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'Enigmatic' Budapest Bullet a chip off old bloc?


ENIGMATIC bunch, those Hungarians. That seems to be the adjective of choice when that nation's sons and daughters find a wider audience, but if the cap fits ... The wiliness of that country's inhabitants has long been renowned - it's been said that a Hungarian is the only man who can follow you into a revolving door and come out ahead.

The national drink, the herbal liqueur Unicum, is a salutary lesson in the joys of sobriety, an enigma wrapped up in a riddle inside a mysterious dark bottle. One shot of it is one too many. The language is an impenetrable collision of consonants, the currency an incompatible wad of notes over which Europe's euro-accustomed bank tellers shake their heads in vexation.

The list of famous Hungarians is quite a bit longer than the one of famous Belgians, and they're enigmatic virtually to a man. Ferenc Puskas didn't look much like a footballer, but he orchestrated the Mighty Magyars who humbled the England football team in 1953. Liszt, Leo Szilard, Erno Rubik, Vlad the Impaler. Need I say more? I'm not sure how you'd measure enigmaticness (enigmaticity?) in a horse. How do you know what's going on in the back of his mind? Are we anthropomorphising horses too much to consider their waking thoughts to be anything other than food and sex, rather like a teenager, with geldings being necessarily much more single-minded? To term a horse as an 'enigma' is generally a variation on a theme of diversion, usually soft-soaping something undesirable about their character rather than hinting at anything mysteriously romantic - think Ubedizzy, Arcadian Heights.

However, the Hungarian sprinter Overdose has now evidently been filed in the same pigeonhole as his countrymen, with William Hill PR spokeswoman Lucy Rhodes labelling him 'enigmatic' in a recent press release about the King's Stand Stakes.

But, surely, there aren't any horses less enigmatic than the Budapest Bullet, a sobriquet coined in this column and regrettably unpatented. The stalls clang open, he heads for the horizon like, well, a bullet, race over. It's about as pure and simple and euphoric as horseracing gets.

Admittedly, Overdose's background errs to the enigmatic. To most people he's the strangely-named Flat equivalent of Esha Ness, his fame resting mainly on his victory in the other 'race that never was', the 2008 Prix de l'Abbaye.

After that glorious yet unrewarded flowering of his talents, he became almost a recluse in his ancient box at the Dunakeszi yard of Jaegermeistersipping trainer Sandor Ribarszki, nursing a bad foot and watched over practically night and day by two burly bouncers, instructed to keep the world from beating a path to his door and peeping inside.

Okay, that lent an enigmatic air to his character. Not many horses are afforded the level of protection normally enjoyed by pop stars and senior gangsters.

The prime of his career seemed to be passing unseen, an equine Howard Hughes whiling away the days in the half-light of a half-opened window, but Overdose made his comeback last summer only to blow his unbeaten record in a bad-tempered display at Baden-Baden, the cachet of his perfect record and the increasingly inescapable notion that here indeed was an unbeatable horse gone in a spasm of - yes - slightly enigmatic behaviour.

THEN he disappeared again, but last Sunday he resurfaced at Hoppegarten and thrashed his overmatched rivals with a trademark display of controlled ferocity.

It was a race in name only, more accurately an exhibition event and there was nothing remotely enigmatic about it, but it served to remind the racing world that the Bullet was back. Now, he's coming to a racecourse near you, very near you if you happen to live in the vicinity of Haydock. His new trainer Josef Roszival is shooting for the Temple Stakes as a sighter for the King's Stand, for which you can get 10-1 if you're quick.

There is something about a world-class sprinter in full cry that takes the whole catholic sprawl of the sport and distills it into a 60-second jolt of sheer exhilaration. Speed thrills, man. There's no need for intricate tactical finesse, no need to wait for the payoff.

The Australian phenomenon Black Caviar is packing them in Down Under, but the sprint scene in Britain and Ireland has been a little moribund of late outside the annual migration of her compatriots to Royal Ascot.

Overdose is back just at the right time. You can carp about the minor races he has won in Europe, laugh at the form of the horses he has beaten, but if he retains the ability he showed at Longchamp two and a half years ago his Haydock rivals will need a map and a compass to follow him.

Enigmatic? Maybe a little, just like any good Hungarian.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 23, 2011
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