Friday, 29 July 2016

Lost in the Fog

It takes someone with a peculiar kind of vision to build a racecourse – but even so, back in 1802, most people must have thought that the third Duke of Richmond had completely lost his marbles.
Goodwood may be one of the most beautiful racecourses in the country, but the track plots a precarious path along a high ridge of the South Downs and boasts some unusual cambers. Unlike Cartmel, there is no circuit for the horses to go round and around. In the longest races the horses start near the Grandstands, gallop away, disappear around a short loop and then head back down towards the stands again – in a similar format to Salisbury and Hamilton Park.
Shorter races are started far away from the stands at various points around the loop. In 1988, during the 1m 2f Festival Stakes, the runners set off in the wrong direction – taking the shortest way around the loop instead of the longest. The race was made void (depriving dual Eclipse Stakes winner Mtoto of the first prize money), although the starter’s error had a happy outcome – with the accidental discovery of a new starting position for 1m 1f races.
It’s possible that, on some days, no one would have noticed the horses galloping in the wrong direction, as the racecourse is vulnerable to sea frets – a thick fog which rolls in on the tide. During the first half of the 19th Century, it is claimed that John Barham Day (a prominent racehorse trainer) won a major sprint by sending one of his opponents in the wrong direction. The racecourse wasn’t fully enclosed at the time and Day met a stable-lad, who happened to be leading the favourite for the race, lost in the fog. Day, who trained at the nearby village of Findon, knew exactly which direction the horse should have been heading - but he still sent the unfortunate lad back down the hill and away from the track.
It’s one of those lovely stories, akin to the tales of crooked-goings-on behind the trees on the home bend at Cartmel – before a sixth camera was installed to capture the action there. But don’t expect any such skulduggery ahead of the Stewards Cup on Saturday; Goodwood enjoys a reputation heavily laced with old-English charm, but it is now a thoroughly modern racecourse boasting world-class facilities for both horses and racegoers.
The Stewards Cup is usually won by a sprinter on the upgrade – a useful performer with the potential to become a Group race winner. Step forward Dancing Star, who runs in the same colours as the popular 1992 winner Lochsong – known to her many fans as the ‘pocket rocket’. A filly, just like Lochsong, and trained by Andrew Balding, whose father trained Lochsong, Dancing Star is out to repeat a little piece of history for her connections.
Having already won four of her seven races, including one at Goodwood in June, Dancing Star is our tip for the weekend. Let’s just hope she runs in the right direction.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Rewind and Replay

The steeplechase track at Cartmel has the longest run-in of any jumps track in the country. No one will know that better than Henry Brooke - who jumped the last fence bare back on Monday, completing the final five furlongs of the race with the saddle hanging half way around Altruism's belly.

Having lost the lead (and almost his saddle) through a blunder at the second last obstacle, Altruism battled back manfully and failed by just 3/4 of a length to reel in his stable-mate, Fantasy King, at the finish. Fortunately Henry Brooke managed to cling on to all of his tack and managed to weigh-in successfully for second place.

There are some sights on a race-day, like the groom-to-be wearing a lime-green ‘mankini’, that you wish you’d never seen at all – while there are others, like Brooke's recovery, that you want to watch again and again.

Racing UK didn’t take their cameras across to the party tents in the Tented Village, so viewers at home remained blissfully unaware of the sartorial crimes that took place among the stag and hen parties on Saturday. Which is not to say that there weren't some very well dressed racegoers too - like the many ladies in hats and totally impractical heels.

Fortunately, Racing UK did capture all of the races from Cartmel on both days of the Barbecue Meeting - which means that subscribers can rewind and watch the races again and again (even the ones at Market Rasen, which they missed because they came racing at Cartmel).

The facility to rewind and replay, is one of the many benefits afforded by Racing UK Anywhere – a subscription package which allows the user to watch via a variety of platforms including Sky, Freeview, Desktop, iPad, iPhone, Android or Mobile Web. If you only ever want to watch Cartmel, you don’t even have to subscribe for a full year – day passes are available for £10.

There has been a debate in the racing press about TV coverage recently, predominately around the question of how much of each programme should be spent talking about betting and how long the presenters should develop the stories behind the personalities involved in the sport. The Racing UK presenters give added insight into the form of each race – so I’m confident that they’ll agree with my selection for the weekend, Her Majesty the Queen’s Dartmouth in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, at Ascot, on Saturday.

I like it when the presenters talk about the colourful side of the sport too - but you'll be able to watch Saturday's action on Racing UK safe in the knowledge that they won’t feature any images of racegoers wearing mankinis – even at Ascot.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Free Food and Shiny Hair

I love free food. And I’m not just talking about the delicious ham and cheese sandwich which was prepared for me moments ago by Anthea Morshead, our Clerk of the Course. Is there nothing that Anthea won’t do to ensure that racing at Cartmel runs according to schedule?  

We replaced our hanging baskets after the June meeting with some fresh displays, planted exclusively with a creamy-white variety of nasturtium called ‘Milkmaid’. The peppery leaves are delicious in a salad, while the flowers are edible too – the perfect garnish for a classy picnic or barbecue at the races. Which is my way of reminding you that, if you’re heading this way on Saturday or Monday, we’re offering a prize for the most stylish picnic at the races. There’ll be a hamper full of delicious local produce, for the winner, as well as tickets to a future race-meeting. 

We don’t expect racegoers to dress up – although you're welcome to do so if you wish... Perhaps we’ll give a prize for the most colourful wellington boots – although I hope it won’t be necessary; the forecast for Saturday and Monday is looking increasingly fine. The judges will be looking for colourful picnic blankets and innovative food – so if you’ve ever wanted to have a go at smoking cockles, under a ceramic pot, over a few oak chips (à la Jamie Oliver & friends), now is the time to give it a try.

But if it were me, I’d stick to the free stuff. At the north end of the racecourse, on the far side of the track in the overflow car park, you’ll find several patches of wild sorrel – delicious when mixed with the nasturtiums from the hanging baskets. If we’re lucky we’ll even be able to find a few un-ripened seeds from the nasturtiums which, when mixed with cream cheese, are an excellent replacement for capers and make a fantastic accompaniment to Furness Fish & Game's delicious venison burgers. The venison burgers aren’t free – but they can be purchased in packs (ready for your own barbecue) from their stand in the Tented Village.

Eat like this and you’ll be healthy too. Apparently the nasturtiums are packed full of Vitamin C and have a natural anti-biotic and anti-viral effect – staving off the symptoms of cold and flu. Plus, when mashed to a pulp and steeped in water for 12 hours, they create a beneficial hair supplement – stimulating the tiny capillaries in the scalp to promote growth.

I’ve read that somewhere – but, now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure whether you’re supposed to treat the resulting paste as a lotion or a potion. Perhaps we could experiment by giving some to the jockeys in the £10,000 Banks Lyon Jewellers Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle. Some can drink it, some can use it as shampoo – and we’ll see who has the shiniest hair. I bet it’s Lizzie Kelly – who rides this week's selection, Lyric Street, for trainer Donald McCain.

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Thimble Full of Diamonds

While the village of Cartmel has been described as a ‘thimble-full of diamonds’, the racecourse has been compared to a beautiful bloom – fragrant and colourful, yet fleeting in appearance due to the short Summer season.

It’s therefore fitting that the winning jockey, of the Banks Lyon Jewellers Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle Race on Saturday 16th July, will pick up a £5,000 diamond cluster pendant featuring a classic flower design. The pendant is made from 18ct white gold, set with seven fiery and spectacular brilliant cut diamonds totalling 1.39ct with a single 0.30ct brilliant cut diamond sitting proudly above.

The race, which is sponsored by the Lancaster based luxury family jewellers, is the most
valuable contest over obstacles for lady riders in Britain – with a prize value, in addition to the diamonds, of £10,000. It’s the second time that Banks Lyon Jewellers have sponsored the race, which is open to both amateur and professional jockeys. The Banks Lyon trade-stand will be returning its position, adjacent to the parade ring, where racegoers will be able to see the latest range of Hublot watches and other goodies – especially for those fortunate enough to have enjoyed big wins on the horses.

If you’ve been following the tips in this blog over the past few weeks, you might have enough funds to buy yourself a watch-strap. This week I’m hoping that we’ll secure another instalment towards the Hublot fund, by following the Celestial Path in York’s 3 o’clock race on Saturday.

If this were any other racecourse, we’d call the event at which we give away diamonds something like ‘Ladies Day’. Here at Cartmel, however, the fixture is known as the ‘Barbecue Meeting’ – in recognition of the fact that, elsewhere in the enclosures, racegoers will be concentrating on other forms of carbon.

Less hard and darker in colour, the carbon fuelling visitors’ barbecues is better known as charcoal and bears a strong resemblance to the sausages and burgers that I usually turn out when I’m put in charge of lunch – which wouldn’t be such a problem if they weren’t still raw in the middle.

But you don’t have to follow my example. As has become a tradition in July, we’ll be offering a prize for the most stylish picnic or barbecue on the racecourse. It may be an award for the best spread of food, the best dressed racegoers, the best dressed table or the snazziest chairs – anything that takes our eye.

Sadly the prize won’t take the form of a flower-full of diamonds on a pendant necklace – but there’ll be a return trip to the racecourse, with a Cartmel hamper including food from Furness Fish and Game, Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding and a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne. Start preparing now and have fun.