Kempton (Middlesex) – Jockey Club
Flat, Hurdles, Fences
Approx no. of meetings
Rail from Waterloo (1 hour 7 minutes)
Bus from Kingston (15 minutes)
Railway station to Racecourse (100 yards)
Two stands (Festival stand for large meetings), multiple bars, food court, entertainment suites and tote throughout. Bet Fred on site.
Didn’t in this case, but multiple hotel available within 10 miles radius.
(1) Return after the challenge complete
On this occasion used Jumps voucher and it was a Single class, discount in advance, student and concessions on the day. For larger meetings segmentation occurs.
March 19th – UK Tracks Visited (5)
There are tracks that are easier to get to than others, and Kempton is one of the better ones. Yes, it is a slow train from London Waterloo (every half hour) that stops literally everywhere. Due to the vagaries of timetabling, you are actually visit the same stations twice as you bounce out of Kingston (Worth remembering if you ever need the loo). But one you arrive at Kempton Park station you can see the stadium and the imposing grandstand within a 100 yard walk. Tickets on the day were courtesy of the William Hill “Jumps” promotion and the efficiency dealing with this was commendable by the door staff (Slight issues, we didn’t get day passes for the collection, note to self we may have to return or these another day).
First impression is of a big well-oiled machine. The layout as you walk through the door is of suites and the official’s offices on the left and the main stand on the right. This is rather in the form of a multi-level bunker for want of a better description. The sub-layer is the home of a massive BetFred, Tote, bar and food court area. From here you climb the stairs before each race to view the action. This area is busy, but has a fair amount of seating and space to place bets. The floor above houses the premier bar, which on the day was a damned site warmer. Coming out of either bar area brings you to the main stands, half standing and half seated. Higher up still there are suites with places to eat and gamble again. Straight in front of the main stand are the fine men and women of the bookie fraternity, accessible in just the right place for a cheeky last minute flutter.
It is March, although the rain held off (still not a wet day on the odyssey) it was cold. Madam Hoof was resplendent in a scarf, hat and gloves, whereas I myself forgot the scarf and rather rued the oversight. The trouble with large and open sided stands like the grandstand at Kempton Park, is the propensity for the wind to whistle straight through and right up your fundamentals. Needless to say, I was freezing and relied heavily on the twins gods of Guinness and Mr Hipflask (Home-made sloe gin this week).
I mentioned the official’s offices earlier and although this is only track 5 in the UK and 7 overall including Ireland, there was something at Kempton we had not seen before. In a sport like many, troubled from time to time by allegations of wrong doing, a weighing room which is open to public scrutiny via a large picture window is not only a nice feature but a great way to see your heroes up close.
We had terrific day overall, but I wonder is it time to discuss the crowd? There are a number of racing archetypes we are finding and Saturday was a day for seeing the best and the worst of those. The real fans who travel to see their horses and heroes are there in droves. The families bringing the kids on a fun day out are also evident. The corporates tend to keep themselves hidden away much of the time in boxes with their own personal wine lakes. There are locals at every track and each location therefore has a different flavour. However the one type we encountered that was less fun on Saturday was the power drinkers and pretty young things out for hens, stags and mayhem. Madam Hoof almost got covered in beer in the premier bar before the sixth race as some boys went from boisterous to boorish in about a microsecond. If the industry wants to protect the next generation of families and kids coming to racing, it needs to make sure they are not put off by the antics of a few. I know towns and hotels that discourage hens and stags, why not race tracks too!
Anyway, whinge over, this was as ever an enjoyable day at a well-established and well run track. It also has the distinct advantage if you are a plane spotter of getting a very close up look at the underside of some rather large jets due to the proximity to Heathrow (bring binoculars). I am sure that Helicopter landing here is difficult if not prohibited.
Madam Hoof and I will certainly return, but we might wait until the challenge is over so we can make a better comparison with the rest of the UK.