The Winners 2004 Under 26 Winner

Several centuries ago a musical duo performing under the moniker 'Zager and Evans' issued a ponderous pop recording called 'In The Year 2525'. The track consisted of a series of questions about the future of mankind and whether our race would even exist in the 26th Century.

Happily the songsters' fears have been put to rest and I'm sure they would be delighted to see how far man has advanced - particularly in the world of sport. They almost certainly could not have perceived the concept of lunar horse racing! Yet yesterday's inaugural meeting at Crater Downs which heralded the New Year was every bit as spectacular as the billing promised.

There were some inevitable technical hitches of course - none more farcical than the malfunction of the Crater Downs Gravity Equalizers. Watching the cloned regenerations of Brigadier Gerard and Brown Jack float towards the apex of the domed roof - more reminiscent of Pegasus than test-tube thoroughbreds - is an image now indelible on my mind.

The all-seated capacity crowd of 25,000 at this landmark meeting were kept on the edge of their seats as fantasy races became a reality - greats from different eras had been especially re-produced by Jockey Club scientists to contest the All-Time Cup and thus bring centuries of emotional debate to a conclusion.

Some purists would indeed prefer to continue with their endless debate about the outcome of these 'what if?' races rather than have definitive evidence by actually running the races. A contingent of this opinion calling themselves "Lunar Friends of Drunken Speculation" waved some banners during the parade prior to the feature race, however they were swiftly removed from the Downs and punished to the full extent of Lunar Law 361.2: 'Causing a Kafuffle at Sports Event'.

Not that their protest got much attention from the crowd anyway, all eyes during the parade were distracted by the 'coltish' behaviour of Saddlers Wells. Initially it was thought that there were further problems with the Gravity Equalizers until a twinkle was spotted in the eye of the stud extraordinaire. It seems the question has finally been answered about what separates Saddlers Wells from his peers...about two and a quarter inches by most accounts.

On-course betting at the meeting was through an innovative new system where every seat has a touch-screen monitor attached to it. All terminals are networked to an exchange limited to the 25,000 spectators to participate in. Interestingly, thanks to the involvement of Trade & Mart online, spectators can wager in commodities other than money. While having a go on this system myself I managed to lay one of the rags in the opener to win a tin-opener, a scratched S-Club Juniors CD and a Scrabble set missing a few vowels - all I had to risk in return was a password to an online tipster's site. No of course it wasn't a password to my tipster site.

An unorthodox step was taken to ensure that there could be no post-race whining about such and such a horse being given an appalling ride and therefore undermining the raison d'etre of the race. It was decided to use Vituajock - a humanoid creation encompassing the best qualities of history's greatest horsemen - to steer each of the champions. In homage to one of the finest all round horsemen in the history of mankind Virtuajock has been created in the likeness of John Wayne. It is believed that the creators wanted Virtuajock to possess the quality of True Grit above all else.

Perhaps it should have been stated earlier in my column, but you are not going to find the result of the All-Time Cup race within this text. That's because I don't know who won it! Now before you go summoning stereotypes about boozy racing hacks and presume me to have been propping a bar somewhere within Crater Downs let me explain something. Every spectator has all information about the running of the All-Time Cup removed from their memory as they pass through a Non-Invasive Memory Editing beam when exiting the course. Ultimately the spectator is left with the memory of having a great day and full recall of absolutely everything about the occasion - except one little gap, no results, no recall of race.

The reason for these seemingly bizarre measures is that Crater Downs is essentially a theme-park style attraction where the same test-tube horses run the same races everyday with the same result for every running. 25,000 people are expected to pack out the domed lunar racecourse everyday - several people are expected to attend everyday because, to their mind, the All-Time Cup is a new live race every time they see it.

Some might call it Groundhog Day, but what a day to live again and again. Perhaps amidst all of this artificial recreation of racing greats it might be prudent to cultivate another Zager and Evans to see what they make of it all.