3 Memorable Moments At Racecourses

3 Memorable Moments At Racecourses  There are lots of reasons to go to the racecourse. You have the race horses, bookmakers to place your bets and a bustling crowd. You’ve never had a better opportunity to people watch or have a chat with some random soul. I’ve been to a limited number of racecourses. In fact, I wrote an article titled: 5 Racecourses I’ve Visited In My Life. You’ve guesses it, the five strangest happenings have occurred at those racecourses. Here are a three memorable moments that stick in my mind. There are others which I will keep for another day.

1) A Man With 3 Hats

It’s common to see someone wearing a hat at the races. Depending upon the racecourse and meeting it may range from a bobble, flat cap or top hat. Personally, I’m odds on not to be seen wearing a hat. However, have you ever seen a man with three hats? I was with my brothers at Great Yarmouth in the member’s enclosure, the bar which leads to the Trafalgar Restaurant. I notice a well dressed man with a plastic bag standing at the bar, hat in hand, chatting to someone behind the bar. I guessed they were talking about the hats. He had a bright pink hat in the style of a bowler. I see him put it on. Talk a little more. Showing it to the bartender and then carefully taking another hat out of the bag putting it on the bar. They had a conversation for about ten minutes. Then, the mysterious the hat man put all three hats back in his plastic bag and left. I’m not sure whether he left the racecourse or mingled with the bustling crowd. Perhaps he wore one of those hats or alternated between all three. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the hat man’s story. Did he make the hats? Was he interested in selling them? Did he live at Great Yarmouth? For the life of me, I wish I had gone to the bar and listened to the conversation or said: ‘I like those hats!’ Perhaps his story was bog standard and nothing to tell but perhaps it was the most amazing tale I would ever hear.

2) It Was So Cold Even The ‘Blank’ Shivered

Being a fair-weather gambler I usually stick to Flat racing meetings, specifically Great Yarmouth. There’s nothing worse than a wet day. I had a spate of times going racing where the morning would be bright and sunny but by the second race it would be hammering down with rain. Once, I got a bus back into town with a saturated crowd. It looked like we had been rescued from a stricken vessel on the North sea. However, this story is about a day’s racing at Fakenham, in the middle of winter. It was the first time I ventured to this racecourse. It has a farming feel with lots of wax jackets, flat caps, tweed and wellington boots. Being a rural setting the course allows dogs as long as they are kept on their lead. There seemed to be dogs everywhere. Lot of Jack Russells, Labradors, a few fancy breeds, all well behaved. My cousin, Danny, stood chatting when a man with a greyhound stopped a few yards away. I imagine it was a rescue dog. It looked smart wearing a tartan jacket. It must have been a frost that morning with a horrid wind, the chill factor must have been minus. The greyhound was shivering with cold. I’m pretty sure if I had got closer I would have heard its teeth chattering. My cousin, always funny, made a few jokes and I couldn’t help but smile. It was far too cold for man nor beast.

3) I’m Not Sure What She Looks Like

This happened at Great Yarmouth racecourse. A kind of funny moment in ways but one which stuck in my mind. I’d joined a horse racing syndicate called Newmarket Equine Tours, run by a lovely lady Julia Feilden. The Ducking Stool was running that afternoon and it was the first time I had attended the syndicate. I was told to meet Julia in the owners and trainers bar, which seemed kind of exciting but alien as I’m very much a Tattersall’s man. So I put on my best jacket, looking half respectable and entered the bar which was busy with the great and good of racing. I was looking around to see if Julia was there but couldn’t see her anywhere. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t really sure what she looked like! I said to myself: ‘This isn’t going very well.’ I felt a little out of place just standing there looking at a hundred faces. I see a waitress and asked: ‘Do you know if Julia Feilden is here?’ She looked and couldn’t see her. However, she knew George Margarson, a Newmarket horse trainer, who sat at a table next to where I was standing. Moments later I was chatting with George who said she had to leave because there was a problem at the stables. Eventually she returned and introduced me to the rest of the syndicate, a friendly bunch. It was a good time had by all and a season I greatly enjoyed. That day The Ducking Stool finished fourth but she was a true star at the course and had won many times before retiring to a good home.

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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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Kauto Star Novices’ Chase

The Kauto Star Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 3 miles at Kempton on Boxing Day. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to ‘novice’ steeplechasers which, in this case, means horses aged four years and upwards who, prior to the start of the current season, have yet to win a steeplechase.

The Kauto Star Novices’ Chase was inaugurated, as the Feltham Novices’ Chase, in 1975, but the name of Nigel Clark, late president of Kempton Park, was added to the race title in 2007. Likewise, the name of Kauto Star, who won the King George VI Chase five times from six attempts between 2006 and 2011, was added to the race title following his retirment from racing in October, 2012. The latter name change was made permanent the following year, such that the race has been run as the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) ever since.

Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, who, between them, have farmed the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship since the retirement of Martin Pipe, are the leading trainers in the history of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, with five wins apiece. Nicholls, though, has been the more successful of the pair in recent seasons, having saddled Black Corton (2017) and Bravemansgame (2021)

In 2015, the now-retired Lizzie Kelly made turf history by winning the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Tea For Two, trained by Nick Williams; in so doing, she became the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 race over obstacles in Britain. Other notable winners in recent years include Long Run (2009), who went on win the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 2011/12 season, and Coneygree (2014) who, less than three months later, became the first novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Captain Christy in 1974.

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Windsor Racecourse

Windsor Racecourse is often referred to as Royal Windsor because of its proximity to the official Royal residence of Windsor Castle, which lies less than two miles to the east along the banks of the River Thames. Windsor Racecourse is famous for its Monday evening fixtures, the first of which took place in 1964 and, as part of the Arena Racing Company (ARC), stages at total of 26 Flat fixtures throughout the season.

 

Course Characteristics

The round course at Windsor is a fairly sharp figure of eight, just over a mile and a half around, with a five-furlong home straight. The sharpness of the course is reduced, in part, by the length of the home straight, which affords big, long-striding horses plenty of time to find their stride. Races over 6 furlongs start on a chute that joins the round course at the top of the home straight. On the straight course, horses drawn high, near the far side rail, have a distinct advantage on soft ground.

Track Facts

In the days before his knighthood, Gordon Richards broke Fred Archer’s record of 2,748 career winners at Windsor in 1943.

In 1966, one of the loops on the figure of eight course was tightened, so that races over two and a half miles were no longer possible.

In October 2012, Richard Hughes completed a 10,168/1 seven-timer at Windsor and, in so doing, became just the second jockey to ride seven winners on a single card in Britain.

The Winter Hill Stakes, a Group 3 contest run over a mile and a quarter in August, is the only Pattern race of the year at Windsor.

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