In the scheme of things, racing at Lingfield and Musselburgh won’t be the most seismic event that’s ever occurred on Good Friday. However, given that horseracing under official rules has never taken place on this day before (and that crucifixion is out of vogue at the moment) it registers as being pretty significant within the horseracing world.
Traditionally a day of fasting, it is interesting that one of the conditions of allowing Lingfield to race on Good Friday was that they should blow £1 million on prize money on the day. The high prize fund was set, not because the BHA preserved a zealous religious streak, but because they were concerned for the future of the Lambourn and Middleham Open Days which have developed so successfully in the absence of race fixtures.
There was also concern that, by racing on Good Friday, the industry would lose one of the very few opportunities for stable staff to take a break. The million pound prize fund was, in part, compensation for the loss of a holiday for racing-folk.
Despite the new fixtures, Good Friday remains an excellent opportunity to stop what you usually do and get a bit of perspective on life. For thousands of racing enthusiasts, it will be an opportunity to visit a stable yard and see something that they have never seen before – horses at home, relaxed, not racing.
There will be thirty trainers’ yards open in Lambourn and at least fifteen in and around Middleham. In both cases there will be jockeys to speak to, demonstrations to watch and competitions to enter. Most of the yards are open in the morning, but the activities continue throughout the afternoon – in the town centre in Middleham and on the gallops in Lambourn. You’ll be able to have your photograph taken with celebrities – some of them human, but most of them equine (you’ll notice they have longer ears and teeth).
Having spent a bit of time contemplating a different side to life, there is all the fun and excitement of Easter Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday to look forward to. For me, that used to mean point-to-pointing at Charing and Aldington. Point-to-points are the grass roots of the sport and if you’ve been inspired by the open days to seek out some new equine experiences, why not find your local point-to-point track and get down and dirty with the amateurs!
Following the Aintree version two weeks ago and the Scottish version last weekend, it is the turn of the Irish Grand National on Monday. I’ll be hoping to make it third time lucky with this week’s selection: Home Farm in the Fairyhouse feature race.