Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Curly-Leafed Controversy

There may be 232 entries for the five Group Races to be staged on Champions Day, at Ascot, in October; it is possible that Golden Horn will head unbeaten to the £1.3 million British Champion Stakes… But whatever happens, there is unlikely to be any rivalry so strong as that experienced at Cartmel this season. 

While I am truly proud of the programme of races that we have scheduled this year, the contest to which I refer is not the £26,000 Totepool Cumbria Crystal Cup, nor is it the £20,000 Oakmere Homes Handicap Chase. It isn’t even the £18,500 Coral Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle because, when it comes to it, no competition is likely to match the ferocity of the 132nd staging of the Cartmel Agricultural Show on the first Wednesday in August. 

Staged in the centre of the racecourse, the show featured sheep, cattle, native ponies, show jumping, items of home-industry and of course fresh horticultural produce. There was controversy in the lettuce classes when the validity of one of the entries was questioned. Could it be that a smooth leafed vegetable was masquerading in the wrong class? It couldn’t have been the racecourse’s entrant, as I double checked with a fellow competitor: apparently the fairly curly leaves on our own lettuce (grown adjacent to the main pedestrian entrance) are definitely classed as smooth when it comes to horticultural judgement. 

There was some concern, early in the morning, that the leaves on our immodestly sized lettuce might wilt in the heat of the contest. I therefore wrapped the roots gently in wet tissue paper and placed them inside a disposable cardboard cup, wrapped in a decorative Asda carrier bag (we love to recycle here at the racecourse). In retrospect, it seems likely that that this innovative vegetable presentation led to the docking of points and the ultimately disappointing allocation of third prize – scandalous in some respects, although the £1.50 prize money will still come in handy. 

We didn’t enter any tomatoes as they suffered from an early frost, since when we’ve been forced to play ketchup. And we couldn’t submit any fungi because the rest of the vegetables took up too mushroom. But it was the issue of our purple pods that really made me grum-pea. The failure of the judges to recognise the beauty of our beautiful purple peas (pitted against common-all-garden green ones), was an unwelcome turnip for the books. 

They say that it is the taking part that counts, so please remember that when considering this weekend’s selection: Rock Canyon, who is down to an attractive mark in the 6f handicap at Ayr on Saturday evening.  

We’ll be back with more entries for the 133rd Cartmel Agricultural Show next year. If you’re growing salad locally (or even at a rival racecourse) and you think your produce cuts the mustard, endive in and beet us if you can!  

That’s shallot.

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