Doesn't Time Fly

I don’t know about you but when I was a child the six week school summers holidays seemed to last for an eternity. Long days and weeks playing outside, or more likely stuck indoors in the pouring rain having to amuse ourselves. There were no computer games, indeed it was only large multinational corporations who could afford any computing power, and not even any television to be planted in front of. We had to use our imaginations to generate our entertainment.

I am minded of the seemingly long summer holidays as I look at the calendar and realise we are fast approaching the end of June and I am wondering where this year has gone. Is it really six months ago that the racing program was being decimated by the bad weather?

Where has the time gone, these last six months have flown by far faster than a six week summer holiday ever did.

I have this theory about why time seems faster as we get older. When you are seven years old one year represents just over 14% of your entire life, at my ripe age of 55 that year represents a mere 1.81% of my life. So that same year is now just a tiny proportion of my life so it seems to pass by quicker. This is my theory of relativity anyway and much easier to comprehend that Einstein’s.

Each year I aim to visit every one of the UK’s racecourses at least once. I say aim as it isn’t always that simple, indeed it is a logistical nightmare.

In 2008 I missed the target by just one, with York thwarting the ambition by having the Ebor meeting  Cancelled and not having their usual later meetings due to maintenance work.

Last year was even worse as I missed the target by four, this time the culprits being four of the five Scottish courses.

As I write this on 28th June I have visited 34 different courses so far this year and, all being well, the tally will have hit 36 by the time this month ends in two days time. I also have dates pencilled in for all the remaining ones, apart from two – which are, guess what, two of the Scottish ones.

Who knows this may yet be the year when I finally crack all the courses in a calendar year.

I have nothing but admiration, therefore, for Bob Champion who recently visited all 60 racecourses in 60 days. In 59 cases he managed to visit the courses on a race day, the only exception being Taunton which he visited on a special event day.

His route was tortuous to say the least, one example being Wincanton, followed by an evening meeting at Kelso the next day, then all the way back to Hereford the following afternoon.

Bob raised over £100,000 for his Cancer Trust and the Injured Jockeys Fund, well done to him.

Last Saturday I was at Chester racecourse, a course where they have been racing for over 400 years.

It is the one course I actually hate with a vengeance. Enclosed by the City Walls, a railway line and a river the course is, to say the least compact.

Viewing is not particularly brilliant, not helped by the large number of tents erected in the centre of the course. Indeed the best view of racing is arguably attained for free by standing by the City Walls outside the course and looking in from the outside.

Chester also has the highest admission prices in the country.

Despite all of this, the majority of meetings are sold out in advance.

It almost defies belief, until you realise the overwhelming majority of those attending do not have the slightest interest in the racing. It is a social event or, to be more precise, a binge drinking event.

Last Saturday it was heaving, it was hot and the booze was flowing like water. The local population  were out in their droves and it was clear the local tanning salons and artificial nail purveyors had done a roaring trade. Whilst most of the ladies looked elegant it was also clear, looking at the suitability of some of the outfits, that local mirror vendors were going through a tough time of things.

I actually wonder how many of those present on Saturday actually saw a horse.

It has been suggested that if Chester put on six races for three legged donkeys then they would still fill the place up. Indeed running races for three legged donkeys may actually provide a better spectacle, as they are probably less likely to be unbalanced by the tight turns of the course.

Chester has the worse draw bias of any course in the country and surely it is no coincidence that the four runners withdrawn from the opening contest just happened to be the four worse drawn runners in the race.

If the boozed up crowds and poor viewing are not enough to rankle the true racing fan then the final straw is for those who choose to drive to the event.

A racegoers traffic flow system is introduced on racedays, designed to make the journey to the track as miserable and unpleasant as possible. Whoever designed the “traffic management” system in Chester on racedays should be sacked immediately. I arrived in Chester over two hours before the first race yet I still ended up spending 40 minutes fuming in disorganised traffic chaos.

It is the only course traffic management (now there is an oxymoron if ever there was one) specifically designed to make the journey to the course actually worse than it need be.    

For me Chester is one of the two courses in the country which I would not be upset about if I was told I could never go there again.

By a strange coincidence I was at the course with the second worse draw bias last week.

Beverley’s 5f course has a strong bias for high drawn runners, yet in one of the apprentice races over the 5f course one of the young riders actually managed to blow the advantage of a high draw.

Having been give a plum draw against the far rail the horse was slowly away and the rider panicked. Instead of waiting for the inevitable gap to appear as they passed the intersection the rider chose to switch towards the stands side to find daylight. Despite running on well the horse came home a never nearer fourth, whereas it may well have won had the rider stuck to the stands rail – oh well I suppose these apprentice races are there to help riders learn.

My visit to Beverley was also my first days racing after Royal Ascot and what a contrast in the crowd.

At Ascot we became accustomed to seeing the gentlemen in their top hat and tails, at Beverley the attire of the gentlemen was more football shirts, vests and even topless (a shame the latter did not apply to some of the ladies) but I tell you what – I bet they had as an enjoyable days racing as those who were in the Royal Enclosure a week before.      

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