Thursday, 25 June 2015

Good For The Soul

If horseracing were a religion, the congregation at Cartmel would undoubtedly be classed as evangelistic: colourful, loud and enthusiastic about sharing the faith. Cartmel racegoers are a broad church, quite liberal in outlook, yet strongly attached to age-old traditions.  

Cartmel is a fertile seed-bed for the racing industry’s young enthusiasts. Although, like every dedicated gardener, we have to be tend our plot with care if we want our plants to grow. That’s just one reason why our new 2-day June meeting is so important. 

The seed that falls on stony soil may spring up quickly in the sunshine (we hope there will be sunshine), but then wither and die if it has no roots. To help develop racing-roots we are providing the youngest racegoers on Sunday with a special racecard of their own – one which reduces the complexity of the information and presents it in a simpler, funnier style. Many adults have commented that they prefer the under-10’s version.  

Seed that falls amongst thorns may grow up and be strangled by the weeds. We mustn’t abandon our young racing enthusiasts to the unscrupulous – which is why we have invited more than 60 children, from a local primary school in Barrow-in-Furness, to come and learn about horseracing (as well as practise their mathematical, English, sporting and design skills) under the guidance of the British Horseracing Education & Standards Trust on Friday. 

And the seed that falls on good ground (ours is currently good-to-firm, good in places – but we’re expecting a drop of rain overnight) will produce a good crop, providing a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

That is what we hope to achieve: that everyone who comes and enjoys a good day at Cartmel (hopefully enjoying the sight of 152 rated hurdler Court Minstrel, our Sunday selection), will return with a hundred friends, on sixty race-days, at thirty different racecourses in the future.  

There will be some people that wonder if the worlds of racing and Christianity are vaguely incompatible – mutually exclusive even (for those children that have recently completed their Maths GCSEs). But we shouldn’t forget that it was the monks, based at Cartmel Priory, that originally started the racing here – or that one of our most cherished events is the Steeplechase Service in August, where Nick Devenish will bless a Thoroughbred racehorse at the porch of the Priory. 

Nick, who is the Racecourse Chaplain, as well as the Vicar of the Priory, will be hotfooting between the Church (Communion Service at 11.00am) to the racecourse on Sunday – where he will say a short prayer for the races from within the Winners’ Enclosure. What’s good for the soul is good for racing and hopefully vice versa – so please don’t forget that you will be very welcome to join him at both venues.

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