Archive for November, 2014


A short visit to Uttoxeter a fortnight ago paid great dividends.   Some photos belonging to the racecourse, which I wanted for the book and whose whereabouts were temporarily unknown, were found.  A new marketing person is about to start there, which should help get things going again.  A launch around May was provisionally agreed and a more formal meeting to discuss the book in mid January was agreed.

I always try to walk the course during each visit provided there’s no racing going on and I did so this time on a brilliantly sunny morning.  Not for the first time, I bumped into another walker and we said hello and before long they are chatting away about being born and bred in Uttoxeter and how they used to play on the track when they were young.

Away from the racecourse, I enjoyed a splendid meal with old friends and helpers; sampled some unusual culture (for me) in the form of a three-man a capella group performing at the Lichfield Guildhall; scoffed a sumptuous truckers’ breakfast at an archetypal roadside café; and pitched up at Southwell races for a low-key but very pleasant, relaxed and profitable afternoon.

Since then I’ve spent a little more time than I planned on tackling the family history question I referred to previously.  Though I found a few winners trained by the ancestor in question, as I feared quite a bit of time was spent finding out nothing very remarkable – ie that the majority of their runners had finished unplaced.  A comprehensive review would take a long time, with no guarantee of throwing up any more exciting results.

I’m sad to say the British Horseracing Authority didn’t answer properly my email about the August 2015 Fontwell – Brighton fixture clash I pointed out to them.  They emphasised the collaborative and consultative nature of the fixture-setting process, ignoring the inference that the process is faulty if it allows two very nearby courses to have meetings overlapping one another.

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Moving stories

A few days ago I received my first research query from a member of the public who wrote in to Uttoxeter racecourse. The staff at Brighton and Fontwell have known they could pass the occasional historical questions they receive to me.  Sometimes it’s easy for me to help, sometimes the question is too general to be able to find out anything without going to great time and trouble.  This latest question is about an ancestor who lived near Uttoxeter and owned racehorses – but they don’t know the names of the horses or the trainer, or when during the ancestor’s lifetime they were an owner.  I believe there is some demand for family history research in the racing world, but research is apt to take a lot of time and the cost at £x per hour deters people from commissioning it formally.  I answer these ad hoc questions purely for the fun of it, but there’s a limit to how much time and expense I would spend on each one.

I continue to do a little work on the next possible book, but it is by no means official.

A chum of mine with his finger on the racing pulse has noticed that in August 2015 Brighton and Fontwell race on the same day. There is no logic whatsoever in two courses so close together doing so.  One is an afternoon meeting and the other is in the evening, but that is by the by, for nobody could attend both.  Each will reduce the crowd at the other.  Surely one could be moved?  I emailed the British Horseracing Authority asking for their views and received an automated acknowledgement saying they aim to reply in seven days.

Finally, something unrelated to research, but a great illustration of the emotional benefit of the horse. I refer to the stirring story earlier this week about a dying cancer patient who used to work at Haydock racecourse.  Her final wish, to say goodbye to her horses, was fulfilled by bringing two of them to the hospital where she was being cared for.  Her bed was wheeled outside for her to greet them.  There’s a great picture of one of them nuzzling her cheek.  Bravo to those who arranged that last meeting.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-29951094

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