Who Needs A Gym?

I am the first to admit being a horse racing journalist is not the most physically demanding job in the world.

Indeed at courses like Newcastle you can actually report on a full afternoon’s racing without ever leaving your seat in the press room.

The press room at Newcastle overlooks the parade ring so you can see all the runners before the race. It also affords excellent viewing of the course so you can watch the racing in comfort. The only time you actually need to leave the press room is if you want to chat to any of the connections. A couch potatoes delight.

By contrast at Ascot there is a lot of walking around. It is a huge racecourse and the various facilities are spread out all over the place.

Last week at the Royal meeting I decided to wear a pedometer to see how far I actually walked each day. I turned it on when I arrived in the media centre and turned it off before I left each evening, so it didn’t include the journey from the car park.

At “normal” Ascot meetings the press get to park in car park 2, one of the best car parks, just opposite the west entrance.

At the Royal meeting we are in car park 2F which, on the face of it, sounds line the same car park.

The only common factor is you use the same gate to get into the car park. In reality the F stands for far away, we are consigned to parking in what is known as the donkey field, at the bottom of a steep hill.

So steep that it you arrive late then your car will be parked at an angle of around 30 degrees.

Now with modern technology we do not travel light, my Royal Ascot computer bag weighs around 30 lbs.

So Ascot supply a golf buggy which provides a shuttle service from the car park up to the High Street …. and it is really appreciated. It is also provided after racing but with gravity to assist doing the downhill journey is not so bad.  

Well the supplied a golf buggy for the first two days, day three onwards it was missing – it has given up the ghost apparently.

I can tell you by the time I reached the top of the hill, lugging my bag, each morning I was (un)fit to drop, I was arriving in the media centre like a wheezing asthmatic.

I couldn’t really even lose anything from my bag to make it lighter.

For a big meeting like Ascot it roughly contains a laptop and power supply, two spare laptop batteries, assorted cables. One compact camera, one SLR camera with two extra lenses. Clipboard, 32 pens and other assorted stationery items, Dictaphone for recording interviews. Plus my books – the Ascot media guide (just over 100 sheets of A4), Horses In Training (720 pages), Rules Of Racing (501 pages) and a slim version of the Directory of The Turf (416 pages).   

Not forgetting my trusty binoculars.

Anyway after the first two days the pedometer said I was walking around 5½ / 6 miles a day, which I thought was a little on the low side but who was I to argue with technology?

On the Thursday I finally ventured into the Silver Ring – an interesting experience. Funnily enough I was warned not to venture into the silver ring after mid-afternoon as it can get very “lively”. I can see why and if you see some of the post racing CCTV pictures your eyes would boggle. Apparently some impatient racegoers who cannot resist the “urge” don’t seem to realise the extent of the coverage of the CCTV cameras.

What struck me most of all in the silver ring is it was very much female oriented, something like 70 / 30 female to male (the only exception seemed to be the Saturday when it became 60 / 40 male).

When I checked my pedometer that evening it said I had done 6½ miles which I thought a bit odd, after having done two trips to the silver ring.

So on Friday morning I decided to test the pedometer. I walked from the finishing post down to the three furlong post and back – if you are poor at maths that is a total 6 furlongs or ¾ of  mile.

The pedometer said I had only walked just under half a mile – so either Ascot have measured their track incorrectly (which could explain the fast times) or the pedometer was telling lies.

I’ll believe the latter, so rather than walking around 6 miles each day I was probably walking around 9 - 10 miles a day. No wonder I was tired each evening.

So next time somebody suggests I need to go to the gym I think I will have a days racing at Ascot instead.

A couple of good stories from the Royal meeting.

Apparently on Tuesday afternoon a lost wallet was handed in. When course officials went through the wallet in an attempt to find who it belonged to, not only did they find some id but also some wraps of, how shall I put it, some questionable substances. So when the owner responded to the PA announcement to reclaim their property, not only was their wallet waiting for them but also two of Thames Valley Police’s finest.  

Now for a quiz question.

Who is the broadcaster who has received a text from a female ‘admirer’ (also a broadcaster) saying “you brighten up my day. Lol?”

The best part being he thought “lol” meant ’lots of love’ …… of course nobody told him otherwise, indeed it was even suggested to him he could be “in luck” and he ought to respond appropriately .

Finally …

Anybody who thinks being a police officer is all fast cars and flashing blue lights had better think again.

On Saturday morning, as had been the case every day this week, the police were finishing off their security sweeping of the stands as us early birds arrived.

I observed two officers emerge from the lavatories with full arm length gloves.

Yes the searches are that thorough!!!


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