Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bluffers' Guide to Cartmel Races

Now - I’m assuming that either you’ve never been to Cartmel races before or that you have, but there were lots of questions that you didn’t like to ask. You shouldn’t have worried - at this time of year we get hundreds of phone calls from people asking simple questions ahead of their trip to the races. 

The first thing is: what should you wear? Well… it’s going to be a fine sunny afternoon on Saturday, although there could be some overnight rain on Friday, so bring sunglasses but perhaps give the high-heels a miss (gentlemen) and opt for more practical footwear. The atmosphere at Cartmel is very informal, so smart casual clothing is perfect. On Bank Holiday Monday there is a prize for the best-dressed dog (on a lead at all times) – so diamante collars and spotty bandanas will be de-rigueur, but only if you bark and have four legs.  

You can buy food and drink at the racecourse, everything from burgers & chips to locally produced cheese, bread, seafood and packs of meat for the barbecue. But if you’re trying to convince your friends that you’re a true Cartmel aficionado, you’ll already have a car-boot full of home made sandwiches, cakes and crisps. You’ll pop up your gazebo and state loudly “Oh no, I’ve forgotten the trifle – I’ll have to pop along to the Sticky Toffee Pudding stand instead.” It’s a time saving measure that no one will suspect – and everyone loves Sticky Toffee Pudding. 

There will be seven races including some over hurdles (about 3ft 6inches tall and relatively easy to knock over) and some over steeplechase fences (about 4ft 6 inches tall and stuffed full of birch to make them appear fairly solid). ‘Novice’ races are for horses that haven’t won a race over that type of obstacle prior to the current racing season. ‘Handicaps’ are races in which each horse carries an allotted weight, including the jockey and his saddle, which in theory gives all runners an equal chance of winning. 

If you want to appear knowledgeable, tell everyone who’ll listen that you are going to put “a placepot on before racing”. This has nothing to do with your barbecue. It involves selecting a horse in each of the first six races in the hope that they will all manage to reach a place (finish in the first two if there are more than four runners or the first three if there are eight or more runners). It’s a great bet to keep you entertained throughout the afternoon and it can pay very large dividends – although there is an unwritten rule that the bigger the dividend the more likely it is that you have just one horse that finishes unplaced. 

Don’t forget that Soul Magic will attempt to win a record-equalling seventh race at Cartmel on Bank Holiday Monday. If Soul Magic is successful in the ‘Win A Mini Handicap Chase’, he will equal the tally of Deep Mystery who scored seven times between 1976 and 1984. Deep Mystery wrote another note in the record books, when carrying Miss C Houlbrook past the winning post in 1978 to become the first female rider to win at Cartmel. Mention either of these points to racegoers and you'll convince everyone that you are a Cartmel expert.

Whatever the result, we wish Soul Magic a safe return and many more visits to Cartmel. We won’t ask him to try and repeat the feat of Benvolgio II who passed the post first in three races on the same day in 1877, although he was subsequently disqualified from one of them.
Good luck and have fun!

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