Well as I mentioned in last weeks epistle I was making my first ever visit to Glorious Goodwood last Tuesday.
Was it worth it? Did it live up to the hype?
Sadly the answer to both was a resounding no.
The one positive is I managed to get to the course avoiding the worse of the traffic, entirely due to Lee McKenzie’s route which he has been using, probably, more years than either of us would care to remember.
In hindsight I should have turned back as soon as I arrived at the course as what laid in wait was evident in the car park. There is usually a large amount of free space in the car park that is assigned for members of the press. When I arrived, over two hours before the first race, it was almost full to capacity.
Indeed I was asked to park towards the outer extremities and was requested to reverse into a parking space with my boot as close to the tree trunk as possible. Sounds easy but the manoeuvre entailed reversing up a somewhat steep slope, which meant a somewhat fast approach, with a rapid stop as the tree trunk loomed. To add drama to the parking there was a distinct burning aroma coming from my clutch as I reversed up the slope.
Walking through the car park I was confronted by a sea of cars with the distinctive blue “P” label in the windscreen, indicating a lady or gentleman of the press being the owner of the car.
My worse fears were realised when I finally arrived in the press room, which at Goodwood is not insignificant in size. Not only was every space taken, people were crammed in almost three to every two places.
Needless to say most of the seats were occupied by people who wouldn’t normally be seen dead at a run of the mill midweek meeting.
Realising how impossible it was going to be, I stopped a bemused (and also deskless) John Hunt and asked to borrow his Racing Post to see if there was another meeting I could get to. Alas the only other meetings were Beverley, Perth and Worcester and even my driving is not that fast.
Just as I was about to slink off, somebody produced some more chairs. Accepting I wasn’t going to get any desk space I found a pitch next to the photocopier, which had the bonus of a spare power socket so I could plug in my laptop, and made my home there for the afternoon.
I managed to grab a few newspapers to rest my laptop on so I didn’t get second degree burns as it rested on my legs. At least I was able to file reports on the racing.
I had always been led to believe that Glorious Goodwood had something of a special atmosphere. To be honest the atmosphere was little different to any other Goodwood meeting.
Now don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere at Goodwood is always pretty special but I was disappointed that the atmosphere at the Glorious meeting wasn’t even better.
Of course one thing which cannot be faulted is the quality of the racing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We are coming to the end of the concert season for racecourses. It now seems obligatory for courses to hold at least one post-racing concert a season.
Some like Newmarket, Epsom and Haydock are turning it into a cottage industry.
It used to be that virtually every concert was by a tribute band and, even now, tribute bands form the core of the post racing fare.
Increasingly headline acts are also performing and JLS have performed at more than one post racing concert this season.
There is no doubt the concerts get bums on seats and racecourses will have attendance figures they can only dream of in other circumstances.
But are these concerts actually any good for racing?
When the tribute bands perform admission prices generally remain the same or attract a small premium.
When the “headline” bands perform prices go through the roof. Newmarket have been charging £32 for their Newmarket Nights concerts, Epsom have been charging £32 and Sandown £35. Even children, usually admitted free, are being charged admission.
Well the courses are selling out most concert nights, so from their point of view they will consider the exercise a success, especially when you add on extra bar and food income as well.
However these meetings do nothing to attract those who just want to go for the racing.
In the last week I have been to three meetings with bands performing Sandown (Razorlight) at £35, Epsom (Madness) £32 and Newmarket (James Morrison) £32, yet on all three evenings the actual racing was what can only be described as absolutely dire.
The dedicated racegoers, with no interest in the concert, cannot be expected to pay over £30 for six low grade races.
Also how many of those going to the racing a) actually bother to watch the racing and b) will go racing again in future?
There is also another issue and that concerns horse welfare. I wasn’t at Epsom the week before last when JLS were performing but by all accounts the course was packed with pre-pubescent and teenage girls screaming their heads off, not only during the concerts but during racing.
There were genuine concerns the screaming could have spooked the horses.
If racecourses want to become concert venues as well as racetracks then all well and good – but why not keep the two separate?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I get very annoyed when the armchair critics start criticising commentators and I am quick to defend the men who call the horses.
Asides from the jockeys they have one of the most difficult jobs at the racecourse.
The quality of commentating in the UK has never been higher and, thankfully, mistakes are few and far between. The trouble is when mistakes are made there is no hiding place for the perpetrator.
Even the best commentator can have a bad race.
At the last Ascot meeting Richard Hoiles, arguably the best current commentator, almost missed Frankie Dettori ploughing a lone furrow against the stands rail …. It wasn’t only Richard who missed it, so did the cameraman, director and those of us watching from the press balcony, so mistakes can happen.
However, occasionally, there are mistakes that commentators make which are inexcusable and that relates to not doing their homework and getting the basic facts right.
At Newmarket on Friday evening the commentator was also doubling up as the course MC, something I thought they were not meant to do. He seemed more concerned about “entertaining” the crowd than concentrating on his commentating duties.
In one of the contests there was an odds-on runner, so very likely to be involved in the contest. Throughout the commentary he referred to the horse as “he” yet the favourite was one of two fillies in the contest.
That is a basic error and an unforgivable one, it almost shows contempt for the listeners …… “I can’t be bothered to do even basic research.”
OK it is not as bad as calling a wrong horse and nobody died but it was sloppy and a very basic mistake.
I know, for example, Richard highlights the fillies in yellow on his racecard and I believe most of the other commentators do the same or something very similar. So it isn't rocket science.