Flat, Hurdles, Fences
Approx no. of meetings
Rail from Paddington (1 hour 7 minutes, Change at Reading)
Bus from Reading (15 minutes)
Railway station to Racecourse (100 yards)
Three stands (in use based on size of meeting) Multiple bars, entertainment suites and tote throughout.
Didn’t in this case, but multiple hotel available within 5 miles radius.
Used "The Jumps" in this case, but Single class, discount in advance, student and concessions on the day.
(2) Return before challenge complete
December 16th – UK Tracks Visited (2)
Having started the Christmas break regrettable early, the opportunity arose to visit track number two in the UK since beginning the Hoof Odyssey and Newbury seemed to fit the bill. We had joined a wonderful little fantasy bet with William Hill called “The Jumps”, not for the betting opportunity but for the fact you got two race tickets for free just for taking part. Now although some of the seven track involved were not convenient, Newbury seemed to be just a long train ride away.
Weather is an odd one, including Ireland, it has yet to rain on us when we visit a track. Having seen the scenes on TV when the rain is horizontal and the number of race meeting cancelled over the last year, you might think we have been sacrificing babies to the rain God, but no we have just been lucky so far. Wednesday morning was crisp and bright, just what you need for racing. You can wrap up in layers, but rain is a killer for fun.
The train journey is about two hours from Hoof mansions, but due to the vagaries of the Rail system, our first train was cancelled and we ended up with our connections shot and not able to get to the track for the first race, or at least in time to place our placepots. Have plan B available. We stopped off on route for a cheeky breakfast and to at least got our horses on. Although admittedly I am not sure the staff of the infamous Golden Arches could see why the two Hoofers were poring over the Racing Post when consuming hash browns.
Once back on track we again had the issue that we missed out Reading connection resulting inanother forty minute stop over and descended on the very good station pub. Madam Hoof was now getting uppity and had stipulated that nothing other than bubbles would do. The staff in the bar could not manage a glass so a bottle and plastic glasses seemed to be the solution.
When we finally arrived at the track we were greeted with the most glorious site, a short walk. I mean short, if I were not a gentleman, I would say you could spit the distance. We wandered into the main gates to be told our “Jumps” tickets were equivalent to Premier Enclose tickets, result. The stadium is laid out in a very easy to get around way. Although the parade ring is behind the stands which causes the usual ebb and flow, there are sufficient paths through such that you do not feel like you are pushing your way through Piccadilly Circus at rush hour. We obviously visited on a quiet mid-week day in December, I imagine this would be very different at the height of a big Saturday meeting. This raises the question for you, MF and I. Do you want to see a track and enjoy the racing irrelevant of the racing that is happening, or do you want to see the major events such as the Derby, Grand National, Cheltenham week or the St Ledger? It’s a tricky one, as part of me loves the big events and we have both experienced Ascot through corporate eyes. But, a quiet day, midweek in December allows a relaxed view of the track, a little more time to savour a second bottle of bubbles left behind the bar. Time to take a few pictures at the parade ring and the ability to actually stand at the winning post without having your ear drum split by a nice young lady doing a Pygmalion five feet away. MF and I will obviously do the big events along the way, but for now, getting to know the tracks, the people and the stars of the game is what is important.
When I say stars, I am of course referring to three groups. The trainers, the jockeys and most importantly the horses. There is a fourth group that make the sport happen and that is the backroom staff. The stable lads and lasses, all vying to pick up a little bonus money from the best turned out horse in each parade are the engine room of the sport and they are great to see in action. I wonder how you would get on trying to keep a frisky horse calm in the parade ring when all it wants to do is run and jump.
The nice thing about Newbury is the route from the parade ring to the track is a single path that closes one of the routes across the site just while the horses are transferred. This gives you an ideal opportunity to see the mounts and their reaction to their riders. In MFs case, it also give her the opportunity to yell encouragement to Richard Johnson in two races running (she may have had a bet on), and the look on his face the second time, led me to believe he had developed a stalker or a groupie. That’s the thing about racing, the jockeys like AP, Richard, Barry or STD (I call him that because I lose every time I bet on him) travel far and wide and the size of the circuit is no guide as to which of your heroes will turn up.
The other lovely thing about the people is the dynasties. To see the Twiston Davis’, the Walsh’, the Balding’s etc is a real pleasure as you can almost taste the history and passion that surrounds them. On the day we visited Newbury we had the joy of seeing Willie and William Carson in the parade ring and later back in the wining enclosure, pride is not the word.
Suitably in pocket, we made a far less eventful journey home that day (about an hour shorter). This is most definitely one to come back to for a bigger meeting. It was a great day out and the organisation worked like a dream. Pity about the railways.