Wednesday, May 11, 2011


This is very bad: it has been a week since the last chapter was written. In my defence is the old refrain, "But I've been very busy ...". And not with electioneering, I'm ashamed to say. I had planned to do what anyone would consider the bare minimum of canvassing (and felt really bad about cutting so many corners) - and then ended up doing not even that much. In fact, doing none whatsoever, other than forwarding to a few dozen people an email, written by someone else, containing a recommendation that "racing's" candidates (ie Rachel Hood, Jacko Fanshawe and myself) be supported. Even that I got wrong, apparently, as I added a personal recommendation in favour of three other candidates (Richard Fletcher, Warwick Hurst and Ian Radford) and apparently that wasn't something which I should have done, not least because I was standing as a Conservative and, while Warwick is in the same party, Ian Radford is a Liberal Democrat and Richard Fletcher was standing as an independent. All was well that ended well, however, as I got in (which involved merely not finishing last in the poll, there being five seats up for grabs in the Severals ward and only six contenders for them) - although, as the town council has now lost Richard Fletcher and the district council is now without Ian Radford (two councillors who have proved their excellence time and again over the past few years) I can't say that I am completely happy with the outcome of the election. That, though, is by the by - so all that matters now is that I make the effort to give the position of town councillor the commitment which it deserves. I will certainly try to do my best.

So how was election day for me? Well, very pleasant actually, now you ask. I voted early but not often, and then went to arguably Britain's loveliest racecourse, Goodwood - hence the two photographs in the previous chapter which, seemingly incongruously, have been used to illustate my election-day musings. It was a lovely drive down there and back, seeing some of Britain's most pleasant countryside at arguably the best time of year; and it was, as always, really enjoyable to spend the afternoon there. The reason for the trip was that Kadouchski ran; and, while he wasn't placed, he ran well enough. And, more importantly, was well ridden, which is a great compliment to Hannah as she fared very well when faced with the task of negotiating two miles around arguably Britain's trickiest circuit. I'm ashamed to say that I'd never walked the full way around Goodwood previously, but we did so in advance of our race last week, and I'm really pleased to have done so. It was very informative: I had not really previously taken on board what a testing circuit it is, for both horse and rider. My respect for the track has risen even farther thanks to that stroll - even if it did provide an illustration of something which I often suspect: that the farther away an area of track is from the stands, the less water it is likely to receive during irrigation! It really was quite remarkable that, once one had gone roughly three furlongs down the track from the winning post, that the ground did suddenly become significantly firmer - a fact of which I was reminded on the return journey, suddenly seeming to go from walking on a stone floor to walking on a carpet. I've found a few occasions recently when the track has been less firm than I'd expecting, but last Thursday definitely wasn't one of them. My description of the ground, which was in great condition and had clearly been maintained as punctiliously as one would expect at a world-class racecourse, would have been 'firm, good to firm over the final three furlongs' - and the fact that Kadouchski still ran respectably speaks volumes for his versatility and genuineness, bearing in mind that his three turf wins (over hurdles) have all been achieved on a heavy track. He really is a most lovely and admirable horse.

I was lucky enough to visit a course almost as special the following day, when Alcalde ran over hurdles at Aintree. I can imagine that there might be one or two readers who feel that I have uttered something sacreligious in describing Goodwood as even more special than Aintree, but I certainly do not do so out of any wish to denigrate the home of the Grand National. I just feel that, magical a place though Aintree is, Goodwood has the edge as regards heritage and setting - and if you doubt the depth of history which underlies Goodwood, then I direct you towards the lovely history of Goodwood, written in the '70s by the former Observer sports journalist David Hunn, a copy of which was leant to me a few years ago by Roger Vicarage. I had already regarded Goodwood as a very special place before reading that book - but since I read it Goodwood has held an almost spiritual aura in my mind. To return to Aintree, though, the Grand National's home is clearly one of the most special racecourses in the world, and a visit to it on any day is a really special occasion. I can only think of having saddled four runners there - and happily enough all four have made their way back to the unsaddling enclosure after their race, Alcalde having kept up the sequence by running a very brave race on Friday to finish fourth. It was a tough race, but he tried hard and ran well. He's done enough now for his first season as a National Hunt horse, so he can put his feet up for a while - maturing all the while, I hope, so that next winter he may, fingers crossed, be a stronger edition of the lovely, brave horse we already know, cherish, admire and love.

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