Archive for February, 2015

The McCoy factor

Racing news has been dominated by the announcement by 19-times champion jump jockey A P McCoy of his imminent retirement. My sole encounter with him was a brief one, when he kindly agreed to do a book signing at Fontwell. It was a month or so after the official launch with Josh Gifford, so quite a few of the regulars had already bought their own copy. He spent a precious bit of spare time he had between races sitting next to me at a table with a pile of books. Thanks to him we sold another twenty or thirty in very quick time.

A question came up the other day about whether a horse called Potentate held the record for the most wins at Chepstow. I knew he’d won nine times there and thought it was about 20 years ago, but what if there was something else that had won more back in the distant past? Fortunately the local racing history expert came to the rescue with the information that a horse called Chaos had won ten there.

It made me think how that sort of course record is not easy to find. How does one find out about each course’s record holders or frequent winners? It occurred to me there is no publicly available computerised record containing all race results going back (say) a hundred years. How good it would be to be able to tap into something like that! There are a few organisations who possess the information in book form. I should enquire with them to see if there is any prospect of computerising it – especially as I will have more time to spend on that sort of thing when I pack up work at Easter. I can’t imagine it will have any commercial value, but it won’t hurt to ask.

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An October launch?

The main conclusion of the Uttoxeter meeting was that the launch should be at the end of October.  I had hoped for May, aware that they have a lot of race meetings between then and the end of July.  However, when it was pointed out to me that they are predominantly family fundays and ladies nights, the clientele they are trying to attract is, with the best will in the world, unlikely to be bookish.  I’m disappointed, but the new marketing lady at the racecourse was very clear on the need to operate on the basis of plans worked out well in advance and I can appreciate her scientific approach.

While there are some “traditional racegoer” days in September, I preferred to wait a bit so as to catch the Christmas book-buying market.  The Fontwell book launched successfully in mid-November, but Uttoxeter’s two meetings that month already have their themes.  I therefore hope that the late October date will be ratified as Book Day.

More immediately the racecourse are going to dig out some more recent pictures to go into the book, and after that I can liaise with the printer to get a revised quote.   That entails giving him the final text and the pictures in either physical or electronic form.  Let’s hope the cost won’t be too different from the provisional quote, which was based on an educated guess of the number of pages and pictures.

I had a call from Fontwell last week asking where they could get one of the pictures in my book.  That was easily sorted out, but it’s nice to be asked.  The enquirer was directed to me by one of the longest-serving members of the office staff.  I first met her before she worked for the racecourse.  In the early stages of my research I was mooching around the grounds on a non-raceday, trying to get a feel for what would have been where a hundred years ago, and to find the actual “well” of Fontwell.  There was a function of some sort being held there, in the characterful Fontwell House.  http://www.fontwellpark.co.uk/venue-hire/our-venues-fontwell-house.php   She was working for the caterers and challenged me, probably thinking I was up to no good.  Fortunately she believed my explanation.

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