Archive for February, 2014

The Brighton Cup

I’ve been diverted in the last week by one of those enquiries from out of the blue that call on one’s own knowledge yet also require studying another avenue not previously explored.  It was from a gentleman in the USA who has acquired a 19th century Brighton race trophy.  He enclosed some photos of it – and very handsome it is – and asked if I could tell him anything about the history of the race and the horse.  Yes to the former!  Studying the horse came up with some initially contradictory details until I realised that there were two horses with the same name, born in the same year.  The one that showed the best form was a colt who won at Brighton and a big race at Doncaster.  The other one, a mare, showed little on the track but was exported across the Atlantic and turned out to be a major influence on American bloodstock.  That might have been a disappointment to the enquirer, and I compounded it by telling him that, contrary to his hopes, the Brighton meeting was not very prestigious at that period in its history.  If I could have given him some more upbeat information that, I suppose, would have enhanced the value of the trophy.

I have also made contact with one or two people from a Uttoxeter local history group who are consulting their fellow members on my behalf about the location of some of the 19th century courses close to the town.

Editing the Uttoxeter draft continues, helped by my having some extra time midweek when a long-planned ramble with old colleagues fell through when a train to take me to the start was severely delayed and for a combination of reasons I couldn’t communicate with them.  I frittered away most of my day off at home, but some book work was done.  I remain on schedule, but I dare not relax by having too many days or evenings away from the keyboard.

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Albums and abandonment

It was a very productive and enjoyable trip to Uttoxeter last week. Seeing old chums, who found fresh stories to recount, and meeting new contacts, all of whom gave their time freely was made even better by the production of albums of old photographs. (How many albums did I see in those 48 hours?) From them came a fair number of pictures with relevance to the story of the racecoures and once again people have been very generous in letting me borrow their personal possessions so that I can get electronic copies.

My schedule was so tight one day that I had to get from near Melton Mowbray to Uttoxeter – about sixty miles – in two and a quarter hours while taking in a pub stop en route to briefly join a regular Friday lunchtime gathering, not to mention gobbling a very quick bite for myself and finding somewhere to park at journey’s end.

The only disappointment was the abandonment of the race meeting on the Saturday afternoon, but I found out two evenings before and I had treated myself to an afternoon at Warwick races on the way up. I walked the course and the word “waterlogged” was a truly accurate description of some of it. In some places treading on grass squelched hitherto-unseen water up onto the surface.

Since returning I’ve written up my notes, found yet more new information and continued updating the main draft. The “Things To Research” list is getting shorter. I’ve made a date with the racecourse people for a couple of months hence to review our picture options and start talking about marketing and the look of the book.

To keep on schedule I have to stop myself going down time-consuming research avenues that are unlikely to produce anything important. Limited time on subjects that don’t take much writing up, or that could produce some gold, are still permissible. To that end I think another library outing is called for in the next few weeks.

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