More Random Musings

I did something quite novel this week, I actually went racing just for the pleasure of it and I had forgotten just how enjoyable an experience can be.

Normally my trips to the races mean arriving 1½ hours before racing, then dashing between the parade ring, the stands and the press room, barely having time to draw breath. Even watching the race requires so much concentration you can lose the enjoyment.

This time it was relaxing, being able to take a leisurely look at the runners in the parade ring without having to scribble notes, being able to amble back to the stands. Having time to put a bet on based on what I had seen in the parade ring.

Not having to battle to find an unobstructed view of the racing and not having to watch the race like a hawk, lest I miss some incident. Best of all I was able to watch one of Fontwell’s chases from the centre of the course, crossing between two of the fences to see the horses jumping “up close and personal” something wholly impractical on a working day.

Add to that some excellent company and it was a pertinent reminder of how enjoyable a day at the races really can be.

Having visited all the UK racecourses and around half the Irish courses it is quite a novel experience for me to experience the anticipation of visiting a racecourse for the very first time. In what has been a different week for me I was able to add a new racecourse to my portfolio – Leopardstown.

I have to admit I was disappointed – no there is absolutely nothing wrong with the course, my disappointment was I had left it so long to make my first visit.

If you read most UK produced racecourse guides they invariably refer to Leopardstown as being “Ireland’s Sandown”

That epithet is somewhat patronising as Leopardstown is a great racecourse in its own right, indeed it stages more high class races annually than Sandown so, nowadays, it could be equally valid to describe Sandown as “Britain’s Leopardstown”. 

Even though this was my first visit to the Dublin course, there was a mild feeling of déjà vu, as the course is very much modelled on its Esher cousin. Indeed in the not too distant past it even had a separate, straight, sprint course. OK they do race the opposite way round but it is easy to see how the comparisons are made.

However Leopardstown is no clone and it has its own unique selling points.

I am not sure if there is more than one way into the course but the main entrance has a long, sweeping, tree lined approach road, all the more attractive with the autumn colours.

There are a couple of delights to be found at the main stand as well.

The first is Madigans Bar, approach it from inside the grandstand it looks like any other racecourse bar. Step outside the grandstand it has a façade like that of a typical Irish Bar – it looks incongruous against the main grandstand, but it equally a fun addition.

Equally strange, and I have yet to find the reasoning behind it, is the area opposite the bar has a number of advertising hoardings extolling the virtues of living in Australia – quite why anybody would wish to swap Ireland with Australia is quite beyond me!!

The other “hidden gem” is an area next to Food Hall where there are a number of cabinets displaying racing memorabilia, well worth spending a quarter of an hour having a browse.

Much as I love the Irish rural tracks I have to say Leopardstown has that intangible something extra. It is a course I felt happy and relaxed at from the moment I arrived and although I waited a long time for my first visit, I am already checking flights for my next visit.

If you are in Ireland when there is racing at Leopardstown make a point of visiting. Even if you aren’t in Ireland and are UK based still make an attempt to get there – you will not be disappointed.

I am one of those people who love flying but I have to say I am glad the flight home from Dublin on Monday was not my first, as I would probably never fly again. It was with the Irish based “cheap and (sometimes) cheerful” airline, the one with the gaudy yellow interiors, who play a really annoying fanfare whenever a plan arrives ontime or early.

Actually their punctually claims are quite fatuous because if you look at the times they schedule for their flights, they are always at least 20 and sometimes 35 minutes longer than the flight actually takes, therefore giving them plenty of leeway to arrive “on time” or early.

For example the flying time from Dublin to London is 55 minutes, yet they actually schedule up to 1 hour 25 minutes for the flight, giving themselves 30 minutes flexibility.

Anyway as is common with this airline, most of the cabin crew were eastern European and whilst the senior cabin crew member spoke excellent English, two of her colleagues English was so poor they could not be understood – you do wonder what would happen in an emergency situation.

Speaking of an emergency situation, I was sitting in the front row, next to the main door and was somewhat perturbed to notice the fitting holding the emergency exit slide to the door was almost hanging off.

Throughout the flight itself my ears were continually popping due to fluctuations in cabin pressure. At first I thought I may just have been me but I then herd other passengers complaining about it too.

Then finally the landing was almost sufficient to remove ones fillings. Anybody who flies regularly, or who has flown at all, will know the touchdown is a relatively gentle affair. First of all the rear wheels touch down, both together if it is not too windy, or one at a time if there is a cross wind. Then a few seconds later the nose wheel touches the runway before the plane begins to brake.

Not on Monday night, the pilot came in far too fast and steep and instead of a gentle touchdown the plane almost belly flopped. Instead of the wheels touching down gently they slammed into the runway with there being barely a second between the rear and front wheels hitting the tarmac. The front wheels coming down so hard I really was half-expecting the nose-wheel to collapse.

A very bumpy end to an otherwise enjoyable day out.

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