For the Tatts, the spring equinox to the summer solstice usually signals the deliberate build-up to the Christmas Blade. The slow increase in morning light giving the promise of another year successfully completed matched by the slow increase in rowing recruits feigning capabilities to capture the Handicapper’s favourable attention. Such praying has been a timeless source of amusement to the Handicapper not given to humour in such matters. But not this year. Major General Turnbull’s new 5-day Relay left the AD looking like July in Passchendaele. Only a surviving four – three chunks and a greyhound – survived to make a final assault and win rights at Fort Bragg.
The Handicapper walked the line issuing final instructions. The Chunks looked pensive, throttled by the voice on the shoulder, giving conflicting opinions as to the effort required. Constant mental bargaining ensued. No such problem, however, for Coco, who despite taking one to the leg, knows only one speed when the whistle blows. That and, one suspects, a determination to avenge the 1 sec loss of 2020. “Just a flesh wound.”
The whistle and all were away. The Handicapper seeks to apply a distance to each that results in all finishing as close to 20 minutes as possible. The early stages looked competitive with each holding to a time that would achieve the desired result. At 17 minutes, however, decisions must be made as to whether the voice on the shoulder will be heard or the assault is to be completed with a disregard to the personal consequences.
As the seconds elapsed, the chirping from the shoulder was almost audible among the Chunks but Coco knew how to turn down the volume and disregard the consequences. Willing himself forward, the clock stopped at 19:58.9 over 5,025m. Gallant. A genuine effort. A victory richly deserved. 2020 had been lanced. ‘Son of Coco’ would be proud. The Handicapper’s work accurate…but Coco will need both legs next year.
Christmas Blade 2022 Winner: John V Edstein with Friday morning regulars.