• Racecourse Visits

    My ambition to attend meetings at all UK and Irish Courses

     

    This has little or nothing to do with the Festival. In late 1976 as an eighteen year old I first attended Down Royal in Robin's fine aqua coloured Datsun 100A. We stood at the last fence 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 became more accessible when I started work as Dan's clerk in 2008. On the 12th July 2018 on the Newmarket July course I achieved the small ambition. I have now attended a meeting at ALL 85 UK and Irish courses (plus Folkestone). The only self imposed rule is that if they hold NH, then I had to attend a NH meeting. Not a Flat fan. Dan will gloat that I missed Tralee as he has been there and it no longer holds race meetings. In 2019 I aim to go to their point to point meeting as it continues to be held on the racecourse. The best I can do.

     

    I am using 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. These 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. If they demolish Kempton I will refuse to go to watch AW at Newmarket. Not sure that the Jockey Club will be that concerned about me.

     

    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 named picnic sites which tend to 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 will be 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. Will return.

     

    Steve 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 couple of Guinness and chatted to friends and whoever strolled by between then and 1230hrs. 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 G1s. Impressed with the organised exit speed from the car park (unlike Sandown). Food outlets are always busy. It is strange to watch people queueing for food as the horses leave the parade ring for the Champion Hurdle. Surely if they have made the trek, could food not wait? In November 2017 we went to the BetVictor chase weekend we found that in front of the new Princess Royal stand provides an excellent view of the racing. You are standing half way between the last and the finish line. If a close finish, large screen just in front of you. For the easiest access, come in from the top of that stand.

     

    Went to the Chester Cup in May 2016. Since I had just driven from a day out at Brighton, I was tired but I did feel that Chester disappointed a little. Liked the walkway underneath the track which gives you access to the inside. Laughed a little at the first floor glass viewing area for the footballers and entourage. We could watch them watching the racing. There were no seats in Tattersalls on the entrance side obviously to cram as many as possible into the bars. The lady at the entrance couldn't work the till and seemed quite annoyed that I hadn't bought a ticket beforehand. It was more expensive to get into Tatts there than the Club Enclosure at Newmarket 4 days earlier to watch Minding win the 1000 Guineas. The programme was a fiver and an inch thick with ads but no Racing Post form. I bought a steak pie for £7 but was told if I wanted gravy, 'it was a pound extra'. I was looking forward to seeing the Roodeye track but because of the marquees in the inside of the track, in Tatts you saw no horses until they appeared at the right angled bend 3 furlongs out. And it really is a right angle. If going again best views are either high in the Silver Ring or definitely on the walls outside the course. Not value, for me.

     

    One of my local tracks is Down Royal which won Irish Racecourse of the Year in 2017. A well organised track. Dan and I stand at Pitch No 12 on the same line as Sean Grahams. Even though I have been his clerk for nearly 10 years he likes to say 'you would think you would be better at it by now'. Its mainly a flattish track about 1 mile 6f round with a slight uphill gradient to the finish. Ted Walsh praises the fences. 'Have to be jumped'. Always busy especially on JMW Wine day and Friday nights during the summer. New edition recently is a large marquee for all, in case of rain. I enjoy working there and think it a credit to Mike Todd and his team. The racing is competitive and bookies tend to do better there than at Downpatrick where sometimes Gordon Elliott just farms the place. Again I find the staff friendly. I have a great view from my stool at the line nearest the course. Recently the track have provided good large screens for people to watch. Only about 1 m 2 f round, Downpatrick is very much a switchback course. The hill in the final 2 furlongs is fierce. So fierce in fact as they go into the dip before the final climb they go out of sight to all of us close to the finish. That doesn't come across on TV. It is a bit like Tramore. If going, be advised that Downpatrick town itself is a shocking bottleneck for traffic, especially on a Friday afternoon.

     

    When I thought this task might be possible, Steve and I used to cover 4 or 5 at a time. One of our most pleasant days was at Ludlow in Shropshire. Entry staff couldn't be more helpful and there there are great big Armitage Shanks urinals. Something you rarely see. Amazing what stays in your head. Always decent racing for a small track with good prize money. Said hello to Evan Williams who was very polite. The track is a flat rectangle with the shorter sides at both ends. Thing I remember most about Ludlow is the fantastic views. You are able to climb up in the stands to higher than the TV cameras and see the racing totally unrestricted.

     

    In May 2017 I did the Cartmel/Pontefract double. Wouldn't say that Pontefract town itself is totally inviting. However the course itself has a lovely majestic entrance with plenty of grass and lots of trees. Nice new parade ring if the stands themselves facing the course are a little bit tired. Course itself is nearly two miles round and the last 6 furlongs are straight uphill. Something I didn't realise from watching TV. Need a hardy animal to win there. Nice touch from the course to provide a transit to take people down to the 5f or 6f start so that they could see the sprint starts close up. Seemed to be popular with disabled racegoers. Backed Ms Paige Fuller in the last to win at a big price. Nice day.

     

    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. Might have bought you eight pints, then. 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. Paul, my friend, then ungratefully 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.

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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).  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 worried 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.