Archive for June, 2015

I’ve been contacted by another researcher into the history of the Alfred Day family.  He won’t mind me saying he’s been doing it for many years.  We agreed how difficult it can be to bring to a conclusion a project like that, which one could easily allow to go on indefinitely.  He’s most interested in the eighteenth-century origins of the family that are already fairly public, and wants to verify the commonly-held assumptions about them and ideally go back a generation further.  I can’t help with that but I will be intrigued to see his book when it sees the light of day.

I’ve realised that I only have one copy of my Alfred Day book left.  I need a few more, as there are still occasional orders for it.  I am waiting for quotes from a high street printer for five more and ten more.  Whichever I choose, I’m sure the unit cost will be more than I can charge for it, but as is the case with my other books, if I charged what they really cost they wouldn’t sell very many.

Windsor work continues, ploughing through the many online sources of potential data.  There is a load more information in my own collection of racing books.  I need to get out and about to try and get some more from libraries, or to find individuals with anecdotes.  The latter are proving elusive at the moment.

A postscript regarding the Krieau trotting track in Vienna – I found another source selling the book about its history and gave in to the temptation to order it, especially as it was cheaper.  With a great deal of help from Google Translate I hope amongst other things to find out the origins of the Lady Ford Cup that I saw run there (or should I say trotted for), which googling in the ordinary way tells me used to be a ladies’ golf trophy played for in Scotland.

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The main racing interest in the last fortnight was my visit to the trotting track at Krieau, a mile or two from the centre of Vienna.  At the entrance I couldn’t help noticing a little display cabinet containing a small book about the history of the course.  The idea of buying a book written in a foreign language was not as much of a deterrent as the price of 26 euros.  Can I find one somewhere else, or shall I cobble my own history together from internet sources?  On one such page I found a flamboyantly blond-moustached character called Gerhard Mayr being proclaimed as champion jockey (if that’s the right word; driver? rider? pilot?) in 1992, and he is the leading exponent of the art there this year too.  And his moustaches look just the same.

The track dates from 1878 and has a strange mixture of architecture.  The grandstand, like many of the other continental tracks I’ve been to, appears to me to be a fairly dull 1970s edifice that is functional but well looked after.  There was plenty of space for the spectators, who numbered about a thousand; a mixture of grizzled punters and groups of friends and families (who are all plainly very respectable and moderate in their drinking habits).

Next to it are two fenced-off concrete stands which have, quite simply, been left to rot over many years.  The vista around the outside of the track, which is only five furlongs round, presents a contrasting mixture of ultra-modern office blocks and industrial buildings and a pleasing mustard-coloured tavern of rather older vintage.  In the centre, in line with the winning post, is a bizarre tower that looks to me like a creation of the 1960s but that actually dates from 1919. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabrennbahn_Krieau#/media/File:Vienna_-_Trotting_racing_stadium_Krieau_-_6631.jpg

Trotting itself consists of a horse slightly smaller than our thoroughbreds pulling a rudimentary lightweight chariot with the jockey lying almost horizontally, guiding the horse with long reins and, at the business end of the race, a long whip.  Races are started by getting the horses running well before the starting line behind a car with what looks like two big ladders sticking out sideways from it; when they are all lined up, running immediately behind the ladders, the car accelerates away and the race begins.  Horses that break out of a trot into a canter or a gallop are disqualified (and informed over the public address) during the race.  There is no parade ring or winner’s enclosure, but they parade before each race on the track itself.   Races come at 25-minute intervals and there were twelve on the day I went, including one for the unexpectedly-titled Lady Ford Cup, which I’ll have to look into now that I am back from the land of the Wiener Schnitzel and scrumptious cakes and ice creams.

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