Thursday, 25 July 2013

After The Show Is Over

After two fantastic days racing at Cartmel, many people have asked me, “What happens next on the racecourse?”

Well the clear-up starts straight away and, while we always try to get the park back into shape as quickly as possible, the village will be visited by the judges of Britain in Bloom next week – so we want to be doubly sure that the racecourse is as tidy as possible. 

A dedicated team of casual staff, including local families and members of the Cartmel Cricket Club, collect in the region of 17 tonnes of rubbish. The waste is collated and removed from site by Wicks Waste Management Services, who ensure that 100% of it is recycled. Glass, plastic, cardboard and metal are sorted for re-processing. The rest is treated and converted to “refuse derived fuel” – not sold yet in Britain, but usually exported to Holland for use on the continent. 

This weekend the racecourse will be hired by the local Pony Club for an annual event, while members of the Lakeland Caravan Club will be staging a rally to coincide with the Steam Gathering on Cark Airfield. That’s assuming that we can get all the marquees down in time; it’s a tight turn-around. 

Next week we’ll be hosting the Sunflower Ball, in the Louis Roederer Restaurant on the first floor of the Grandstand, for St Mary’s Hospice. The Grandstand is available throughout the year for weddings, private functions and corporate events. And following that, it’s the Cartmel Agricultural Show on Wednesday 7th August. 

The divots left by the horse’s hooves have already been neatly forked back into place and this week’s rain has helped to stimulate the grass to grow in preparation for the August Bank Holiday Meeting; all of which will please our Clerk of the Course, Anthea Morshead, who is supervising the action at York on Saturday. She isn’t allowed to have a bet – but you can…  I’d suggest  Mukhadram in the York Stakes at 2.55pm. 

Between watching races during the afternoon, I’ll be spending some time in the garden. Regular readers will be aware of the failed asparagus crop – I’m delighted to report that the fine weather has brought compensation in the form of delicious strawberries, redcurrants and gooseberries.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot

It’s hot down at the racecourse this week and we’re looking forward to a couple of those perfect Cartmel race-days. The sun will be shining, there’ll be picnic blankets, ice-creams, glasses of nice cool drinks, giddy crowds on the fairground and … did I mention… the weather is going to be hot?

Horses don’t generally eat ice-cream (something to do with not liking chocolate or vanilla I think), so we are making alternative arrangements to keep them cool. As part of the legacy from the London Olympics, we have been allowed to use the large fans that were used to blow a fine mist of water droplets over the equine competitors during the 2012 Games. Located in a marquee adjacent to the wash down area, the fans will be able to cool the horses as soon as they come off the track. We’ll also have thousands of litres of water available at strategic points around the racecourse, ensuring that any horses that are pulled up can be cooled quickly too. 

There is £125,000 of prize money on offer for Saturday and Monday and the entries for all the races look really strong. The most valuable race of our season is the £27,000 Totepool Cumbria Crystal Cup, run for the first time last year. The winner on that occasion was What A Steel who will carry an additional 5lb compared to last year if he gets into the race; preference may be for Scotswell who always runs well at Cartmel. 

The £15,000 McGuinness Feeds Handicap Hurdle is the most valuable hurdle race in Britain restricted to lady riders. Donald McCain has stepped in to book Lucy Alexander for Life And Soul and that looks a good combination in a “hot” race. It would be great to see a local winner and I’d give a serious chance to Jimmy Moffatt’s Seize in the Louis Roederer Handicap Steeplechase; he’s 12lb lower in the weights since his last run and looks as though he’ll appreciate the faster going. 

Off the track, the competition is going to be even hotter. Racegoers will be invited to take part in a contest to cook the best BBQ meal, using a selection of mystery ingredients – in a similar format to the TV show Ready Steady Cook. The winners of each 30 minute round will be invited to take part in the sizzling final at the end of each race-day. We’ll also be awarding a prize to the racegoers that set-up the most stylish picnic or BBQ in either public enclosure. 

We’re looking forward to a great weekend. Did I mention that it is going to be hot?

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Nice People Who Solved Our Space Shuttle Problem

I am reliably informed by a member of our friendly catering team (which means that I haven’t checked any of the facts that follow, but I’m going to repeat them anyway) that the rocket boosters on the American space shuttle were built to a size based roughly on the width of two horses’ backsides.

You see the boosters had to travel to the launch-pad by train, passing through a tunnel along the way. The gauge of the US railway line, 4ft 8½ inches, dictated the width of the tunnel - and the American rail tracks were based on our own British ones. So how was the gauge of our tracks determined? Well they were based on the width of the tram tracks which came earlier. The tram tracks were set at roughly the same distance apart as the ruts created by horse-drawn vehicles, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the wheels. How far apart were those ruts in the road? …About the width of two horses trotting side by side.

Now I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but NASA aren’t the only organisation to have faced an issue that originates from the days of horse-drawn vehicles.  Here in the medieval village of Cartmel, people often wonder how we manage to get 20,000 racegoers through the narrow roads and rural lanes that surround the racecourse.

If I had a pound for every person who suggested that we should build a new road around the village, I might just be able to pay for one; not that anyone who has received my tips on a regular basis is likely to give me a pound for anything. (This Saturday, by the way, I’m going for Jonny Delta in the 4.40 at York).

So we went to “plan b” – and brought in the professionals. SEP Events Ltd have been helping the public to gain access to many of Britain’s busiest events since 1989 including: the Aintree Grand National, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, music festivals and this week’s Great Yorkshire Show. In addition to helping us devise a traffic management system which is sanctioned by the County Council, SEP Events design the appropriate road signage, set out thousands of road cones and provide staff for all the key positions including most of our car parks. They are the NASA of the car-parking universe. 
SEP’s traffic management system involves the creation of dedicated one-way routes into the racecourse, which are reversed half way through the day to facilitate the get-away. In the meantime, we try to keep surrounding lanes available for local residents to negotiate their way around the village to continue with their normal business. So if you’re approaching the racecourse next week and think you know a short-cut, please help us to avoid gridlock by sticking to the signed routes and don’t rely on your sat-nav, especially if you’re driving a space shuttle or a horse drawn cart.


Thursday, 4 July 2013

How Important is Sport?

Bill Shankly the Scottish football manager is credited with saying “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Having observed the river of tears flowing from Wimbledon over the last two weeks, no one could mistake the importance of winning to the participants. It was similar at my daughter’s sports day last week - the cheating that goes on in an egg and spoon race; those Mums should be ashamed of themselves! 
Yes, sport can inspire us and it may even be good for our health – but it is also providing a major boost to our economy. A recent report, published by Deloitte on behalf of the British Horseracing Authority, has demonstrated that racing generates £1.1 billion of direct expenditure within our economy, plus a further £2.45 billion of indirect expenditure. The core industry employs the equivalent of 17,400 people on a full time basis and involves a wider network of 85,000 employees working in associated businesses including farriers, vets and of course betting related businesses.
Despite generating high levels of income and expenditure, very little cash actually leaves the sport in the form of profit to shareholders. While racing delivers £275 million in tax receipts every year and has invested an average of £95 million a year over the last decade in capital projects, just £12 million per annum is distributed through dividends or share buy-backs. That’s less than 1% of the industry’s cash inflows.
Horseracing is comfortably the second-most-attended spectator sport in Britain after football, stimulating around 5.6 million visits in 2012. On average each fixture attracts just over 4,050 racegoers, although here at Cartmel the combined appeal of our scenic surroundings and Bank Holiday fixtures has attracted an average of more than 9,700 per day over the last ten years.
While 5% of British racegoers stay overnight as part of their trip nationally, at Cartmel the percentage can often exceed 25% with visitors descending on the Lakes from all corners of the country and frequently overseas too. Deloitte estimate that the secondary spend of racing's consumers including travel, accommodation and associated activities is worth more than £1.2 billion to Britain every year - good news for Cartmel's accommodation providers, retailers and restauranteurs.
We’re just over two weeks away from our most valuable fixture of the year, when we're looking forward to welcoming another large crowd, but Sandown stage their biggest day on Saturday. I am anticipating Al Kazeem  to confirm his recent Royal Ascot form with Mukhadram to win the £425,000 Coral Eclipse Stakes. I just hope that the jockey isn’t caught holding the egg on the spoon with his finger.