By all logical measures I should abhor Cartmel racecourse.
Set in the middle of nowhere, accessible only by single track country roads and with awful viewing of the racing it seemingly has little going for it. Certainly if Cartmel racecourse did not already exist and it applied to a licence to operate it would quickly be shown the door by the BHA – for heaven’s sake it still has dry stone walls along the edge of the track?
Yet Cartmel is a course I adore and one, all being well, I will visit again and again for many years to come.
With years of practice the “issues” have been addressed. There is an effective one-way traffic management system in place which means you will not meet oncoming traffic in the country lanes. Indeed, even after racing, the system is so efficient you will be very unlucky to encounter any traffic issues when leaving.
Yes viewing is poor but, probably uniquely at any British racecourse, punters line the rails of the entire course and are able to get close to the action. Many arrive early just to be able to park-up by the running rails. There is always the big screen and Iain MacKenzie, who commentates at most Cartmel meetings, does adjust his commentating style to provide a more descriptive account of what is happening.
However Cartmel has that certain something extra. The setting is sublime, set in a lovely village. The local village store, renowned for their Cartmel Sticky Toffee Puddings (although I prefer the Sticky Ginger Pudding), also have the ideal supplies for the picnic lunches and barbecues which predominate at the course. Indeed at last week’s meeting there was even a prize for the best barbecue.
The atmosphere is magical, very informal, no airs and graces, like a super point-to-point meeting. The staff are friendly, you get the impression the entire population of the village (apart from those working in the shop and pubs) are at the racecourse to make your day all the more enjoyable.
You won’t find many fearsome jobsworth’s at Cartmel, indeed what looks like organised chaos is actually a very well run, efficient operation.
Last Thursday I bumped into ATR’s Robert Cooper, making his first ever visit to the track. His reaction to the place “I’m smitten” and that is the reaction of most who visit this Cumbrian idyll.
From a working perspective it is not the easiest course, race reading has to be done from the television and the Press Room serves as the Groundsman’s hideaway the remainder of the year and on a hot sunny day it is like the black hole of Calcutta – but you know what I don’t care one little bit.
If you have never been to Cartmel you will not realise what you are missing out on – visit once and I am quite certain that, like me, you will want to return again and again and again. I also have a strong feeling I shall be bumping into Robert Cooper there some time in the future as well.
I have given Rod Street of Racing For Change (RfC) a great deal of stick over the past year or so about some of the initiatives from RfC. However it is only right to give credit where credit is due.
Rod recently took questions from members of The Racing Forum and the frank and full answers he gave to the questions, most of which were critical of Rod and RfC, were most enlightening and I must admit the respect I have for Rod increased dramatically from what I read.
(A link to the Q&A session can be found at the bottom of this page)
Indeed he has almost won me round to what RfC is doing, it has certainly giving me a greater insight into the aims of RfC – it may not go amiss if RfC were to include some of the Q&A’s in their next news sheet.
OK I still have some doubts.
I still believe they were very lucky the semi-finals of The Filly Factor did not go pear shape (by the way the final is at Ascot this coming Sunday).
I also have reservations about Champions Day, although not for the reasons given by many.
I have no problems with the meeting moving from Newmarket to Ascot as Ascot is far better able to stage such a big meeting.
My two main concerns are around what seems to be the excessive level of prize money, which seems hard to justify in the current climate.
My biggest concern, however, is the impact on the meeting that already exists and serves the function of the perfect end to the season – namely Longchamp’s Arc meeting.
For me that meeting is the climax to the European Flat season. With the Sunday seeing six Group One races over most of the main distances, culminating in the Arc itself. It would be a crying shame if the proposed new Champions Day took any of the quality or glamour away from Longchamp.