Friday, 22 March 2013

The Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cartmel?

The Chester Cup is staged at Chester, the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree, the Galway Plate at Galway and the Lincoln Handicap at … Doncaster?! 

Traditionally the first big Flat-race of the year to be run on turf, the Lincoln heralds the start of the Summer season. It is a time when we look forward to sunny days spent by the Parade Ring, short sleeves and cool glasses of Champagne; which probably explains why this year’s Lincoln meeting is currently under threat of cancellation due to snow.

If the race does go ahead, you might be relieved to know that I haven’t a clue what will win – so I won’t be burdening you with one of my tips. I’ll be following the jump racing at Bangor, where I hope Call Back will find some decent ground and win for the first time since Cartmel last May. 

If the Lincoln is abandoned, we can always re-enact it indoors. If you happen to possess a set of the old board game Totopoly (being a bit sad, I can’t resist collecting them and have at least five versions at home), you might recognise the names of the twelve horses in the game as the Lincoln winners of 1926 – 1937. My personal favourite is “Marmajuke Jinks”. 

The first edition of Totopoly was released in 1938, twenty-seven years before Lincoln Racecourse closed down and the mile-handicap moved to South Yorkshire. The old grandstand at Lincoln stands in front of an ancient patch of common-land on the edge of the city, known as the Carholme, where the races used to take place. As if to emphasise the pace at which life has moved on since the course’s demise, the A57 now separates the grandstand from the track, creating an unusual and rather splendid folly by the side of the main road. The space under the viewing steps is used as a community centre, so there’s a decent cup of tea on offer if you’re passing at the right time of day.  

A trip to the Carholme offers a salutary lesson to any racecourse manager – keep bringing in the crowds or you might find yourself sitting alongside the traffic while your horses run for Monopoly money around a piece of cardboard. It’s not the reason that we’ve decided to put on record levels of prize money at Cartmel this year, but it all helps. 

Perhaps next year we’ll move some races from other tracks to Cumbria – I quite like the sound of the Cartmel-Cheltenham Gold Cup. What do you think?

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