Friday, 12 June 2015

It's a Travelling Circus

From Salisbury to Beverly; from Newton Abbot to Cartmel, racing is often described as a travelling circus. Which is appropriate, because it just so happens that a real circus will be turning up at our next race-meeting: the Big Top Races on Friday 26th June and Sunday 28th June. 

In addition to performances before and after racing, the Festival Circus will be organising workshops for kids (including big kids up to the age of 91) throughout the afternoon. All of the entertainment is included within the race-day admission price.

And on Saturday, when there is no racing, we’ll be opening up the Course Enclosure during the afternoon, so that anyone can roll-up and enjoy the performances in the Big Top as well as the fairground rides, trade-stands and catering outlets. Admission to the racecourse on Saturday will be free, although there will be a charge of £5 per adult for the circus performances.  

Just like the cast of characters in horseracing, the circus troupe consists of a variety of individuals – each with a range of peculiar skills. So in place of jockeys, think acrobats; for trainers, think jugglers; and instead of racecourse managers, think clowns. In a Big Top, packed with talent, there will also be funambulists, aerial artists and a man who specialises in hand-balancing (not quite sure what that means – but come along and we’ll find out together). 

On race-days, our big name performers are supported by a travelling team of technicians including: stable staff, jockeys’ valets, tote staff, bookmakers, stewards, starters, judges, cameramen and journalists. Working their way around the country, you’re likely to see the same faces at Bath on one day as you’ll encounter at Yarmouth the next. The venue might be different, but the racing-team pulls together to put on a new performance for a fresh audience.

For racegoers at smaller tracks, this makes for a unique experience - there are few other sports where you can walk up to one of the leading participants and pose for a selfie or ask for an autograph on virtually any day of the week. 

Following their Derby victory with Golden Horn last Saturday, both Frankie Dettori and John Gosden were in action just three hours later at Lingfield Park. Frankie rode the winner of the 7.30pm (a Class 5 Maiden), riding for William Haggas who had earlier been responsible for the Derby-third, Storm The Stars. Who trained the second? John Gosden: Same performers, different show.      

The Ring Master on race-days – the person who orchestrates all of the action on the track – is known as the Clerk of the Course. This week our Clerk of the Course, Anthea Morshead, is in action at York where they don’t even have any obstacles (which hardly seems worthy of a drum-roll, let alone a fanfare), although I am assured that the horses go very fast indeed and the track facilities are superb. 

The one that I’m hoping will be running fastest of all is Pearl Castle in the 2.00pm on Saturday. Victorious in this very same contest last year, Pearl Castle will be accompanied in the lady amateurs’ race by Serena Brotherton. Together, you can expect them to be topping the bill!          

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