Thursday, 31 July 2014


One of the pleasures of running a racecourse is the endless variety that every day brings: one minute we could be planning improvements to the track, the next we might be working on ticket sales, race sponsorship, an advertising campaign, catering arrangements, the race-programme, waste collection, traffic management or chasing cattle.
Chasing cattle? Well that’s what I found myself doing on the day before our most recent race-meeting in July. Cartmel is a popular area for walking and it seems that a long sequence of gates had been left open between Cark and Cartmel, enabling a group of excited heifers to gallop from one end of the parish to the other. We were lucky it didn’t result in a scene of udder-destruction (sorry).
Fortunately they took a right-turn at our racegoer camp-site, avoided the racetrack and headed through the woods to the road, before being ushered back into a field adjacent to our Course Enclosure entrance. It wasn’t long before one of our neighbouring farmers arrived to reclaim the cattle and restore them to a securely fenced pasture.
Fortunately the animals weren’t too intracta-bull and they followed the farmer when he rattled a sack full of feed. Despite the fun of chasing the cows across the field, and the undoubted benefits brought by the aerobic exercise, I do have a plea for dog walkers and racegoers visiting the Cartmel area – please remember the Countryside Code.
First devised in the 1950s, the Countryside Code was once on the curriculum of all primary schools. While it has seen various revisions over the last sixty years, there are a few staples which have remained unchanged – such as: Leave gates and property as you find them - a farmer will normally close gates to keep farm animals in, but may sometimes leave them open so  the animals can reach food and water. When in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gates.
Other good advice includes: Use gates, stiles or gaps in field boundaries if you can – climbing over walls, hedges and fences can damage them and increase the risk of farm animals escaping.
Now, if all the horses that I backed could run as fast as the cattle I chased, I would be a very rich man. This week I’m pinning my hopes on Intrinsic, who will be ridden by Richard Hughes in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood. If you think that you may have heard this bull before – it’s probably a case of déjà moo.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Woolly Headed Scudamore Joins the Greats

In 1979 I was competing in the Ashford Valley Pony Club’s annual one-day-event when I took a wrong turn during the cross-country phase. My mother, who had given up the day to drive me to the competition, yelled that I was a "woolly-headed idiot" and made me run around the course - as a lesson that I should have walked it properly in the first place. 
On Monday Tom Scudamore joined my list of all time top jockeys - not because of his winning ride on Monita Bonita in the Racing UK Anywhere Package Mares Handicap Hurdle, but because of his stunning ride on Run Forest Run in the following race sponsored by Louis Roederer Champagne. Scudamore’s Champagne moment involved setting off on the wide outside for the 3 ¼ mile handicap hurdle before jumping the first of the 4½ foot tall steeplechase fences. It was lucky Run Forest Run is a good jumper.
While The Racing Post described the jockey on the following day’s front page as "Forest Chump", one of the girls in our office suggested that he was "a bit of a goon". I think my mother would have advised him to go and get his hair cut – it’s wooliness was obviously impeding his brain.
Shortly before 3.00pm, Scudamore had dashed out from the Weighing Room to receive the prize for the preceding race, posing for photographs with the race sponsors which will be cherished for many years to come. He then signed autographs for a group of children, which may inspire them to follow racing for a life-time. He conducted himself quietly and confidently as the consummate professional, helping us to promote our sport - before committing a hugely embarrassing error in full view of the TV cameras and a massive racing audience. 
For me, this was the moment that Scudamore earned the respect that has hitherto been accorded to his father (Peter – the eight time Champion Jockey) and his grandfather (Michael, winner of the 1959 Grand National on Oxo). "I feel very sorry for the horse’s connections and I have apologised to them" he said. "I also apologise to everyone who backed him. I was given a twelve day ban and for once I don’t feel hard done by". 
Not only can the man ride, but he is also human – he makes mistakes and apologises for them. He deserves our applause, even from those whose pockets are lighter. The horse's connections are giving Scudamore the opportunity to make amends on Friday – when he will ride Run Forest Run at Uttoxeter. I hope they win.
This weekend’s selection is Mukhadram in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Perhaps someone could make sure that Dane O’Neill walks the course beforehand?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Memories Are Made Of This

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you were doing there? It’s a common experience caused by our brains compartmentalising memories on an event by event basis.

When one event finishes, the brain moves on to the next activity – especially if the new activity is taking place in a new environment or a separate room. The experiences registered during the first event are edited down and only the highlights are filed away for future reference. This is one of the reasons why bookmakers are already relishing Euro 2016: when the English football team lines up in France, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be a collective national amnesia regarding anything that happened in Brazil.

One of the mechanisms for recalling facts (or remembering whatever it was that you went into the kitchen for) is to re-trace your steps, either physically or mentally. Try it next time you find yourself standing perplexed in front of the kitchen sink. On returning to the bathroom, you’ll realise that what you were looking for was… the potato peeler! Although, frankly, I’d suggest that a standard razor is more useful for shaving with. 

Just as lost items can be found by going back to the beginning, so good memories can be triggered by visiting places that have positive memory associations. When racegoers flock to Cartmel, they’re not just enjoying a day out – many of them are also reliving joyous occasions that they’ve experienced in the past. Grand-parents bring parents who bring children, who will one day bring their children’s children – because the association between Cartmel races and fun family celebrations has entered the genealogy of multiple generations.

The whiff of barbecue smoke in the air, the yells of youngsters whirling on the waltzer, the drumming of horses’ hooves, the warmth of the sun on the picnic blanket, sometimes even the squelching of wellington boots in muddy puddles, the sizzle of sausages, the shouts of the bookies, sticky toffee pudding, English Lakes ice-cream, a pint of real ale from the Cartmel Brewery: memories are made of this.

One of the nicest things about racing at Cartmel in recent years has been the regularity with which Soul Magic has won his races. As racegoers return time after time, they run their fingers down the list of runners and see a familiar name. "Oh yes" they say, "he’s won here before." And he has – seven times. What can we say, the track obviously holds fond memories for him too. 

Soul Magic will be back at Cartmel at the forthcoming races, seeking a record breaking eight victories at the racecourse. He has broad shoulders, so I am sure that he will also be up to carrying the added burden of being my selection for the week ahead. Good luck.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Who's Hot and Who's Fishy at Cartmel Races

It was a hard-fought contest. You might say the competition was hot. How do you determine the best barbecue recipe for Cartmel races?
Missing out narrowly was Mini Cooper from Manchester – and I am very sorry about this – but I think the entrant may have a made-up name. The recipe was for Carbecue Trout. Simply take your gutted trout, stuff it with lemon, parsley and chives, wrap it in tin foil, tie the resulting parcel to the exhaust manifold of your vehicle (or any other hot part of the engine, avoiding moving parts), drive to the races and enjoy on arrival with a slice of brown bread and mayonnaise.
I’m not saying that it wouldn’t work – I’m going to give it a try soon – but if it only takes you 10 minutes to drive to the races, I’m not convinced the fish will be cooked in time. If you’re travelling from Manchester, I suspect it may be a tad over-done. Anyone starting out from Kent, Devon or Aberdeenshire (and there’s always a few) should consider substituting the trout for a T-bone steak.
The winner wisely worked up a wok-full of our best local produce for these Cartmel Ultimate Lamb Burgers – congratulations Helen Goodwill who wins two tickets for the races on Saturday 19th July or Monday 21st July.
The ingredients include:

1lb  Holker Saltmarsh Lamb [Minced]
1/3 pint Cartmel Peninsula Ale
A large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 egg
3oz breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Tabasco
4 slices of Doddington Cheese

Chop the onion, crush the garlic and beat the egg. Get a large bowl and throw in all the ingredients, except the cheese. This is a taxing job. When you have divided the mixture into four roughly equal parts and patted it out you may need to drink the remaining 2/3 pint of Cartmel Peninsula Ale while you watch the burgers cooking for around 7 minutes each side on a hot BBQ. When cooked to your liking, place between top quality rolls from Unsworth's Yard or Grange Bakery, place the cheese on top of the burger, give it 30 seconds to melt. Eat. Repeat if necessary.
If all this is making you hungry, don’t forget that you can order barbecue packs of meat, to collect at the races, when you book your tickets on-line for the July meeting. But hurry, because the advance-ticket discount only lasts until midnight on Sunday night.
And if the thought of competitive cooking has got you all fired up, we shall be hosting Britain’s best BBQ contest throughout both race-days. The team from the International BBQ Network will be organising their Ready-Steady-Q competition as well as the children’s version: Kids-Q. Run to a familiar format, contestants are provided with a barbecue, a bag of mystery food ingredients and 25 minutes to create the tastiest BBQ meal. It’s free to enter and there’ll be prizes for the winners.
Based on the above, I suppose this weekend’s selection should be Clever Cookie in the 2.55 at York on Saturday, but instead I have a sneaky feeling for Caledonia in the 4.40.