Sink Or Swim?
These have been quite a few leaks this week about cutbacks in the fixture list for 2011, I’m going to wait until the fixture list is actually published before making any comment on cuts, although it is a subject dear to my heart.
However the speculation has prompted Ffos Las supremo Dai Walters to warn Ffos Las, Britain’s newest, may be forces to close if the reports are true. Actually I hope that isn’t the case but it has made me think, which courses would I not mind seeing close.
I was initially tempted to go through all sixty courses but decided it is too much like hard work for me to do and for you, dear reader, to plough through.
So what I will do is go through the tracks which I feel strongly should remain open or I would be happy to see become a new chapter in Chris Pitt’s, A Long Time Gone, the bible of closed racecourses.
If I don’t mention a racecourse here it means I have no strong feeling either way.
Aintree: now on “normal” race days Aintree can be one of the most desolate courses imaginable, empty and soulless, However for three days in April it hosts one of the greatest jumps meetings in the world, including arguably the most famous steeplechase of all the Grand National and for that reason alone Aintree has to survive.
Ascot: the building of the new stand was nothing if not controversial and I was one of its greatest critics. However Ascot listened to the feedback and addressed the issues. Now I love the place and Ascot has to rank amongst the best racecourses in the world, it stays.
Ayr: It calls itself Scotland’s Premier Racecourse – it ain’t. Although millions have been spent improving the inside of the stands, externally they still look tired and jaded. The track itself is beset with problems, they regularly seem to have unsafe or false ground. One I would shed no tears for were it to close.
Bath: It has the distinction of being the UK’s highest racecourse and therein lies a problem in that it is built on a free draining hill, yet it has no watering system. This invariably results in firm going and resultant small fields. Weekend meetings are a nightmare attracting beer swilling hoards. Another that would not be missed.
Brighton: The course has long had a sordid reputation, although this has improved in recent years. The place still does have a seedy, tatty feel and the stand could do with being replaced. On the plus side the views are fantastic but this also results in major problems in that a sea fret frequently rolls in, obscuring visibility of the racing. As Sir Alan, now Lord, Sugar would say, “reluctantly, you’re fired.”
Cartmel: A perfect example of “less is more.” Only racing seven days a year this is a gem of a course. It should be an abject failure as viewing is terrible but this is more than compensated by the idyllic setting and fantastic atmosphere. This is a course I would dip into my own pocket to save.
Chester: One of two controversial inclusions in this list I suspect. As this would be the first course I would close down. I dislike the place with a vengeance. It may well be the oldest course in the country but it is not fit for purpose. Viewing is terrible, it is cramped and ram packed solid with racegoers at every meeting. Now some would take the latter to be a positive and it would be if they were there to watch the racing. Chester is a drinkers course, where the object seems to be to pour as much alcohol as possible down ones throat then become as obnoxious as possible. Chester could stage three legged donkey racing and most of those attending would be none the wiser. If you have ever wondered what it is like to attend a Chav’s convention then may I suggest a day at Chester races.
Fakenham and Ffos Las: I am going to lump these two together as they have similar issues.
Unless you happen to live locally both are absolute sods to get to. In the case of Fakenham it is located in a part of the country where dual carriageways have not yet been invented and whichever way you go you will be on bendy, single carriageway roads. Add to that the local farmers seem to use driving their tractors at 20mph on raceday as being some sort of mating ritual you will arrive exasperated.
With Ffos Las it just seems a long way from anywhere, look at the map and it simply seems to be a case of popping across the Severn Bridge and then a quick hop down the M4. It isn’t it is a very long drag down the M4 and when you finally escape the motorway the local signposting to the course takes you a very pretty way indeed.
However both should be saved.
With Fakenham the journey is vindicated by one of the friendliest tracks you are ever likely to visit. Small, compact, good viewing and some decent arcing.
With Ffos Las you get one of the best, if not the best, racing surfaces in the country.
Fontwell: Well I am biased here but this is the very first course I visited and I love the place. You have never properly experienced National Hunt racing unless you have watched a Fontwell chase from the intersection in the centre of the course.
Haydock: This was a once great course which has been emasculated by constant tinkering to the National Hunt course. The ground has been bear ruined and the going reports frequently border on fantasy. Worse of all the priority of the executive seems to be more focused on attracting Chester’s boozers and Chavs than providing decent racing. So another for which no tears would be shed.
Kempton: London could easily afford to lose one course and it would have to be Kempton. Granted it is home of the King George and it does still host some half decent jump meetings. However its sell out to AW racing is unforgivable.
Redcar: OK some personal prejudice here. If the wind is in the wrong direction you get the fumes from the nearby chemical plant so you go home with a sore throat and streaming eyes. It is a real pain to get through and driving through the bleak industrial wasteland to reach the course is depressing and to add to the depression, to reach the car park you then have to drive through the middle of a cemetery. That just about suns it up.
York: And we end with another controversial decision. Yes it is a great track, yes the racing can be high quality. However it is another course ruined by its clientele. The mid-week non Festival meetings are just about bearable but for the festivals and weekend meetings, it turns into a drink fest and a not very pleasant one either. By late afternoon there is invariably an edge to the place as the alcohol begins to take effect. A shame but for me it ruins a good afternoons racing and like Chester is one of the courses I invariably leave thinking I would not be at all perturbed if I was never to go there again.
Do you agree, let us know feedback