5 Racecourses I’ve Visited in My Life

I know what you’re saying: “He’s not been to many racecourses.”

That’s true. However, they say small is beautiful. I’m not sure if that works for visiting a small number of racecourses, but it’s good enough for me.

My love of horse racing came from my late father, Colin, who enjoyed a day’s racing at Great Yarmouth, down Jellico Road. It is the reason I visit the course on a regular basis, and still do to this day. A Merry Pilgrimage in memory of family and friends who have sadly long past. I doubt I would have even visited this Norfolk coast if not for that connection.

Horse racing has allowed me to meet some amazing people and real characters.

Here are the racecourses I have visited and the story behind them.

  1. Great Yarmouth

As detailed with my family history, this racecourse was the first and will probably be the last I visit. As a family, my brother and I would stay at the Ladbroke’s Caravan Park at Caister-on-sea. Dad would go to the races, and sometimes we would go with him. It was a time for the family to have a well-earned rest. Such wonderful memories.

In my teenage years, my brother and I would go to Great Yarmouth races with Dad. We’d catch the train from March, change at Ely and Norwich to have a brilliant day at the races. It was pretty tiring to return home on the same day, but it was always worth the effort. It has always been a lucky course. Even to this day, we visit the course regularly, often with my brothers, cousins, and a few friends who we have met along the way. The highlight being the 3-day Eastern Festival which takes place every September.

Great Yarmouth is like coming home.

  1. Huntingdon

One of the few National Hunt racecourses I have visited. The first time I went was a work’s day out organized by my Uncle Alan, who ran a successful plastering business. It was just before Christmas. It was a decent day out. I can’t remember too much about it.

However, I have visited the course in recent years, and it’s a lovely course with lots of bars and restaurants. Being close to home it makes for a good location. I prefer the Flat rather than the National Hunt so it’s not a favoured betting medium but a course I go to out of season.

  1. Kempton Park

This was a long time ago when racing took part on the turf. The only time I visited this racecourse but remember it well. It was a day out was organized by a local pub called The Men of March. The regulars all turned up. I wasn’t a regular, but my cousins were and they said ‘why don’t you come along’. I went with my brother. I enjoyed the day and remember we bet on a two-year-old horse trained by Luca Cumani called Really Brilliant. The horse won easily by four or five lengths. I also remember seeing a bloke with the biggest bundle of money, literally the size of a football. I often wonder who that man was. Kempton was turned into an all-weather course in 2006. The only course I have visited in the big smoke.

  1. Leicester

There is a story behind the one and only time we visit to this course. A long time ago. To be fair, I enjoyed the day out although it was very tiring and there was a sting in the tail. I will go back one day.

However, let’s get back to the day out which must have been at least 30 years ago. There was a reason for us going to Leicester although it was a spur of the moment decision. My brother and I traveled by train from March. I remember it was a bank holiday and that the train stopped at Melton Mowbray, the place famous for making pork pies. By the end of the day, I wish I had stayed there and just tucked in. I could see a fete and it all looked very attractive and fun. However, we were destined for Leicester racecourse.

We got a taxi from the train station to the course. It was heaving with punters and bookmakers were spread thin with only seven or so turned up. We were interested in betting on a horse trained by Sir Michael Stoute called Carnival Spirit. We had no idea what the opening show would be and when the bookie chalked up 6/4f I nearly had a heart attack. We thought it would be 3/1. After traveling so far we felt obliged to bet, almost under duress, and it didn’t turn out well. She led, making all only to be caught in the final furlong finishing third beaten a neck and short-head. Thinking back, I thought it was beaten further. Not that it matters as a loss is a loss. I think we bet £50 which was a decent sum for us. It wasn’t good at all. The winner Terimon, trained by Clive Brittain, went on to finish runner-up to Nashwan in the Epsom Derby (1989) at odds of 500/1. It seemed a long journey home. The good side came when next start we bet £100 on Carnival Spirit who won well at York when dropping down to one mile at odds of 5/4. We watched this comfortable victory at our local bookmakers. Compensation for the prior experience. It put a smile on our face.

5. Fakenham

I have been to Fakenham a couple of times. It’s a lovely National Hunt course, with a friendly atmosphere. It reminded me of a country set with farmers aplenty or people dressed as such. Lots of wax jackets and flat caps. I was struck by the number of dogs at the course and a greyhound with a jacket but shivering with cold. It was absolutely freezing. I went with my cousin, Danny, driven by my old boss Kevin McCourt, who has owned a few decent horses in his time. Also, Buster and Dave Smith. A friendly bunch and a lovely day. I can’t remember if I had a bet or not. I am reminded of the sharp course and one of the jumps a short distance from the finishing line. A near certainty jumping the last fence broke a hind leg. The sigh of the crowd always stuck in my mind. I’ve been a couple of times since. The last time when it was abandoned just before the scheduled start due to waterlogging. We had a pub crawl on the way back so it was, in fact, a very enjoyable day.

Who says you have to go to the course to enjoy a day’s racing!

To think from a lifetime of horse racing I have been to so few racecourses.

Perhaps one day I go to pastures new.

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