Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Recipe For Success

The racing season at Cartmel is under-way… Now we’re cooking!
No… we really ARE cooking. The July race-meeting has traditionally been accompanied by a barbecue theme and thousands of racegoers bring charcoal with them to the races. We have a few rules, such as: keeping the barbecues off the grass (to avoid scorch marks on the village cricket pitch) and using only the metal bins to dispose of the embers. In order to ensure that the smoke doesn’t get in the way of racing, we also ask that all barbecues close to the running rail are extinguished prior to the first race.
To take the hassle out of the preparation, we’re working with a local supplier to provide racegoers with all the meat that they could possibly desire for the top of their barbecue. Furness Fish Poultry & Game Supplies, based in the small village of Flookburgh, just 3 miles from the track, has been potting the famous Morecambe Bay shrimps for over 30 years. They also pride themselves on supplying top quality Cumbria game and locally produced meat. Their Cumbria BBQ Packs cost £24 and include four venison burgers, four chicken kebabs, four pork sausages and four rump steaks – enough to feed up to eight people.
The Cumbria BBQ Pack can be ordered together with your race tickets when you book for the races online – and Claire Worrall, who runs the company, will keep the meat refrigerated for you until you pick it up from the trade-stand on race-day. But take care, one look at the stand and you may be tempted to purchase additional cuts – especially the game which I am told is not only wild, natural and free range, but is also low in cholesterol and high in protein.
High protein diets were all the rage a few years ago. I have a theory that it may have had something to do with the popularity of vampire films such as the Twilight saga, Buffy and (my own favourite) Underworld. After all, you never see a fat vampire. From Geena Davis, in Transylvania 6-5000, to Kristen Stewart and Kate Beckinsale, those vampires all seem very good looking – although you could have some issues with their dentistry.
Anyway, there’s no need to go that far; among the trade-stands at the racecourse you’ll also find fine dairy products from Cartmel Cheeses, freshly prepared Indian cuisine, bread from the Fat Flour Bakery and of course Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding. The foil tray, that the Cartmel Sticky Toffee comes in, makes it the ideal barbecue pudding.
At about this time each year I like to include a barbecue recipe in my weekly column. However, this time, I’m going to give you the chance. Send me your best recipe (it could be for ketchup, home-made sausages, burgers, relish or salad) and I will publish my favourite entry here. The budding chef, with the best recipe, will win a pair of tickets to the races.
To enter the great BBQ recipe competition, simply e-mail or write to me at the racecourse office, Cartmel Racecourse, Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6QF, before 10th July. 
This week’s selection is Stagecoach Pearl – who should be given another chance to prove himself over a distance of more than three miles, at Uttoxeter, on Sunday.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Another Job I Couldn't Do...

Spare a thought for Ian Bartlett, John Hunt and Simon Holt this weekend. They are the men who will be calling home the 28 runners competing for the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday: Ian Bartlett over the racecourse PA system, John Hunt for BBC 5 Live and Simon Holt for Channel 4 television.
Run over a distance of 6 furlongs, for a prize of £175,000, the race is one of the most important sprints of the year and normally you’d expect it to be all over in about 72 seconds. I’ve just tried to read out the names of all 28 runners and it took me exactly 36 seconds – so there might just be time to mention them all twice. However, imagine that they are galloping down a straight track, head-on, in three separate groups, at nearly 40mph, some of them with similar coloured silks … and that you are trying to name them in roughly the correct order.

I stumbled a bit over the horse called Trinityelitedotcom and I’m not quite sure how you pronounce Saayerr. If I were a commentator I don’t think I’d bother mentioning those ones… Unless they’re in front right at the end, in which case I don’t suppose the commentators will have much choice. It’s a shame for the owners; I’m sure they’d like to hear their horses’ names being mentioned – but that’s also a good incentive for owners to keep their horses’ names short and simple. I’d like that and I bet the commentators would too.
I once marvelled at a commentary that Simon Holt gave from within a thick sea-fret at Goodwood. I commented how well he had done considering that I couldn’t see any horses at all. He said that he couldn’t either, but then nor could anyone else - and there weren’t any complaints.

It should be a much easier trick to pull off on radio, where no one can actually see whether the horses in front are the ones you are calling. But radio has an added pressure in that you also have to paint the scene. The best radio commentators are somehow descriptive of the mood as well as accurate at conveying the action and I love the way they create an atmosphere without the aid of pictures.
Track records have been tumbling at Royal Ascot this year, so the chances are that there will be even less time than usual for the commentators to get their words out. When a course record falls a defensive Clerk of the Course might claim "The ground isn’t too fast, we moved the rails and the course is fractionally shorter". That wouldn't really wash on the straight course at Ascot, not that I think there’s anything wrong with the going there.
I suppose, if they wanted to slow the horses up a bit, they could move the rails and put in a chicane half way down the track. That would put a new slant on the analysis of the draw (each horse’s position in the starting stalls ranging across the track) and it would create an interesting challenge for the commentators – as if they needed any more.
Obviously the winner of this year’s Wokingham (and my selection for this week) is Annunciation.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Jockeys Cautioned in Traffic Incident

Thirty nine jockeys received a caution this week - for lining up too early in April's Grand National, a traffic offence of sorts, although not linked to the Automobile Association's recent publication of advice regarding equestrian road-sense.

While the BHA was concerned with the jockeys' lack of care towards pedestrians at Aintree (they knocked over one of the starter's assistants), the AA has taken action following a survey in which 8% of drivers stated that they would be unsure of the appropriate actions to take on encountering a horse on the highway.

In Cartmel we're occasionally fortunate to see Jimmy Moffatt's string of racehorses out for a jog - or a pair of Friesian horses (from the Black Horses stud just outside the village), in harness, collecting newly-weds from the 12th Century priory.
Other leisure riders, clad in luminous jackets, trip-trap through the village too. Apparently they're not so welcome in all parts of the country; 17% of drivers stated that they didn't think horses should be allowed on the road at all - something that should be giving the equestrian community cause for concern.  
There are, of course, regional variations. Visit any town in the Scottish Borders during the Summer and you'll as likely as not face a short delay as a hundred or more horses pass by to celebrate the Common Ridings. Horses and ponies of all shapes and size are regularly seen in the high-streets of Hawick, Galashiels, Selkirk and Peebles and very lovely it is too.
We have to be pragmatic, times change, and modern roads were designed for cars not horses. It isn't much fun to ride in speeding traffic, but a long ride around the country lanes can be life-enhancing. As drivers, if we learn to slow down a bit, the sight of a horse on a country lane might be life enhancing too.
While it is thought that there are about 3,000 horse related accidents on the road every year, there are at least 20,000 involving bicycles. When it comes to serious accidents, the statistics for cyclists get even worse with an even higher proportion of life-changing injuries and fatalities. One factor, apart from the large number of bicycles on the road, is the predominately polite manner in which horse-riders have historically conducted themselves.
That perception may be at risk in the modern environment where good manners are rare, patience is thin and a culture of blame breeds distrust. Some riders have started wearing cameras on their helmets, which not only makes them look ridiculous, but also sends disrespectful and untrusting signals to other road users. Personally, I couldn't disapprove more strongly.

Of all the guidelines issued to riders by organisations such as the British Horse Society and the Pony Club, the most important is that they should show courtesy to all drivers and conspicuous gratitude to those that demonstrate consideration when passing.

As for drivers, it may be sobering to reflect on the fact that about a quarter of all riders are children aged under 16. It is sensible to pass wide and slow, being prepared to stop if necessary.
It is also worth remembering that the rider can usually see further along the highway and hear more than the driver. They are more likely to be aware of additional vehicles or hazards, so if a rider is able to issue clear hand signals, it pays to be attentive. If you want to find out more, look up the AA's recent advice on their website.
And so to this week’s selection: as long as he can avoid traffic problems in the large field entered for the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup, and his jockey doesn’t mow down any pedestrians, I think Hawkeyethenoo will take a lot of beating in the £100,000 feature at Musselburgh on Saturday.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Battle of the Sexes - Is it Nowt but Wind?

Researchers at the University of Illinois reported this week that hurricanes with female names are more deadly than those with male names, confirming something that Kipling told us as early as 1911.

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Up until 1979 all hurricanes were given female names as they were thought to be unpredictable (in the words of meteorologists, not my own). However, it seems that modern man has an altogether different view of feminine attitudes. Apparently our refusal to take girls’ names seriously results in a greater death toll when compared to hurricanes that are given boys’ names – it’s something to do with running for cover.
According to researchers, changing a hurricane’s name from Charley to the (altogether flouncier) Elouise could result in three times the number of casualties. Presumably, if the weather forecasters really want to save lives, they should be giving hurricanes monikers such as Beelzibub or Lucifer.
When it comes to horses, perhaps we should take note. The favourite for the Epsom Derby on Saturday is Australia – a name which is almost calculated to provoke every English sports fan to bet against him winning. Meanwhile, the favourite for the Oaks (the fillies’ version of the Epsom Classic) is called Marvellous – leaving little room for doubt about her credentials.
It should be noted that the prize money for the fillies’ race is just £523,000 compared to £1.25 million for the colts, despite the fact that Marvellous is rated just 3lbs inferior to Australia on official ratings. Not only that, but the Oaks has the look of a competitive race, while the Derby could well prove to be a damp squib.
While Marvellous faces opposition from horses named Momentous, Dazzling and Amazing Maria, the three-year old colts are largely uninspiring.
The best named three-year-old colt of the year, The Grey Gatsby, won’t even be at Epsom having snaffled the French Derby last weekend. In his absence it will be left to two other literary figures to throw down the gauntlet: Arod (named after one of Tolkein’s equine characters from Lord of the Rings) and Geoffrey Chaucer (the fourteenth century poet, but also a colt trained by AP O’Brien).
Known to most people as the author of the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer also penned a poem entitled The Legend of Good Women – apparently written after receiving a reprimand from the God of love for depicting women in a poor light. Let that be a lesson to all of us – let’s not under-estimate the fillies.
Let’s not under-estimate the geldings either: this week’s selection is Ballybough Gorta in the feature steeplechase of the weekend, The Perth Gold Cup on Sunday.