Wednesday, September 16, 2015


We'd got off lightly this week because we'd been immune to the effects of Tropical Storm Henri (as I think it was called).  However, that's all changed now: it started raining around 3.00 this afternoon, was soon raining heavily, and I think will continue to rain all night.  Which isn't nice.  But at least I'm back in the house now, having been soaked during evening stables, and have had my bath, so can enjoy a dry evening, even if it's an evening whose tranquility is spoiled by the sound of rainfall on the roof and window-ledges.

Getting wet at evening stables, though, was a much better option than being annoyed at Yarmouth.  The debacle of the current (except we can't really call it 'current' because it has already finished, even though it shouldn't have done) September Meeting is ludicrous.  Yarmouth decided last year to remove all the turf from its straight, to supposedly level the straight (which is nonsense (a) because it was already fairly close to being level, and (b) because it isn't level now, witness the fact that the reason why the straight is so narrow is because it has been necessary to rail off a patch of deep ground in what ought to be the middle of the home straight at the furlong marker, this patch having formed, so I'm told, because that's a low point where water has collected when it has rained - good grief!) and the result is what anyone with any common sense would have told you that it would be: a perfectly good straight mile of old turf has become an unsatisfactory straight mile of new turf.  Seemples!

I have no idea why this was done.  It wouldn't have been done if trainers had been consulted, because I don't know of one trainer who used regularly to have runners there who thought that it was anything other than a bad idea.  Anyway, it's been done, I went to the first meeting, and I came away from the first meeting even more convinced that it had been a bad idea than I had been previously.  Which is saying something, and which my previous blog post subsequent to that outing can confirm.  My prediction in that post was that this strip of turf would be very firm in dry periods.  Anyway, this week - in autumn, not summer, at a time of year when generally the only ground that isn't nice ground is where it is too wet - the ground in the straight was 'good to firm, firm in places'.

That surface, mixed in with the fact that a dry spell ended with a period of torrential rain during racing this afternoon, meant that two horses slipped up after the post at the end of the fourth race.  That meant that the rest of the card was abandoned; and tomorrow's card is off too.  That's not a problem for me because, having been to the track at the first meeting, I came home resolved to try to avoid having any runners there for quite a long time because I don't like racing or working horses on unsatisfactory ground (unlike Aidan O'Brien, who apparently seems happy to gallop his best horse on a surface which he thinks isn't good enough for the horse to race on, as we discovered on Saturday).

The upshot of the impression which Yarmouth's ground made on me the other week is that this week, when faced with two suitable maiden races for Blue Sea Of Ibrox, both on the same day (ie tomorrow), I entered her only in the one 150 miles away (on a course, Pontefract, where the ground is generally in good condition) and didn't even make an entry for her in the one half that distance from home, ie Yarmouth.  So we can head up the A1 tomorrow, rather than sit at home kicking our heels in frustration at the fact that the race which we'd planned to contest wasn't taking place.  And we can reflect that the damage done to the course - which will cost Yarmouth dear because, not only has its September fixture been devastated, it is likely to struggle for runners for a long time to come - is a classic example of a point made by James Toller in an excellent article by Julian Muscat in the Racing Post earlier this week, namely that racecourses tend to plough their own furrow without any heed to the opinions of trainers, which probably is neither a good nor a wise thing.

To return to happier things and to better weather, I had a couple of mayoral duties last week which gave me great pleasure.  The first arguably wasn't a mayoral duty because Newmarket Town Council is not the point of contact for the towns with which we are twinned (Maisons-Laffittes and Mesnil-le-Roi in France, and Lexington in the USA) because the town has twinning associations.  However, for various reasons, I deemed that it behoved me to take on the duty of welcoming a delegation from Lexington and planning their visit to Newmarket.  Which turned out to be a real pleasure.

They were only here last week from Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning, but that time proved to be very happily spent.  Not only was the weather divine, but the organisations which I had contacted to see if they would be happy to entertain visitors (the British Racing School, Dalham Hall Stud, Tattersalls, and the Jockey Club) rose to the occasion magnificently.  And it turned out that this was as much of a treat for me as it was for the Lexingtonians.  A selection of photographs from this special day are used to illustrate this chapter, after we have started with a couple of more dismal ones of Yarmouth's track at its resumption day the other Sunday.

In the second paragraph you'll see Yarmouth's patch of false ground which has caused the track to be so narrow, while later on you'll see a couple of our former inmates, whom it was a treat to see when I was at the BRS with the Lexingtonians: Extreme Conviction (being as angelic as ever) and Brief Goodbye (still being as silly as ever, at the age of 15 or whatever he is now).  And you'll see Dubawi being admired by his transatlantic audience at Dalham Hall Stud.  It's worth re-emphasising how kind the various hosts were, because their hospitality made the stay in Newmarket very special for our visitors, which has to be a good thing.

Another very good thing is Kingfisher House, a care home just up the road from here where many of Newmarket's residents have spent their final days/weeks/months/years. There are some drawbacks to being the mayor, but there are some special things too.  And it was an honour to be asked to open its new residents' garden at its fete on Saturday afternoon.  Anyone who has lived in Newmarket for any length of time has known someone who has benefitted from the care and kindness of Kingfisher House, and probably knows someone who is doing so now.  I started the chapter bemoaning both this evening's rain and the self-imposed problems of Yarmouth, so it's good to end on a positive note; and few notes are more positive than those emanating from Kingfisher House.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

these damned unexposed three year olds !!