Approx no. of meetings
Rail from London Paddington (2 hours 14 minutes)
Bus from (10 minutes)
Railway station to Racecourse (2.5 miles)
Taxis – Rarer than rocking horse dropppings
Three stands, owners, standard and club, BetFred shops and tote. Restaurant and corp hospitality. Not as many foodplaces as at other tracks
Large number of hotels and B&B available. We stayed in the White Horse, which is a Fullers pub, older than Shakespeare himself and suitably right next to a betting shop.
Single class (£22), discount in advance, student and concessions on the day.
(1) Return after challenge complete
May 21st – UK Tracks Visited (10))
Stratford racecourse, take 2. When our original attempt to visit the course in March was abandoned following burst rivers banks, it was with trepidation that we rebooked and coincided with the spring weather going from warm to wet. We crossed our fingers and watched out for animals in pairs and a hirsute carpenter. Fortunately, this time the riverbanks stayed intact and the meeting went ahead.
First things first, getting there. What is it about towns with racecourses and taxi’s being as rare as rocking horse droppings? An hour’s wait for a booking? No chance of a cab back? Take Nottingham or Leicester’s example and get yourself a taxi app that works from a smartphone. Not the tracks fault, but Madam Hoof was none too chuffed having to walk back into town after the event, although it did help her prepare herself for a cheeky bottle of Sancerre upon our return to the bosom of Stratford.
The course itself has an excellent layout, this is most definitely plan A, with the parade ring front and centre between the grandstands and the track. Three grandstands, owners and trainers, plebs and the one in the middle for those who cough up more for tickets. Issue is that on a wet night, there is just not enough space inside under cover. I would definitely say this is a dry track more than a wet one when busy. That being said, the cover provided in the glass fronted stands was excellent.
We ended up with Madam’s favourite pastime, in the champagne and seafood bar, which had a great view of the winning line and the entire panorama of the track stretched out before us. Not sure about asking a five-pound deposit for the wine bucket, you must have a rum bunch of clientele if they’re running off with them (Lisa was of course a superstar behind the bar).
Finally, on that front, the staff were excellent, apart from the main bar where we had a bit of a language barrier issue. Madam Hoof and I need to work on our Eastern European obviously. Tote staff and the officials we bumped into could not have been more pleasant and helpful and it is obvious you run a tight ship at the track (Or tight Ark when flooding occurs). Thanks all, a great evenings racing.
The family motto of the Hoofs “Et ratio B semper est paratum” (Always have plan B ready) came in particularly handy when it came to a recent visit to Stratford-upon-Avon races. Madam Hoof wanted the weekend away for our wedding anniversary. With typical military precision we booked two courses, hotels and train tickets, then sat back and waited for the day to arrive for departure. On the previous Wednesday night, Blighty was hit by a spot of rain (how is it they have now started naming storms, we are not American quite yet). The following day I get an email telling me my tickets for Stratford have been refunded due to the river bursting its banks and the course now being more appropriate to sea horses than race horses. What to do now? We had time in Stratford-Upon-Avon and no activity, plan B was required.
We all know Stratford (sorry I am not writing it out in full each time) is known for the Bard, so I contacted the box office having found the plays for that day were sold out. Returns could provide a couple of tickets or Marlowe’s Faust with limited visibility, so I went ahead and booked. Some race tracks don’t offer exactly clear views when busy but they are still fun so I thought it was worth a punt. The show was for 7.30 in the evening and we had half a day to kill. There was a temptation to go out to the racetrack, but decided this time that the 2.5 miles from the town centre was a waste if it was just a chance to view a water meadow. We would return, but next time possibly wait for a spot of British summer.
The town of Stratford has got all manner of things to do for the casual visitor as well as the Shakespeare fan. His birthplace, his house and the churchyard he was buried in. All very nice, and ignoring the hordes of excitable school children, great things to do if you have not done them before. The thing is, as has been mentioned, so far the sun has always shined on the hooves on race day and the irony of the weather could not be ignored. The race track was under floods of Noah proportions (animals in pairs and a dearth of carpenters) but there was not a cloud in the sky on the day.
If you find yourself on a sunny day in Stratford may I suggest a couple of day time alternatives which we used to build up a thirst for myself and MH? Firstly, there are some lovely cruises along the river by boat, canal barge mostly as the river does not have a massive draft at this point. One can spend always while away a few hours viewing the town and countryside from a different angle, with the added attraction of birds and wildlife (and inappropriate couples, as I pointed out to MH on the odd occasion).
The second thing to do is to take a stroll along the river bank. We walked for a mile or so in the sunshine towards the East and played our favourite game of guess the house price. Seriously there are some amazing waterfront properties with their own jetties and the wise choice of elevation above the river to avoid the flooding. MH needs to improve her betting accuracy even further if we wish to purchase one of these beauties. The idea of taking a boat to the shops does somehow appeal.
Upon returning to the town we noticed the level of Irishness on display. This was the day before Cheltenham was due to begin and the race meeting with its proximity to the Cotswolds is often a precursor to the festival. Having no real plan B, the punters without portfolio had little to do but drink and linger in the betting shops in town looking for what action they could find on the day.
I know the purpose of this site is to discuss racing, and we will most certainly be back to complete the odyssey, but it think the point of this entry is that racing sometimes does not happen due to weather or acts of God. When this is the case, you need to have a plan B like the Hoofs. I will update you when we finally make it to the course.