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Archive for the ‘Lingfield’ Category

Having titled the last post “The Galloping Major” I noticed last week that, by coincidence, the Talking Pictures TV channel was showing a film of the same name.  It’s a black and white film made in 1951; I’d never heard of it, and I had to watch it because it’s a comedy about people who live and work in a London suburb who buy a racehorse.  I’m afraid that nowadays a lot of the action and humour would only amuse young children and people at the other end of the age spectrum who’d be interested in the film’s nostalgia value.  It was a good illustration of how, as recently as the early 1950s, horses were not an uncommon sight on city streets and there were still stables tucked away in built-up areas.  You could also watch out for a host of not-yet-famous names in bit parts such as Kenneth More, Sid James and Charles Hawtrey.

It would also amuse those of us interested in old racecourses, as the film gives us a lot of action at the old Alexandra Park track – where they went round and round a tight circle before dashing up the straight to the finish – and later on at the Grand National. The leading jockey Charlie Smirke has a speaking role, as does Raymond Glendenning, the best-known commentator prior to Peter O’Sullevan.

I get the impression that there’s a fair number of cheap and cheerful racing-themed films made in this country in the middle of the twentieth century.  I’ve got the DVD of one of them, a rather more grown-up 1954 production from Ealing Studios in colour called The Rainbow Jacket, which has scenes at Newmarket and Lingfield and stars Honor Blackman, Robert Morley and Bill Owen.  They may not be great works of art but they’re good clean fun, and for the racing historian they provide a chance to see not just shots of racecourses but also the way people looked and behaved on them.

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I’m glad to say I’ve completed the re-read of the first draft of Uttoxeter, and I’m about a third of the way through the next re-read. The last one was concerned with style, structure and readability; this one is devoted to checking facts, or what I think are facts! Sometimes I find myself wondering “how do I know that’s true?” There is at least one question I already have in mind to ask another racing historian for whom the subject is one of his specialisms.

Lingfield on Good Friday attracted so many people that they had to put up the “house full” signs. I was lucky to see the first race in time, by virtue of a decision to open up the members’ car park to the general public just before I reached the entrance in question. In reality there was room for more people, but the facilities were overstretched as it was. Long queues for the loos! Not helped by some temporary portable ones breaking down quite early in the afternoon. It was an interestingly mixed crowd – blokes there for the beer, families, couples, and some proper racing people. There was a good atmosphere and people were enjoying themselves.

Brighton on Thursday evening was excellent. They too had a good crowd, lured by the prospect of free entry, and we were rewarded by an unexpectedly glorious warm, sunny late afternoon. There was a nice outcome to the second race when Megalala, a thirteen-year-old, won by leading from the start and going well clear. The other jockeys gave him too much rope and they could never catch him. Starting at 10/1, not many people will have bet on him, but everyone was pleased at the result. Can he do it again though?

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