Friday, 19 May 2017

Funland's £1 Champagne Offer

If ever we needed proof that snobbery is alive and well in the horseracing industry, we received it following Epsom’s recent announcement that Poundland is to become the proud sponsor of an enclosure at the forthcoming Derby meeting.
 
I love Poundland. Where else can you buy three cans of Vimto, four Snickers bars, twenty disposable plates (floral design), thirty party balloons and eight plastic cocktail glasses for just £5? Add a picnic blanket and a cool-bag for your trip to the races and you’ll still get £3 change from a tenner.
 
I particularly like buying their After Eight Mints, which come in a slightly smaller-than-normal pack size: just right for a treat on the journey back from the shops. And so much healthier than those big packs, which have the additional inconvenience of being more difficult to hide in the glove compartment of the car. When I mentioned this to Lois, who is busy packaging tickets for the May Bank Holiday race-meeting, she suggested that boxed chocolates are usually intended for sharing. Can this really be true?
 
Either way, Epsom have been accused of diminishing the brand value of the World’s most important Classic as well as being condescending towards their customers; the theory being that the 'poor Poundland people' will have to stand and watch as the Millionaires, across the track, live it up in the Champagne drenched grandstands. Only I suspect the customers on Poundland Hill won’t care one iota. They’ll be enjoying a fantastic party with a picnic procured from an inexpensive retailer – laughing at the absurdity of the fellows dressed like penguins on the far side of the course.
 
When you’ve backed as many losers as I have in recent weeks (this weekend’s selection is Aclaim in Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes) it’s nice to pick up a bargain – so, in honour of Epsom’s latest sponsor, we’ve come up with a pound offer of our own. We’re giving up to twenty four restaurant customers the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne for just £1. Yes just £1!
 
Anyone who books (or who has already booked) a seat in one of our restaurants during the Cartmel May Meeting will be eligible. There is still limited availability in both restaurants, although we’ve fewer spaces in the Louis Roederer Restaurant, located in the Grandstand, than the Conservatory Restaurant, which is situated in the marquee running parallel to the finishing straight. Just like the team at Epsom, we’re confident that whichever facility you find yourselves in, you’ll enjoy a great day at the races.
 
The £1 offer is strictly limited to 24 bottles (and one bottle per party - we’re not completely crazy), so telephone the racecourse office as soon as you can. Unlike the After Eight Mints, each bottle is standard sized – so ideal for sharing with friends. Although, if you decide to keep it for yourself, as the person that making the booking, you’ll still be welcome. No one here is going to judge.
 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Our Survey Says...

Sometime, maybe as long as two years ago, I came across some fascinating research that had been conducted into a matter of vital national importance. Apparently 60% of us own a favourite mug which we don’t like to share with anyone else – and a third of us would feel ‘totally devastated’ if that mug was broken. The bad news is that, on average, each mug has a lifespan of just three years – making for a nation which must be nigh on inconsolable.

I never suspected, for one moment, that this was a spurious survey conducted on behalf of a multi-national company in a cynical attempt to get us thinking about steaming mugs of Heinz Soup. Having googled the story again, I see that I was probably fooled, although it’s quite plausible that the surveyed population could simply have consisted of a small sample of the office team at Cartmel – where we all have our own individual mugs.

I have three mugs that I don’t like anyone else to use – and total devastation wouldn’t cover my feelings if any of them were broken. In fact I did drop the Sporting Life mug a few years ago, but the tears eased once I realised that I could glue the handle back on. It now sits high on a shelf where I can admire it, but not fill it with coffee. Then there is the blue stripy mug which Mrs Garratt gave me to take to work on my first day at Cartmel – which was lost in the Stewards' litter bin for several weeks, but always manages to find its way back to my desk eventually.
 
The mug which came to hand, when I sat down to write this week's blog, features an attractive sponge-ware design of a racehorse and was given to me by a racehorse owner as a generous ‘thank you’ for a pleasant day spent with friends at Cartmel races. When the same owner called me to say that there was no two mile novice hurdle race, at our May Meeting, for horses without a handicap rating aged over four years, I was compelled to act.
 
Never let it be said that we don’t respond to feedback, especially when we've been softened up in advance. Following a short consultation with the BHA and the race sponsor, we decided to open the ‘Tash & Rob "I’ll Give It Six Months" Wedding Novices Hurdle’, from a race restricted to four-year-olds to one for all ages. There’s no limit to what can be achieved with a decent cup of coffee in your hand – except perhaps tipping winners, where nothing I try seems to help. This week’s attempt at a tip is Zubayr in Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle on Saturday.
 
In a survey of our own, conducted with racegoers attending last season’s August meeting, we discovered that the five words most commonly used to describe the event were: FANTASTIC, FUN, BRILLIANT, GREAT and ENJOYABLE. The atmosphere was awarded an average rating of 9.2 out of 10 by all respondents, while the overall experience received a score of 8.9. We were pleased with that, but we couldn’t ignore the relatively low score (just 5.6 out of 10) for seating. Of course racegoers are welcome to bring their own folding seats to Cartmel - but we’re still going to take delivery of 160 extra seats next week, with tables, in readiness for racing over the Whit Holiday weekend.
 
We also have plans, at the busiest events, to provide assistance for those racegoers who arrive late – and find themselves at the back of the car park – to transport their picnics, folding chairs and less mobile relatives to the main public enclosures. We hope that this will help even more customers to fully enjoy their day. 
 
If you tell us what you think about the races, we’ll do our best to make them even better - as long as no one messes with my coffee mug.

 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Racing Brains

Fantastic news! According to a report in The Times last week, doctors could soon be able to scan our brains and tell us how much longer we have to live. One simple MRI scan can measure the volume of brain tissue that each of us has remaining. We’ll then be presented with something akin to an advent calendar, helping us to count down a finite number of birthdays, Christmases and Cartmel race-meetings.
 
The prediction is the result of a trial involving a group of people born in Lothian in 1936. Following a series of scans, a computer estimated the ages of 669 individuals based on the condition of their brains. Individuals were much more likely to die early if they possessed brains that looked significantly older than they should. So the optimistic theory goes like this: if we know our brain is shrinking at a dangerous rate, we might do something to expand it – like taking exercise, eating spinach or working out who’s going to win the Ramside Event Catering Handicap Chase at Hexham on Saturday (Rolling Thunder is my selection for the weekend).
 
On the other hand, we might simply get depressed, drink more whisky and forget why it was we went to the doctor’s in the first place. Certainly, if you live in East Lothian, you’ve got more pressing things to worry about this week, like the outcome of Thursday’s local council elections which, apart from anything else, will help to determine which individuals sit on the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee whose purpose is to oversee business at Musselburgh Racecourse.
 
The committee is comprised of four elected councillors and three racing nominees, supported by the highly professional executive team at the racecourse. Unfortunately, a series of disagreements between the groups has led to a stand-off which jeopardises the proper governance of the track. The situation has now deteriorated to the point whereby the British Horseracing Authority has opted to issue Musselburgh with a temporary licence only. If the situation isn’t resolved soon, the BHA could effectively remove Musselburgh’s right to stage racing for the remainder of the year.
 
As you might expect, I’d count several of Musselburgh’s executive team and racing-nominated committee members as friends. I’m not impartial. However, I think that it is fairly safe to say that any person, with a reasonable knowledge of the racing industry, would tell you that the executive team at Musselburgh perform to a very high standard. I’m struggling to understand how the current crop of elected politicians assist them in that role.
 
I wonder whether the good doctors of East Lothian might consider scanning the brains of the newly elected councillors at the end of this week, not so that we can tell how long they’ll live – just to check that they do in fact have brains and that they’re capable of using them for the benefit of Musselburgh Racecourse and the wider industry.