My ambition to attend meetings at all UK and Irish Courses
This has little or nothing to do with the Festival. In late 1976 I first attended Down Royal in Robin's fine dark aqua coloured Datsun 100A. We stood there and looked in awe at Brown Lad. Ever since I have been keen to attend meetings at as many different racecourses as possible. This bucket list has become more accessible since I started work as Dan's clerk in 2008. I have now covered all of Ireland and as of February 2017 have only Cartmel, Pontefract, Bath, Salisbury and the Newmarket July course to tick off across the water. I think it is near 90 courses in total. If my marriage holds, I hope to have visited those five by the summer of 2018. We aim to finish with a day out at the Newmarket July Course.
Later in 2017 I intend to use this page to scribble a few lines about each of my experiences at the courses, most of which have been good fun. Racecourses always tends to be better when you have company and you leave with more money than you came with. They are places where we all enter with hope and expectation. Some courses have been real gems and only the odd one has disappointed a little. The only rules I have given myself is that if they hold NH Racing, then I must attend a NH meeting. And if they demolish Kempton I will refuse to go to watch AW at Newmarket. I'm not sure that the Jockey Club will be that concerned.
Went to Cartmel with Steve on a Sunday in May 2017. Liked the drive on the narrow roads until I found myself behind a horsebox meeting a caravan. I arrived an hour early and thought there would be a lot more traffic. Didn't realise that all the locals arrive about 4 hrs in advance to claim their individual picnic sites which can be right on the edge of the course. Looks great. It seems that a pre requisite for Cartmel would be a sober driver as none of the picnickers seemed keen to leave quickly after the last. We had fun trying to find the best viewing position and agreed on the little stand behind the 'main' stand. You can see about 40% of the action but, like Bangor, you are at right angles to the finishing line. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Well positioned big screens in this quirky layout. Great views of the countryside. Won £130 on the placepot. Hope to return.
Steve from Hexham and I returned to Cheltenham for the Festival in 2017. Very impressed with the new layout and walkways above the parade ring. We hurried in at 1030 each morning and settled ourselves in the sunshine at the seats outside the See You Then Bar. Had a few Guinness and chatted to friends and whoever who strolled by between then and 1230. Watched the racing from the lawn at the third pillar down from the rails in the Club Enclosure. That bit was packed for the Supreme Novice Hurdle but we found that it easy viewing for the rest of the races, even the Champion ones. Impressed with the organised exit speed from the car park (unlike Sandown). Food outlets are always busy. We find it strange to watch people queueing for food as the horses leave the parade ring for the 2017 Champion Hurdle. Surely if they have made the trek, they could eat some other time.
In 2017 I returned to Thurles to take in the Kinloch Brae won that day by Sizing John. The last time I was there was 1978 and to be honest, I don't think they have done that much to the facilities since. The lady serving coffee thought I was mad to do a day trip from North Down. The course still has a lovely view and seems very fair with a nice little uphill finish. You can see why top trainers bring horses to it. The feeding facilities for racegoers are a touch primitive but I really liked the intimate parade ring where you could overhear Jack Kennedy briefing Gordon post race on The Storyteller, Eddie O'Leary congratulating Jessie on Sizing John 'the horse deserved it', Willie talking to owners. I also seemed to be the only person in the stand cheering home Realt Mor at 25s in a handicap hurdle. What was not to like? David Ashworth, from the Racing Post, in his tour of UK and Irish Racecourses rated Thurles in last place of them all. I think that very unfair. The place exudes a warm welcome and Kinloch Brae Day always has good quality racing.
I learned a lesson at the Thurles meeting in 1978. Paul, Robin and I were on a student week long jolly in the South . Very little money between us but we had a small tent and Paul's red Vauxhall Chevette. A day at Thurles was fun. We were betting in pennies. Just before the last race, the bumper, Paul said that he fancied an unraced one called Baby Isle at 10/1. Said that he was going to have a tenner on it, a big enough bet in those days for students with very little folding. Those days, might have bought you eight pints. I asked him how much he was behind. He said £18. I suggested that he have £2 on it with the theory that if it won, he would be clear and if it didn't, it was just another small loss. He thought for a moment and then agreed. In the race, Baby Isle led from the start, never saw another horse and won hard held by 20 lengths. My friend Paul then chased me around the car park, fuming. He has never let me forget the name of the horse and I have never again advised anyone on the size of their bet.
Feel free to return later in the year and disagree with my views. I will still be collecting money for charity.
Wealth Warning. Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader. There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice (Gary). The Stats Proverb says 'Relevance Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.' I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors. Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races. I tend to improve as a tipster as the week goes on, possibly too concerned on the Tuesday. It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race. Stands now at 8. Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle. Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite. Always happens. Usually on Gold Cup Day Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol. A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.