truth, as Guey got a little older he, like most, got a little trickier to train, as Grade 1 racing took its toll, but what I adored about him so much was come rain or shine every single day he would face his morning’s work with the same love and enthusiasm as he always did.
I take for granted Paul’s skill to train the thoroughbred to be at their best all the time and I am damn sure many people take for granted his skill at getting the absolute best out of all of his horses.
So perhaps for me the most impressive thing about Paul’s time with Politologue was that his two career defining performances in terms of numbers came following adversity.
Jump to December 2019 when fifth in the Tingle Creek, 18 lengths inferior to Defi Du Seuil on the day. In all honesty he never went at all.
Some thorough checks were carried out as he simply did not run bad races and it then transpired he was bleeding.
Enter Paul and Clifford. They came to the conclusion he was needing a change of routine, a change of plan and, after a chat with the Hales family, decided in order to get him at his best he needed to be fresh and change the way they trained him.
Hannah, who was riding him every day by then, bought into this and together they set about peaking him for the Champion Chase four months later. And peak him they did.
Paul produced a nine-year-old who had experienced plenty of hard racing and problems by that stage to run the race of his life and have his moment in the sun at the Cheltenham festival, a meeting Guey attended on six separate occasions.
It was the first day Harry Skelton had teamed up with him and they gelled perfectly to record a memorable success.
Nine months later he went on to add another Tingle Creek to his cv once again under Harry, his trademark jumping once again proving vital.
That would be the last of Guey’s victories. He ran four times after that Sandown success, running with credit, but towards the end it was clear that although the enthusiasm was not waning, that bit of pace and brilliance he once possessed had now deserted him.
Many sports people from all manner of sports go on too long, let their star fade and the memory of their brilliance then disappears with it. Lots of horses do the same. The may bow out at a lowly meeting when they are not half the horse they were, running stones below what the figures they once proudly recorded.
Paul and the Hales family were adamant that was not for Guey and I thought it was fitting he got to perform his last act on the biggest national hunt stage of them all.
For most of his career Politologue used to get extremely excited and probably a bit nervous before his races so I had the pleasure of leading him out onto the track for many of his races. I will always cherish those moments looking at him after all those Grade 1 battles he’d been in still relishing the challenge of getting out there and giving his all.
In my opinion, Politologue resonated with racing fans initially because he was a gorgeous grey but also because of his bold, front-running style and longevity.
That is in a huge part down to the skill of his handler and Paul has done a magnificent job with him.
I also think it is down to him that for all the hard races Guey had, for all the times he was beaten by more talented horses, until the day he retired he retained every bit of his love and desire to race.
As it transpires, it will probably end up being the last time I ever sat on him, but around two weeks before Cheltenham Paul let me have a sit on him to gallop Guey around Wincanton.
Surrounded by younger horses who now possessed more pace than him, I smirked as he pulled the whole way round the two-mile gallop, wanting to give you more than you needed.
“Whatever you do late on in the gallop look after him, don’t give him a hard time,” were Paul’s last remarks to me as I headed out to the track.
It was even more admirable then that even as the younger horses quickened away from him in the last furlong or so of the gallop he chased them as hard as he could without me asking him to.
He was a special horse that tried his heart out.
Thankfully, because of the boss and the Hales family, Politilogue will retire in good health and just as importantly good heart.
He will spend the summers with the Hales family back with Lisa along with the rest of their lovely horses and spend his winters with Mike and Lucy Felton near Ditcheat going out hunting and generally enjoying a five star home alongside a certain Big Bucks.
And my goodness don’t you deserve it old boy.
The front yard will not be the same without his handsome head looking out from box number two. But everyone’s life that was lucky enough to be intwined with his will not be the same either for a multitude of good reasons.
Working at Paul’s it would be forgiven to occasionally take for granted what special horses we work with, but everyone who has worked with Guey has never done that.
We all know what he has given to us all and we are eternally grateful to him for it.
Above my bed I have a big picture of me and him walking into the yard after a routine day of training. I smile at that picture regularly. How lucky was I.
So Politologue, thank you. Thank you for trying so hard, for giving so much and for being so good. You are a wonderfully kind horse and deserve a wonderful retirement.
You my friend are a very special horse. Go well Guey.