Saturday, September 28, 2013


We've had some terrific racing at Newmarket over the past three days, not that one would know it, mind.  I'm just baffled by how much damage has been done to our local racecourse.  This should be a terrific meeting.  It is a terrific meeting.  But I'd be surprised if the crowd figures are at all satisfactory.  Our autumn programme was set in stone.  Everyone knew what it was.  And now we have a completely new meeting which has had virtually no publicity, tremendous racing, and no sense of a special occasion whatsoever.  This meeting didn't exist previously, but here it is, with some great racing.  But it just doesn't appear to feature on the map at all.

I was genuinely surprised when I finished morning stables at lunchtime yesterday to open the Racing Post to find that there was a Group One race being run at Newmarket that afternoon; even more surprised today to find that there were two.  This meeting should have had the build-up one gets for, say, the Cheltenham Festival or Champions' Day, but there was nothing.  We had champions such as Igugu (seen on the Heath in the first paragraph a few weeks ago under former Willie Musson apprentice Phil Shea) and the mighty Sky Lantern running, but the only race we'd read anything about at all was the Cambridgeshire (which was just as well, as otherwise I'd have been expecting it to be next weekend, as it always was).

I hope that Newmarket got some decent crowds, and they certainly should have done as we've had some wonderful weather (as you can see in this paragraph at sunrise this beautiful morning; and in the next one of the same spot a couple of hours later; and in the one after that, of Indira and Purrfect, a bit later) in addition to some terrific races, but I fear not.  Iva put Russian Link (as you can see in the previous paragraph) through the stalls late morning today, and I feared that, going up to the end of the Bury Road by car to do the ground-work, I'd be caught in the usual big-race-day traffic jam coming back down the road into town.

Not a bit of it: you wouldn't have known that there was a race-meeting taking place in Newmarket today.  Great for me getting back to the stable, but considerably less good for Newmarket racecourse.  Why, oh why, have we allowed this to be done to us, when we had a time-honoured autumn programme which was known, proven and appreciated?  We've touched upon the point previously that the re-jigging of the autumn programme has indeed boosted Ascot's October Meeting, but this week's example of promotional under-achievement has reminded us that the damage done to Newmarket is at least as great as the good done to Ascot.

Anyway, on to better things.  The best result of the week surely has to be Jordan McMurray riding his first winner, at Pontefract two days ago.  Jordan is an excellent local youngster.  His father Duncan (a proper character in John Gosden's stable, who naturally looked after the good stayer Duncan a few years ago) has been down here for decades (even if one could be excused for thinking that he only left Scotland last week) so Jordan is a local lad, with a photograph of him adorning one of the class rooms in the school up the Exning Road, as I noted a year or two ago when I and some other town councillors were treated to a tour of the school.

Jordan started off round the corner with Mark Tompkins, but he moved to John Ryan earlier this year when Bradley Bosley moved to Ed Walker's stable.  He was rewarded for his daily efforts earlier this season with his first ride, and on Thursday he rode his first winner, which was a pleasure to watch on Racing UK.  Anyway, we like to highlight young riders, and it's a pleasure to highlight Jordan's success.  It's also an ongoing pleasure to note the continued good form of Shelley Birkett (seen here going out onto the track at Bath a couple of weeks ago, with her mother Julia Feilden leading her up) who really is a very, very good apprentice - with the highlight of the family's run of success surely coming over August Bank Holiday weekend, when Julia trained winners at Yarmouth and Goodwood within a few minutes of each other, with Shelley riding one and her brother Ross riding the other (in an amateurs' race).

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