• Racecourse Visits

    My small achievement to attend a meeting at all UK and Irish Courses

    I love going racing.

     

    This has little or nothing to do with the Festival. In late 1976 I first attended Down Royal in a fine aqua coloured Datsun 100A. We should have been at Queens University lectures but instead 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 on course clerk in 2008. On the 12th July 2018 on the Newmarket July course I completed the list. I have now attended a meeting at ALL 85 UK and Irish courses (plus Folkestone, no longer with us). As this background shows I was kindly interviewed for a few seconds on ITV 3 Racing that day by Oli Bell. A nice way to signal the achievement even though I'm not sure he understood a word that I said. Filling the screen. My self imposed rule was that if they hold NH, then I had to attend a NH meeting.

     

    Most of my days out have been good fun. Racing days out are always better when you have company, a couple of beers and you leave with more money than you came with. We enter these places with hope and expectation. Some courses have been real gems and only the odd one has disappointed a little. They all do the same things but in slightly idiosyncratic different ways. Really pleased I don't live in USA where they are all the same. I particularly like those who provide something that is local such as Badger Beer Ale, Sticky Toffee Pudding or those fish stalls at Fakenham.

     

    Below is a few lines on each course, still a work in progress.

     

     

     

     

  • In Alphabetical Order

     

    Ayr. Industrial. Have been there to watch a Scottish Grand National and an average Saturday Evening Flat meeting. Most Nationals become Zoos after a couple of races (see Fairyhouse) and Ayr is no exception. But sat down with a pint in the enclosure and found another chap on a similar mission to my own. Race meetings are full of nice people who like to chat. The Ayr entrance is not inviting and the other stands needed at least a like of paint. Sharp track. Easy enough to get to from Belfast with Larne Boat/train. Won't rush back.

     

    Bangor wasn't a highlight (we're not off to a great start). Seemed a strange spot to drive to as you come through some middle class housing estate. Very flat course but with good banks from which to watch. The finish is a problem as you are standing at right angles and its impossible to make a judgement. Parade ring is fine and I found staff very helpful. Sorry but not keen on that Bangor/Chesterbet thing. Seems a con for unknowing punters. We left and thought just 'ticked off'. John Parrott was there though. Didn't mention my favourite ever sports headline. 'Snooker - Davis Stuffs Parrott.'

     

    Steve took a table at Carlisle, the restaurant has great views of the racecourse which flows away down the far side. Food and service was excellent. Television once again flattens out that huge climb back, very reminiscent of Towcester. Well worth a visit just to see it. No wonder they are tired, after the last. Backed a couple of winners, Crossbow Creek won at Ludlow. In those days we had a Times Tipster Rob Wright theory. He was top of the tipsters table and his outsiders seemed to obliging at the away fixture for some reason

     

    Went to Cartmel with Steve on a Sunday in May 2017. Liked the drive on the narrow roads til found myself behind a horsebox meeting a caravan. Arrived an hour early thinking there would be a lot more traffic. Seems that the locals arrive about 4 hrs in advance to claim their individual named picnic sites right on the edge of the course. Looks great. A pre requisite for Cartmel would be a sober driver as none of the picnickers seem 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. Well positioned big screens in this quirky layout. Great views of the countryside. Liked it. Will return.

     

    Steve and I returned to Cheltenham for the Festival in 2017. Been going there since 1985. 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 burgers just 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. I remain in awe of the place and its 34 yrs since my first visit.

     

    Went back to Cheltenham for December 2018. That weekend where Storm Deirdre took over and it would have foundered you. Frodon won the big handicap chase with a handicap of 164. Love Frodon. Waited, frozen, at the bottom of that walkway after Bryony Frost would have been interviewed by ITV when circling at the top. Hardly a sinner with me. At she went past I applauded and said 'Well done, Bryony, he's a machine.' Got a nice smile in return, she taps him on the neck and says, 'Do you hear that, you're a machine.' Well, to hell with cash, my day made, you couldn't faze me last night. My chums hardly made it out of that plush members bar all day. Gave them some stick for being fair weather NH fans.

     

    Went to the Chester Cup in May 2016. was looking forward to this. 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 at Chester 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 (or jus), '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. Wifi and 4G seems to be blocked except for the sponsoring bookies. And then there is Chesterbet, a Tote with another slice taken of it. A local said to me, that 'they would charge you to breathe the air, if they could.' For me, not value.

     

    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. It is 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. I know he's no longer there but it remains a credit to Mike Todd and his team. The racing is competitive and bookies tend to do better there than at Downpatrick where G Elliott and W Mullins sometimes just farm the place. I have a great view from my stool at the line nearest the course. Recently the track have provided decent large screens for people to watch the racing on the far side. Only about 1m 2f 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. A nice, fun track.

     

    Have done the last two Hattons Grace days at Fairyhouse. First weekend in December, the day after the Ladbroke at Newbury. One of the big pre Christmas Irish racing days and not busy. Three Grade 1s. A privilege to watch Hurricane Fly settle a Hattons Grace in about three strides. The Fly and Simonsig are the faster NH horse I have ever witnessed. Parade ring intimate and easy to get close to winning connections. Good viewing track. Went to one Easter Monday Irish National. Unlikely to return. The place is just not big enough for that number of people.

     

    Leopardstown is a great racecourse and probably Ireland's premier.. Been fortunate that Eugene gets tickets for that splendid second floor bar and seats on the upper tier. Must remember not to stand up and cheer a winner home as the people behind can get very cross. If you go down one floor, there is an excellent spot to watch the parade ring before and after each race. Try to bet with the Keenan family. Fair, honest bookies in the ring who don't a shy from taking a bet. The buses in and out of the big car park are an excellent idea. Why do the sweet sellers outside always sell big tubes of Toblerone?

     

    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 are great big Armitage Shanks urinals. Something you rarely see. David Ashworth on his Racing Post tour gave the best urinals award to Market Rasen. Well, I've been at both and Ludlow definitely gets my vote. 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. Ludlow has fantastic views of the racing. You are able to climb up in the stands to higher than the TV cameras and see everything totally unrestricted.

     

    Was invited as a guest to Naas 27th January 2019 to see Ballyward beat Chris's Dream in the G3 three mile novice chase. The place has come on buckets since my last visit in 2016. Well spruced up, comfortable public areas, great hospitality. Deceptively steep finish in the last two to three furlongs. Look forward to returning. Would like to see a big screen for the grandstands, though. Would bring people back, force them out of the bars and add to the atmosphere.

     

    In May 2017 I did the Cartmel/Pontefract double. Wouldn't say that the town itself is totally inviting. However the course itself has a lovely majestic entrance with plenty of grass and trees. Nice new parade ring. The stands themselves facing the course are a little bit tired. The Course is nearly two miles round, 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. Couldn't do enough for you. That offer was very popular with disabled racegoers. Well done. Backed Ms Paige Fuller in the last to win at a big price. Nice summer day. Nothing not to like.

     

    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 has a lovely view and seems very fair with a nice little uphill finish. You can see why top trainers bring young 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. And they don't rip you off. I'd drive back.

     

    A lesson learnt at the Thurles meeting in 1978. Paul Robin and I were on a student jolly in the South . Very little money. A day at Thurles was fun. We were betting in pennies. Just before the bumper, Paul said that he fancied an unraced one called Baby Isle at 10/1. Was going to have a tenner on it, a big enough bet in those days for students. 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. Thought for a moment and then agreed. Baby Isle led from the start, never saw another horse and won hard held by 20 lengths. He has never forgiven me and has never forgotten the name of the horse. I have never again advised anyone on the size of their bet.

     

    Worcester. Have to confess about Worcester. Went to a Saturday evening meeting in July 1990 and my memory tells me it was flat and sharpish with tired(ish) facilities. AP won at least one race, unsupported by me. My big memory was coming to the track down the Severn by barge. We moored up very close to the course. Found it hard to believe seeing an angler every 10 yards on both sides of that river. I know it has been flooded at least once since 1990 and facilities have been completely revamped. Steve and I plan to return in 2019.

     

    York. Love York, my favourite high class Flat racing track. They make everything easy to watch and unlike Chester and Ascot, make you feel welcome. Great viewing track and a lovely town. Have promised myself to return for the Ebor meeting and I haven't promised myself to return to too many other Flat tracks. Maybe Newmarket July, but that's about it. Great day out.

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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.  I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors.  (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). 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. Oh yes, and if you're called Rory Delargy, you can't win the quiz too often.

Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol.  A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.