National Emblem
National Emblem

National Emblem (SAF)

(Photo : Sporting Post)

“National Emblem’s performances were inexplicably

blunted when he went anti-clockwise”

mick goss - summerhill stud
mick goss - summerhill stud

Mick Goss

Summerhill Stud CEOThere are all sorts of theories as to why some horses only act on a right or a left-hand course, and why others seem to manage both directions. By that we mean clockwise and anti-clockwise and there are many examples illustrating both. Perhaps the starkest is that of National Emblem, who was virtually unassailable up to a mile on a right hand bend, but whose performances were inexplicably blunted when he went anti-clockwise. Vets, zoologists and any number of horsemen have had a stab at the answers, yet few of them have ever been able to provide a scientific response which puts the matter finally to rest.

For what it’s worth, National Emblem’s career record read like this:


1991 Chestnut colt by National Assembly - Title Page, by Welsh Harmony (in South Africa)

Race Record

09/Apr/1994 1st Gosforth Juvenile Stakes (c&g), Gr.2, 1400m.

On the Tiles was 2nd and Travel North 3rd. Right handed

26/Nov/1994 3rd Turffontein Dingaans Handicap, Gr.2, 1600m.

Travel North was 1st and Naiyerah 2nd. Right handed

22/Feb/1995 1st Newmarket TC MEC Guineas, Gr.3, 1600m.

Teal was 2nd and Royal Showman 3rd. Right handed

18/Mar/1995 1st Turffontein Classic, Gr.1, 1800m.

Teal was 2nd and Final Coast 3rd. Right handed

06/May/1995 2nd South African Guineas, Gr.1, 1600m.

Teal was 1st and Bushmanland 3rd. Right handed

10/Jun/1995 1st Gosforth Jubilee Handicap, L, 1700m.

Special Preview was 2nd and Anarch 3rd. Right handed

01/Jul/1995 3rd Greyville July Handicap, Gr.1, 2200m.

Teal was 1st and Barrellen 2nd. Right handed

30/Sep/1995 1st Turffontein John Skeaping Trophy Stakes, Gr.2, 1800m.

Dupa Dice was 2nd and Hawkeye 3rd. Right handed

04/Nov/1995 2nd Gosforth Germiston November Handicap, Gr.1, 1600m.

Golden Globe was 1st and Garb of Guise 3rd. Right handed

27/Apr/1996 1st Turffontein Premier’s Cup, Gr.1, 2000m.

Dupa Dice was 2nd and Tickets and Tax 3rd. Right handed

09/Aug/1996 1st Greyville Champion Stakes, Gr.1, 2000m.

Teal was 2nd and Western Rocket 3rd. Right handed

01/Mar/1997 1st Turffontein Keith Hepburn Champion Stakes, Gr.2, 1400m.

Divine Force was 2nd and See a Penny 3rd. Right handed

08/Apr/1997 3rd Turffontein First National Bank Stakes, Gr.1, 1600m.

Record Edge was 1st and Just Andre 2nd. Right handed

04/Jun/1997 1st Greyville Chairman’s Stakes, Gr.2, 1200m.

Taban was 2nd and Shoe Shac 3rd. Right handed

National Emblem was as good a horse at 6-8 furlongs as we’ve known, and was as a result several times the starting favourite for the country’s two top weight-for-age 1600s, the Queen’s Plate and the Gold Challenge, around the left hand bends of Kenilworth and Clairwood. As you can see from his record, he came up empty on all of those occasions.

Just recently we came across an article in Braintainment, penned by an athlete called Franz Oosthuizen. This is what he had to say: “No one knows for certain why they run counter-clockwise. It probably started because of being right handed. Another plausible reason is that in humans the left leg is generally shorter than the right one. This makes turning left easier and more natural. If you were to be blindfolded and asked to walk, you would walk in anticlockwise circles. Scientifically, as the heart is in the left side, for humans and animals running anticlockwise makes the centrifugal force in the body act from left to right. Superior venecava takes blood to the heart aided by heart suction. This vein carries blood from left to right. Centrifugal force due to anticlockwise running helps this suction. If we run clockwise, the centrifugal force impedes suction.”

Speaking personally, it never occurred to me that my left leg might be shorter than my right. Practically, my legs are already short enough, and I can hardly afford one to be shorter than the other, but I have to confess to a feeling that I prefer to run left-handed rather than right-handed. That might be force of habit, of course, but it doesn’t help us to understand why National Emblem was better at Greyville than he was at Clairwood. Do you have any ideas?