Archive for May, 2013

Step on it

An ad hoc enquiry I had recently was about a print of a racehorse who had run at Hereford in 1987. I couldn’t find any trace of the horse winning, and it transpired it was just a mounted photo of the horse taken in mid-race, presumably for its owners at the time. It was a trivial matter, but I suppose I helped solve a minor mystery.

I’ve made two visits to libraries in the last two weekends, Uttoxeter and Colindale. The former has left me with a lot of typing up to do. The latter was to the British Newspaper Library to look at old copies of The Sporting Life to see if they could illuminate subjects that I’d read about in local papers. Interestingly, the Life added nothing. But browsing those old papers is dangerously distracting, as you see so many names of people, places or horses that make you stop and want to read more.

Waiting for the train at Uttoxeter Station to take me home, I noticed that the adjacent racecourse car park had quite a few cars in it and people were milling about. There must be some trade show or function, I thought. Then the penny dropped that they were early arrivals for an evening meeting – and there I was about to be whisked away from it. Never mind, I will be there next month for four days of research. I have three appointments and a race meeting fixed up already.

I need to step up the pace on Uttoxeter as I should be working on it more than I have been! I had been planning to research this year and writing next but I now begin to think the writing should start earlier. I have a lot of information already and though there are gaps, the more time I have to investigate or cover them up the better.

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No exciting foreign racing to report this time.  The prospect of a weekend in Frankfurt for my wife to meet an old university friend has arisen, though, and my first reaction was to see whether there was any racing going on there.  (No, there isn’t.)  My only German racing experience was Cologne one November.  The atmosphere was as per a French meeting, ie quiet and civilised.  I was amused to see that betting facilities included the opportunity to bet at Navan and Perry Barr.  The locals looked as if they had far too much sense to bother with that!

Big queues on the roads to Newmarket last Sunday for the 1,000 Guineas suggested nobody was being deterred by any steroid chicanery. A friend of mine who has worked in stables off and on for a long time believes steroid injections have been widespread for years, and that trainers have waited for the drug to go through the horse’s system before running it.  So, after that interval, would it enhance its performance? 

How nice it was to be at the races and feel warm.   And to see the ladies in all their refinery, to quote Derek Thompson.

The day before I had been walking in west London near Notting Hill, and my companion drew my attention to a plaque in the grounds of a church.  It proclaimed that this was the site of a prime viewing spot for the Hippodrome racecourse of 1837-41.  It was indeed near the top of a hill.  The racecourse’s short life was due primarily to the clay it was built on, rendering the going very heavy in winter, and the footpaths that crossed it.  Early incarnations of the Ramblers’ Association did not want paths shut for racing.  They got their way, in more ways than one.

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