For me one of the major attractions of a day at the races is the buzz and atmosphere at the course.
The banter, noise and buzz of the betting ring.
Punters in conspiratorial huddles, discussing the merits of the various contenders.
Watching the race from the stand surrounded by fellow racegoers, each with their own vested interest.
Then there is a winter afternoon at Wolverhampton.
The bookmakers are based inside the main stand, protected from the racing and elements.
A grand total of five layers and one of them was concentrating on the away betting. For me, he summed up the afternoon perfectly when, taking bets on the NH meeting at Ludlow, he shouted out, “come on, have a bet on the real racing.”
Locating the bookmakers indoors may protect them from the excesses of the weather, however it leads to absolutely no atmosphere at all outside. Let that be a warning to those who advocate a Tote monopoly.
As for conspiratorial huddles, the biggest group I saw was the ATR triumvirate of Harvey, Mapletoft and Weaver – not the prettiest of sights and the wag who likened them to the three wise monkeys was, perhaps, being just a tad unfair.
As for watching the racing surrounded by fellow racegoers. The large main stand at Wolverhampton was home to the grand sum of 43 spectators during the third race of the afternoon. There was not only room to swing a cat, you could easily have swung a giraffe if you were that way inclined.
There seemed to be more racegoers quite happy to sit inside and watch the racing on the many televisions located round the course. Even worse a number of punters were quite happy watching, and believe it or not cheering, the virtual racing being shown on the screens of the Ladbrokes betting shop.
All in all I think this Monday afternoon at Wolverhampton sums up the state of British racing. Low grade racing for the betting shop masses with little regard for oncourse racegoers.
I even wonder if the likes of Lingfield, Wolverhampton, Southwell and Kempton would prefer to hold their racing behind closed doors. Certainly looking at the numbers attending at Wolverhampton on this dank Monday afternoon, the profits couldn’t have been that high.
I’m no economist but I would give a very short price about the takings at the various outlets being enough to cover the wages of the staff who were working at the course.
Even if I was an owner I would have felt short changed, there weren’t even presentations to the winning connections after the races.
They didn’t seem to care – a perfect metaphor for the low grade fare that seems to be the bread and butter of racing in this country.
At least we do still have the contrasting meetings. Forty eight hours earlier I was at Cheltenham for the Festival trials and, despite some big names being missing, the meeting set the pulse racing and the atmosphere was electric.
There is still hope.