There is a dastardly plot afoot. It involves crooked trainers, bent bookmakers and dishonest stable staff – and the whole conspiracy has been revealed as a result of an incident at Cartmel Racecourse.
have been dipping into my collection of Dick Francis novels again, having been
reminded of the Cartmel story-line by a member of the village’s Agricultural
Show Committee. It’s surprising how many Dick Francis aficionados are out
there; but with forty international best sellers to choose from, it isn’t
difficult to pick up the habit.
Kicks is the third best novel in the Francis canon (my favourite is Dead Cert,
which should be the starting point for any new readers). The story revolves
around a disreputable bunch of ne’er-do-wells who encourage horses to run
faster by way of a pavlovian response to a ‘silent’ dog whistle. The crooks’
plans start to unfold when one of their horses is unintentionally stimulated by
the hound-trails at Cartmel races. Which reminds me – we have missed the hound
trailers at Cartmel this year.
have long shared the headlines with horses at Cartmel and we have clippings of
newspaper reports on the office wall dating from 1932. Hound trailing involves
the laying of a scent using a mixture of paraffin and aniseed oil, which is
then followed by the hounds during a race. As the hounds near the finish, their
owners shout, cheer and blow whistles for all they are worth. I don’t know what
the prize money is like, but I’ve seen money changing hands with bookmakers –
so the competition has a serious edge to it.
the proper races take place over long courses of moorland, fields and fells,
the race-day versions involve a lap of the track and are much shorter but
no-less exciting. We’ll get the hounds back at Cartmel in 2014 and I hope you
might come to see them then. In the meantime, why not buy a second-hand copy of
For Kicks (£2.80 on Amazon) and settle down for a good evening’s read next to
you’re feeling flush, perhaps you’ll invest in the Dick Francis Omnibus (three
books: Dead Cert, Nerve and For Kicks) for £16.85. I think a small each way
investment, at 25/1, on Fury in the Cambridgeshire Handicap on Saturday might
help us fund the purchase.