A Racing Paradox

When I write about horse racing as a journalist I always aim to be as objective and treat all races fairly, be it the Cheltenham Gold Cup or a banded race on the all weather.

I do, however, have my prejudices and I would never deny my first love in racing is National Hunt racing. Even in the foulest mid-winter weather there is a thrill in watching brave horses and jockeys face the obstacles. There is always the uncertainly, your fancy could be 10 lengths in front coming to the last, yet that very last fence could change the whole complexion of the race.

Only last Sunday I was, prematurely as it happened, counting my winnings as my 7/1 fancy was five lengths in front coming to the last. Only for the animal to put in a short one and for me to see it go arse over apex.

Turf flat racing I can tolerate, although I do often find it frustrating having to wait up to 35 minutes between races for the race itself to be run is less than a minute. At least you get your moneys worth over the sticks.

All weather racing is a different story all together, I wouldn’t quite go as far as quoting Paula Yates in saying it is “the spawn of Satan” – but it is not far short.

Frankly it is boring, all the tracks are flat tight oval courses with no interesting or redeeming features. (The one saving grace at Kempton is you can watch the planes landing at eathrow) There are the occasional half decent races, but on the whole the horses taking part are either on the decline or useless donkeys whose only hope of getting in a race is at a low grade AW meeting.  

For me one of the great joys of racing in this country is the diversity of our courses.

Taking the turf courses there are no two the same. From Chester’s tight dead flat track to the killer uphill finish at Towcester.

From the straight courses at Newmarket to the tight figure-of-eight at Fontwell.

From the expansive two mile plus circuit at Pontefract to the tight one mile circuit at Fakenham.

From the idyllic setting of Cartmel in the Lake District to Redcar next to the chemical works.

They all have character and their own uniqueness that adds to the challenge for the punter.

Yet, despite my dislike of all weather racing, there is a paradox.

I keep fastidious records of my betting and looking back at days at the races over the years I note that only once have I failed to make a profit at an all weather meeting. Granted I only attend a handful of such meetings each year, however it is an interesting statistic and certainly a better strike rate than over my beloved jumps.

Even more interesting is that of the three times I have been fortunate enough to “go through the card” at a race meeting, two of them have been at AW meetings at Lingfield.

So with such a record why do I not concentrate on all weather for my betting? The evidence certainly suggests I would make a good living out of it.

The simple answer is I wouldn’t enjoy it. If the only racing I watched was repetitive running round a sand circle, with only one man and his dog for company, I would soon crack up and lose interest.

For me the challenge of betting and picking winners is facing the imponderables. What difference will the going make? Is the horse suited by the course? Can the bugger jump? Even if he can jump will a lose horse take him out?

For me it’s the excitement bought about by the diversity. Racing in this country is unique.

We have a tendency in this country to follow what happens across the Atlantic. Please do not let us follow the American example where 95% of their racing is run on boring, oval, left handed circuits. Where Suffolk Downs, looks like Aqueduct, looks like Belmont, looks like Woodbine, looks like anywhere else.


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