Course Thumbnails G-P

Part Two of my thumbnail sketches of our racecourses, this time G-P.

Goodwood

Set on the South Downs with stunning views on a clear day the racing is generally of a high quality.

Spacious enclosures and good viewing make for a great days racing.

My biggest gripe is the ultra-strict dress code in the Richmond Enclosure where gentlemen may only remove their jackets when somebody at the course decides they can – I’m more than capable of deciding when I’m too hot. 7/10

Hamilton

One of those so-so courses, nothing to really complain about but nothing to get over excited about either.

If there is such a thing as an “average” racecourse then Hamilton would be the one.

Haydock

I could write War And Peace about Haydock but this is a thumbnail so I will try and be succinct.

Haydock used to be one of the top National Hunt courses in the country, in the past few years it has been ruined to the point you wonder why they bother with National Hunt racing.

The course has superb enclosures and a lovely parade ring but one is left with the impression their priority is to get as many drinkers into the course as possible and never mind the racing. 3/10 where it has the potential to be a 7/10

Hexham

When I was describing Hexham to someone a few weeks ago I described it as the Goodwood of the North.

At first glance that may sound an odd comparison but in terms of a stunning natural location the comparison is apt.

On a clear day there are stunning views of the Northumbrian landscape, the trouble is clear days are the exception.

With no grandstand as such racegoers are exposed on a wild day but that should not detract.

The quality of racing is not high but a day at Hexham is invariably a pleasure. 8/10

Huntingdon

This may come as a surprise but I love Huntingdon.

Visually bland, a flat (physically) course on first impression it doesn’t look much.

However the racing is of a reasonable standard, viewing is good, although a big screen at all meetings would be good. There is a very knowledgeable and passionate crowd. 8/10

Kelso

A really difficult course to get to, unless you live in the Borders of course, but well worth the trip. Although it is probably one of the most difficult tracks to get to if you rely on public transport.

A “proper” National Hunt course, with a good knowledgeable crowd. Again not the highest quality racing but a venue for a great days racing. 8/10

Kempton

Another course which has been ruined. It was a great turf track but now flat racing is restricted to Polytrack.

Notwithstanding my not being keen on artificial surface racing, the track being set inside the turf course is too far from the stands. The floodlighting is not that good with very poor light on the far turn of the outer loop.

The one redeeming feature is the course still hosts national hunt racing. 5/10

Leicester

This is a course where my heart rules my head.

Being cold and unemotional it has little going for it.

The track itself is variable, it’s the only course I can recall seeing both” good to firm” and “soft” in the same going description. The members stand has seen better days and the racing is invariably low grade.

But I really like Leicester. They course is welcoming, I love the old stand, viewing is pretty good and the Aberdeen Angus Hot beef stall is the best food stall at any racecourse.   7/10

Lingfield

An all weather track redeemed by its turf racing.

Lingfield is one of the prettiest, best maintained tracks in the country and the Leafy Lingfield tagline is justified.

It’s a physically large track with good viewing. A good selection of food to suit all pockets and they have very informative information boards (which other courses should take note of) for the not so regular or new racegoers. 7/10

Ludlow

In my sketch about Chester I said most racegoers wouldn’t care if there was three legged donkey racing at the course.

I feel the same about Ludlow – even if they staged three legged donkey racing I would still want to go there – if only for the best stand anywhere in British racing.

If they ever think about demolishing that stand I will get contracts taken out on all those who make the decision. (that is a joke by the way, lest anyone with humour failure decides to call Knacker of The Yard – but you get my drift)

Looking like a refugee from a Victorian esplanade the magnificent flat roofed stand offers stunning views of the course and the surrounding hills, making racing a delight (although often cold as the roof is exposed)

There is no need to worry about the racing either as it is often competitive with a loyal, local crowd. 8/10    

Market Rasen

Rasen is another of those courses which seems to be a long way from anywhere if you aren’t a local but another where the journey is worth it.

Well laid out with excellent viewing the quality can be pretty decent as well. 8/10

Musselburgh

Musselburgh seems to have its own microclimate as when the rest of Scotland freezes they still seem to be able to race.

It’s another of those middle of the road courses, nothing flash but nothing to complain about. A good days racing and reasonable crowds.  6/10

Newbury

Newbury is an odd course – it seems too big!!

The stands are a long way back from the track and if in the stands you almost feel detached from the action.

Due to the size, unless there is a big crowd the place feels empty. On the other hand when the crowds are big they tend to get a bit “lively” - so finding the balance is difficult.

It’s a shame because the racing at Newbury is usually of a good standard but something does not feel right about it. 6/10

Newcastle

On the plus side the enclosures are well laid out and viewing of the racing is reasonable but not perfect .

The downside of the track, especially at the “big” meetings is it mirrors the City’s nightlife – drink as much as possible and lets all get bladdered.

Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration but it’s not far short. I know press room colleagues who refuse point blank to cover some of the big Saturday meetings because of the atmosphere. Quiet midweek meetings 6/10, big meetings 2/10

Newmarket (July)

Viewing is poor, races over 1m 2f use a dog leg out of view of the enclosures and because it is a straight course most of the viewing is head on.

That aside it is a truly delightful course – no other course in the country has a thatched weighing room or saddling boxes.

The Friday evening concerts can be packed with people not interested in the racing and teenyboppers if a boy band is performing.

Ignoring the music nights it is a delightful course and much more relaxed than it’s neighbour. 8/10 (non-music nights)

Newmarket (Rowley)

In complete contrast to the July course I find the Rowley Mile course soulless and depressing.

Viewing issues are the same as the July course but the grandstand is a concrete monstrosity which is in complete contrast to the atmospheric buildings on the July course.

Indeed the Rowley Mile course is one of those courses which is much more attractive behind than in front of the stands.

I don’t know why but the Rowley Mile seems to attract a more rowdy crowd than the July Course. 4/10

Newton Abbot

Another of those courses which offers no frills but just an honest to goodness, down to earth, grass roots National Hunt experience.

There are some knowledgeable locals but with most of their racing in the summer they attract the holiday crowd and more than their fair share of occasional racegoers.

They do have some of the best value meals you will find on a racecourse. 7/10

Nottingham

For some reason Nottingham always seems a difficult course to get to, not least if you come from the M1 you end up having do go through the city to get there.

Another of those courses which is prettier behind rather than in front of the stands. The course is functional rather than flash.

The racing is reasonable and there are worse courses to visit. 6/10

Perth

This is the course I have visited fewest times and I have not been there for five years (although I hope to rectify that next week).

From what I recall there is a loyal local following for what is another good, small, national hunt course.

Viewing isn’t particularly brilliant with the low Grandstand. 7/10

Plumpton

I’m going to start to sound like a cracked record here but we have another perfect small NH course.

Functional buildings, a testing course – especially after it has rained for a few days – and a loyal local following.

Another course with grass roots racing at its very best. 8/10

Pontefract

Look at the horizon and you will see Ferrybridge Power Station look around you and you are in a delightful park setting.

Impressive old red brick stands, four enclosures to suit all tastes and a management team who love the course.

The welcome is warm, the racing competitive and a great place to while away a summer afternoon. 8/10

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