Friday, 29 May 2015

What a Load of Rubbish!

Somebody told me recently that: “The path of least resistance always leads to the rubbish tip.” I thought it might be useful to pass this information along as, up until now, you might have gained the impression that the only way to reach the rubbish tip is to read all the other paragraphs in this blog first.
As anyone who has ever seen my desk could attest, I enjoy sifting through rubbish. Why is it that the most interesting stories in the newspaper are always the ones on the front of the publication you're about to throw away? 
Anyway, after two days of racing at Cartmel, there's quite a lot of rubbish to sift through -  about 15 tonnes in fact. It includes: 3 tonnes of paper and cardboard, 2.7 tonnes of glass bottles, 1 tonne of wood (including chipboard) and one third of a tonne of plastic, plus lots of other stuff, not all of which you'd want to know about. 
As part of the great clean-up on the day after racing, the guys from Wicks Waste Management have been bagging all the rubbish up and taking it away – but not to the tip, it will all be finding a new home. The glass, plastic, paper and cardboard is separated and recycled. Even the metal legs of twisted gazebos can easily be melted down for a fresh life.
Not one piece of waste from Cartmel will go into landfill – not a race programme, a cream scone, barbecue ember or lost pair of socks. Once all the useful material has been extracted from the huge pile of rubbish, the residual is pressed into pellets or bricks and used as fuel - to be burnt in cement kilns for making hydraulic cement. 

I am sure that knowing these facts spurs on our team of litter-pickers to chase down every tiny piece of paper that floats across the deserted fairground. Certainly, there is an amazing vigour about their picking – as there is about the cleaners’ mopping and hoovering. 
Meanwhile, a team of ground-staff have arrived to put back all the divots and reinstate the track with the aid of nothing more than a set of garden forks and their own boots. Following them is a smaller team carrying buckets of soil mixed with grass seed, to fill in any small holes that remain. The aim is to have a perfect green carpet in time for the next races in June, just four weeks away this weekend. 
This week's rubbish tip is Surf And Turf in the 7.25 at Stratford on Saturday night.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways...

When Jimmy Moffatt (our local racehorse trainer) married Nadine, in the Priory Church of Cartmel three weeks ago, the Reverend Nick Devenish referred to the many different words for ‘love’ that can be found in the Greek language. There was time to reflect on his homily during the excellent party that followed in the grandstand, when it occurred to me that all forms of love can be found here at the racecourse. 

For example: Storgē is the love that exists between family members – demonstrated touchingly by grandparents, parents and children as they share picnics in the public enclosures on raceday. It doesn’t preclude the adults from giving the youngsters an occasional cuff around the ear for eating too much candyfloss – which is probably known in parenting manuals as ‘tough storgē’. 

Elsewhere, one of the joys of the races is spotting young couples in ludus: the flirtatious, fun sort of love that involves furtive glances, giggling and maybe even canoodling behind the waltzers.

Meanwhile, anyone who feels the powerful magnetism of éros (fiery, passionate, sexy love) should ensure that their picnic blankets are positioned well out of view. Don’t forget that a Racetech TV camera is capable of picking out a thistle at the top of Hampsfell – so a bare bottom in the grass is no challenge at all, and could easily earn a voyeuristic cameraman £250 on You’ve Been Framed

Philía is the emotion that I feel for my racecourse team as we approach the races – it’s the love that is shared amongst a group of people striving for a common goal; a feeling borne out of respect for one another’s strengths and an accommodation for each other’s weaknesses (especially my own - I could get quite difficult if I don't have a decent cup of coffee in the morning / possibly a chocolate biscuit on the side).

It seems that philía is much easier to create in a team if we each, individually, possess philantia – a form of confidence or self-love that you’d anticipate is common among the BHA’s stewards, but diametrically opposed to the narcissistic self-promotion displayed by racecourse blog-writers. 

Perhaps, among the thirty or so words that the Greeks have to describe love, there is one to describe my love of horseracing, or the deep love that racegoers describe for our quaint little track at Cartmel. I don’t know enough Greek to be able to tell you what it is, but it could be encompassed by the generous notion of Agápē – a love of humanity in all its forms, a love that inspires awe, sympathy and tolerance in equal measure.

Having witnessed Jimmy and Nadine Moffatt’s ceremony, I can attest that they are now in pragma - the enduring love that develops between married couples. It stands all tests: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – but mainly for richer if we all follow this week’s selection: Jimmy’s Morning Royalty in whichever race he's declared for at Cartmel races on Bank Holiday Monday.  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Best Job in the World

Running a racecourse is probably the best job in the world. Probably. I wouldn’t mind working in a sweet shop either… or possibly being the chief duvet-tester for John Lewis… or the chief water-shoot tester for First Choice Holidays. 

I love racecourses: I love the smell of the fresh cut grass as we approach raceday; the smell of the breakfast barbecues lit by the first racegoers arriving on Bank Holiday; even the smell of the manure left by the horses in the parade ring after each race. The shouts, the cheers, the fairground music and the happy chatter of friends and family as they argue over the last sausage on the griddle.  

Our first fixture of the season is just over a week away and the office has never been busier, but I have no regrets. Well almost none. I’m a bit sad that the BBC has only just got around to launching a Young Dancer of the Year competition. I could have been a contender.  

I have no formal training, but no one who has ever witnessed one of my ballet performances has ever forgotten it. Some of them are still laughing – which is a trifle unfair. The BBC didn’t actually have a category for bebop-fusion-funk-dad-dance, but I think it might have gone down well with the judges. It’s just a shame that I wouldn’t have qualified on the age front. 

There are no other regrets. Not serious ones anyway. I suppose I could have had a bit more money on Darna when he won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Cheltenham in March, but that’s just me being greedy. I’ll have a couple of quid on this week’s selection (Master Of The Game at Market Rasen, on Sunday) instead.  

We’ve got a great season ahead and I am really looking forward to it. We’re offering more prize money than we’ve ever had before – more than £407,000 in total for the eight racedays. Fortunately Cartmel Racecourse has the support of some great sponsors. Some of them, like Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, Hadwins Audi and many others (space prohibits me from mentioning them all right here) have been attending for many years.  

But there are new sponsors too. Coral bookmakers, who have been absent for a while, are the most prevalent bookmaker on our local high-streets; then there’s Oakmere Homes who are supporting our two brand new £20,000 feature races in June.

Banks Lyon Jewellers, too, are joining the fray - on our most valuable fixture of the season in July. Banks Lyon Jewellers, the Lancaster-based luxury watch and jewellery retailer are offering a £5,000 diamond necklace to the winning jockey of the Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle – which at £10,000 is the most valuable National Hunt race in the UK for female jockeys. 

So much to look  forward to. So little time until the start of the new season. So much excitement. So - why do I still wonder if there is a job available tasting Sticky Toffee Pudding in the Village Shop in Cartmel?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Magic of Quantum Mechanics

According to the “many worlds” theory of quantum mechanics, particles do not exist in a specific location, but on a probability spectrum - thus raising the possibility that they can be in more than one place at the same time. 

Stephen Hawking, the renowned Cambridge professor, recently used this theory to explain why (in the infinite number of universes that probably exist in parallel to our own) there might be a universe in which Zayn Malik has not yet left the band One Direction.  

Likewise, there will be a universe where Tony McCoy has not yet retired. And another where his mother never let him go down to his local stables. In that particular world he is currently working as a short-order chef in Burger King; in the afternoons he pops down to his high-street bookie and watches enviously as Dickie Johnson (Champion for the past 20 years – the greatest there’s ever been) boots home winners from Newton Abbot to Perth. 

There will also be a universe where Soul Magic, the joint record holder for the most career wins at Cartmel, continues to race throughout 2015 in order to make the record his own with a total of eight victories. Unfortunately though, this isn’t the same universe in which this week’s blog exists. 

The superb Soul Magic, who scored four times at Cartmel during the 2011 season alone (when we only raced on seven days), has been retired whilst still in rude health at the age of thirteen. I was lucky enough to see our equine hero this week when I visited Harriet Graham’s stables near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. The visit itself was slightly surreal: I am sure that there is a universe somewhere in which Harriet has a front drive like everyone else – and you don’t have to drive across a vast field full of sheep in order to find her remote stables, hidden in a fold amongst the hills.  

I presented Harriet with some very special ale, produced by the Winster Valley Brewery in an effort to bottle the magic that pervades the races here at Cartmel. Apparently she doesn’t drink – but her husband does and I’m sure he’ll have plenty of friends as the bottle is unusually large.  

Hopefully Soul Magic will return to Cartmel to parade at one of our fixtures in the future. In the meantime, he can look forward to a happy retirement, hacking around the highways and byways close to the home of Gary Rutherford - who partnered Soul Magic to four of his victories. 

I am sure that there is a universe in which you will attend the Bank Holiday meeting on 25th May and back all seven winners - there is certainly one in which my weekly selection never fails: Quel Elite, Hexham on Saturday.