Thursday, 29 May 2014

Good For The Roses

If, like me, you’ve been ignoring your garden for the past few days while attending the races at Cartmel, there is good news for the weekend ahead.
The Holker Garden Festival commences on Friday and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday. The weather forecast is excellent so we’ll be able to enjoy a day in the sunshine, with an ice-cream or three, while perusing the plants. The gates open each day at 10.00am and there’s plenty to see.
For those craving equine entertainment, the Devil’s Horsemen will be performing acts of daring-do and amazing stunts on the showground. Anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms from the races can enjoy a special Lamb Grand National as well as racing of the terrier variety.
You won’t go hungry – our good friends from Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cartmel Cheeses, Cartmel Brewery, Furness Fish & Game, the Fat Flour Bakery, Gee’s Meringues and Rowleys Catering will all be there.
As soon as I get a chance, I’ll be weeding out the Equisetum Arvense (horsetail to you and I) and planting a few more roses. Last year I purchased Blue For You and Twice In A Blue Moon. They have been well fed with manure from the racecourse stables and are now, for want of a better phrase, ‘blooming’ marvellous. I’ll be looking for more – so if you get there first, please leave one for me!
Ten years ago I would probably have given Saturday a swerve and stayed at home to watch Suggestive win the John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock. It was ten years ago, almost to the day, that RacingUK was launched – so I wouldn’t have known then what I know now: I can watch the racing pretty much wherever and whenever I want on my mobile phone, I could access all the form on an i-pad (if I had one) and catch up with the replays on television when I get home.
So there’ll be no excuses for missing this week’s selection, Amarillo, who seeks a repeat victory in the John of Gaunt Stakes having won the race in 2013. If you want to see how he did it last year, simply sign up to RacingUK now and you can watch for yourself.
RacingUK covers virtually all the best racing action in Britain, including Cartmel races, but sadly not the Lamb Grand National at the Holker Garden Festival. To see that you’ll have to get over to Holker Hall in Cark, just two miles from Cartmel Racecourse.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Running the races at Cartmel is a dream job. Quite literally. If dreams occupy about 25% of our sleep time, I must spend two hours every night thinking about the racecourse.
Last night I was sitting on the biggest fairground ride you’ve ever seen – it was 200 foot tall and whirled people around in a circle at 85mph. I should have had a great view of the horses, but was struggling to hold my binoculars up most of the time. When the race was over, I couldn’t tell which horse had won and we couldn’t present any trophies.
Fortunately, in real life, someone else is responsible for adjudicating the result – although the fairground ride is absolutely real. It arrived at Cartmel on Tuesday, towers two to three times above the height of the Grandstand and is reported to be the tallest, fastest travelling fairground ride in the world.
In the early days I used to dream that I’d arrive at the racecourse and discover that racing had already started. That was embarrassing enough, but then I realised I was still wearing my pyjamas – if I was lucky. An analyst would probably have told me that I had an underlying fear that the racecourse wouldn’t be ready in time. And they’d be right: the work-up to the races can become quite tense, although I find the good-natured professionalism of our staff, suppliers and contractors inspires a great deal of confidence.
Our Clerk of the Course, Anthea Morshead, tells me that she recently dreamt about walking to the racecourse entrance. The problem was that she could never quite get there, because of the unaccountably huge weight on her back. This means, I suspect, that she has a deep lack of faith in the Managing Director, who keeps turning up at the racecourse in his pyjamas.
I have only once dreamt about the result of a real race in advance. It was the Schweppes Golden Mile, at Goodwood, in 1991 – which is odd, because it’s not a race I’d normally think about for very long. I clearly saw Parliament Piece passing the post first… He didn’t. He finished second, but with an each-way bet at 20/1, I’ve never complained that the dream was wrong.
If I had a dream result in mind for the Bank Holiday weekend, it might be for the two previous Cheltenham Festival winners, Spirit River and Son of Flicka to dead-heat in the final race on Monday. On balance though, I think I might go for Soul Magic winning a record eighth race at Cartmel on either Monday or Wednesday.
Sweet dreams - and make sure you follow them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Everything You Won't Need For The Races

Picnic blanket - check; sun screen – check; Sticky Toffee Pudding – check. Have you got everything you need for Cartmel races on Bank Holiday weekend?
I’m only joking about the Sticky Toffee Pudding, you can buy that at the racecourse or even at the Cartmel Village Shop in the village square. The key to preparing for a day at Cartmel races is knowing what you need to bring with you and what you can safely leave behind.
First up is the food. We always extol the virtues of bringing a picnic with you – a picnic is part of the quintessential Cartmel experience. Isn’t it?
Yes, of course… but if you really can’t be bothered with all that food preparation, there’s always the new Conservatory Restaurant. Located in an attractive conservatory-style marquee adjacent to the finishing straight, the atmosphere will be relaxed and informal while the food will be tasty and cooked by someone other than yourself.
If you happen to leave the picnic basket on the roof of your car, leaving a neat trail of sausages along the A590, don’t fret – Furness Fish & Game have a fabulous stand at the track and can provide you with BBQ packs of award winning meat for the barbecue. On the stand next door they sell fresh seafood and on another stand nearby you’ll find Louis Roederer Champagne.
There are at least three large outdoor screens at Cartmel Racecourse, more on the busiest race-days, so you don’t even need binoculars - unless you’re interested in bird watching, which is what some of the judges of the Louis Roederer Vintage Costume Competition think they’ve been lined up for on Saturday evening 24th May. I’ve had to remind them that any racegoer can win: male or female, young or old, in either of the public enclosures.
All you have to do to win an exclusive tour of the Louis Roederer vineyard in Reims, including travel, accommodation, a private Champagne tasting and lunch at the Chateau, is to wear the best vintage costume at the North West Evening Mail Vintage Race-night. If you happen to have a vintage vehicle you can park it in the picnic car park free of charge.
Most people will assume that they need to bring cash to the races – but the well prepared can save money by purchasing vouchers for Tote betting, the fairground, Champagne bar and the Furness Fish & Game stand when purchasing their admission tickets online. But hurry, because the advance ticket offer expires on midnight this Sunday. A couple of quid on Fantasy King at Bangor could pay for the vouchers.
A quick recap then: you’re welcome to bring all your friends and the picnic basket (don’t call him or her that – it isn’t nice) – but, if you want to win the vintage prize on vintage race-night, all you really need to bring is some stylish, old clothes.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Fresh Red Tomatoes at the Royal Stud

According to several reliable news outlets today, the three-time Group 1 winner Al Kazeem is set to return to the racetrack this Summer following an unsuccessful interlude at stud.
The Royal Ascot winner was purchased to stand at the Queen’s stud at Sandringham and breeding rights were syndicated to some of the world’s top breeders. Fortunately for racing enthusiasts (unfortunately for the insurers), Al Kazeem has been diagnosed as being "sub-fertile" and the syndicate members are now seeking to claim on their fertility insurance. Hands up if you knew that such a thing even existed… go to the top of the class.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio released details of research this week, demonstrating that the consumption of more tomatoes can aid fertility. Apparently lycopene, the substance which gives tomatoes their red colour, can boost sperm production by 70%. Presumably tomatoes will appear on the royal menu for all stallions from now on.
Frankly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t already – the standard of care for horses in the racing and thoroughbred breeding industries is so high that no stone is left unturned. Today, in preparation for racing in just over two weeks time, we are meeting with our racecourse vets to review protocols for the treatment of horses appearing at Cartmel. The preparations are stringent and our procedures will be audited by representatives from the British Horseracing Authority whilst racing is taking place later in the year.
Similar checks are in place for the jockeys and our doctors have to be highly qualified to pass muster. One candidate, who has completed scores of training courses and is qualified to operate in virtually any country, in any situation - from battle-fields to earthquakes, has been told that he will have to wait a further year before he is allowed to act in an official capacity on the racecourse – he requires a minimum of six years experience, despite his outstanding CV.
Jockeys’ diets are also on the agenda and our caterers will be following the nutritional advice passed down by the Racecourse Association for their health and welfare. Funnily enough, this includes lots of tomatoes – which is probably a good thing, given the number of sperm-killing hot saunas they take in order to shed weight before racing commences.
Sticking to the theme, I’m tempted to tip Last Of The Oats in the final race at Hexham on Saturday. However, he’s never run before and I have no inside intelligence, so instead I’ll be backing Jimmy Moffatt’s Quel Elite in an earlier race on the same card.

Friday, 2 May 2014

It's Written in the Stars

I've studied the skies and we're set for a fantastic summer at Cartmel  races - here's what is in store for you and your friends...
Aries (Includes Lady Gaga and Paul Nicholls)
You are energetic, supremely optimistic and comfortable speaking to anyone. Losing bets are quickly forgotten - because you’ve always got a better selection for the next race. Have you ever thought of becoming a racehorse trainer?

Taurus (Includes Queen Elizabeth II and Tony McCoy)
Your many loyal friends are planning to celebrate your birthday with you at Cartmel races in May. You’ll enjoy the homely atmosphere, the scenic surroundings and a superb picnic. You’re not a gambler at heart, but even you can see that those AP McCoy ridden favourites represent solid investment opportunities.

Gemini (Includes Johnny Depp and Paul McCartney)
The reason that you love Cartmel is that there is so much to see and do. You can share a drink with friends and your picnic with the strangers in the car parked beside yours – before watching the next race from the top of the helter-skelter, winning betting slip in hand.

Cancer (Includes the Dalai Lama and Meryl Streep)
Above all else, you like to plan ahead and save money – so now is the time to book your tickets for the July meeting. You’d usually prefer to keep your money in your pocket as opposed to putting it on a horse, but make an exception for Soul Magic. He’s a regular course winner and his name echoes your lunar moods.

Leo (Includes Madonna and Usain Bolt)
The lucky lion! You’re king of the betting jungle and your throne sits at the centre of the celebrations that most mere mortals refer to as the August Bank Holiday Meeting. Enjoy a great day out with all your friends.

Virgo (Includes Siegfried Sassoon and Shania Twain)
While you wear the dreamy expression of someone whose mind is elsewhere, we all know that your logical mind has already figured out a winning placepot strategy. It isn’t in your nature to boast, but don’t keep your secret to yourself – share it with the rest of your party and they’ll repay you in Champagne.

Libra (Includes Alfred Nobel and Margaret Thatcher)
No one could ever accuse you of being a sheep. Your enquiring mind ensures that you always examine the reverse side of the coin. While the general public plunges blindly on the favourite, you can scoop the best value odds with that left-of-field each-way shot you’ve got your eye on.
Scorpio (Includes John Keats and Chief Seattle)
You are a walking X-ray machine of the human mind, loved and respected by all those around you. If you put as much effort into reading the minds of horses as you do the hearts of people, you’d have a lot more money in your pocket.
Sagittarius (Includes Billy Idol and Jimi Hendrix)
Yes, you can bring your dog to the races, but you must keep it on a lead. Half horse, half human, Sagittarians love animals. They also love speed, risks, gambling and parties, which is why they like Cartmel so much.  
Capricorn (Includes Carla Bruni and Alex Ferguson)
You probably won’t see your Capricorn Friends cheering wildly as the horses come up the straight, but don’t be surprised when you discover they’ve trebled their money or pulled off a multi-million pound deal in the hospitality tent. Capricorn’s eyes always stay firmly on the prize.
Aquarius (Includes Charles Darwin and John Ruskin)
The Aquarian racegoer stands out, not just for their eclectic dress sense, but also because of their insistence on knowing how everything works. Don’t ridicule them for backing the 66/1 outsider – it’s likely they’ve already witnessed the result somewhere in a parallel universe.
Pisces (Includes George Harrrison and Elizabeth Taylor)
You’re an incurable fantasist and you’ve dreamt of a big win for years without success Your latest selection is Charm Spirit in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday. Fortunately, you understand that money isn’t really important in this life or any of those that follow. Love and happiness are everything – you’ll discover both at Cartmel in abundance.  

Next week: we'll be giving the winning lottery numbers.