The "Ugly" Face Of Racing

Much is often made of racecourses which are blessed with being in a really attractive location.

Goodwood, atop the South Downs, with stunning views in all directions – when the fret stays away that is.

Cartmel in its idyllic Lake District setting, Perth set in the grounds of Scone Palace.

The list can go on and on.

But what about the other side of the coin?

What about courses that are in unattractive settings?

By unattractive I don’t mean ugly buildings, like the bland units at Southwell and Wolverhampton. I mean a course set in an unattractive area.

Wolverhampton is situated in the middle of a nondescript housing estate – unattractive but bearable.

For me there is one clear winner, or should that be loser.

Cue drum roll.


It has to be the most depressing approach and setting for a racecourse anywhere, especially if, as I did yesterday, you arrive by train.

Most arriving by train will come from Darlington and the journey starts off well. Plenty of green fields, as well as the usual views of the back gardens of terraced houses.

I find looking at back gardens from trains so interesting. It tells so much about the residents of the properties.

On the one extreme you have the gardens which have been lovingly tended and which would not go amiss as show gardens.   

On the other, there are gardens which make Steptoe’s yard look neat and tidy.

But I digress.

It is when the train begins the final leg of its journey to Redcar – as it leaves Middlesbrough.

Passing, first of all the Stadium Of Light, the last decent structure you will see in your journey. The vista is no longer predominately green.

First of all you pass through the container port, which looks as though it has seen better days.

Residential buildings are replaced by signs of industry – heavy industry. The predominant colour changes from green to brown and black.

The brown from the predominant, pervasive  rust colour that has taken over the myriad of pipes, stretching as far as the eye can see. The black from slag heaps of industrial waste.

All the time industrial chimneys bellowing out goodness knows what noxious substances into the atmosphere.

This view, almost like a vision from hell, goes on for miles, until the urban sprawl of Redcar appears.

The walk from Redcar station to the racecourse goes past Morrisons and Tesco and through a housing estate.

The course itself is not unattractive. The stands have probably seen better days but are no worse than at many courses.

It you crane your neck to the left you can see the hills of the North York moors, but it is the view ahead from the stands that is depressing.

Anyone who has seen racing from Redcar on television will know there is a road and housing estate along the far side of the course. What the pictures usually fail to show id the huge chemical works situated behind the houses. A view that dominates the horizon.

Usually there is a huge flame burning but yesterday all was quiet, well it was initially.

After the second race there was a roar in the distance, almost like the sound of a big gas burner lighting. No surprise as that is exactly what it was – the burner had been lit at the chemical works.

There was also a strong wind blowing across the course, coming from the direction of the chemical works. Not long later what can only be described as an “industrial aroma” wafted over the course. Nothing too strong but it was there.

By the end of the sixth race my eyes were watering and I had a headache, which is most unusual for me.

The only times I get headaches are when I bang my head or, in my younger days, consumed the wrong combination of alcoholic beverages.

As I had neither banged my bonce or imbibed I can only put the headache down to what I was breathing in.

There has been talk of the management wanting to relocate the course to another location – based on my experience yesterday I cannot blame them.

On a totally unrelated topic, although it could be argued it also reflects the “ugly” side of racing.

Am I the only one to find all the blanket, wall to wall, coverage of Kieren Fallon’s return to the saddle somewhat over the

Anyone would think it is the second coming, as opposed to the return of a disgraced jockey.  


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