Wincanton

Hoofing It

Circuit

Wincanton

Race Types

National Hunt

Approx no. of meetings

17

Getting There

Rail from London (2hours 10 minutes from Paddington to Templecombe)

Railway station to Racecourse (Courtesy shuttlebus from station to track but beware of times as it only appears to run once)

Taxis (Call Roy of Roy’s Taxis, he got us out of a hole)

Website

https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/wincanton/

Facilities

1 main stand with corporate boxes and a confusing array of dining options, and then a couple of smaller stands, with a grandstand and premier area, although one on the day we visited.

Staying over

We did this one by train for the day, but there are a range of chain budget hotels such as travel lodge and also a good selection of B&Bs available. 

Tickets

On bigger meetings, grandstand and premier tickets are priced separately

Rating

(2) Return before challenge complete

The Day

27th February 2019 – Tracks Visited:  UK (59), Ireland (4), France (1), Barbados (1)

It’s a curious one, as you want to love Wincanton, it’s our kind of circuit.  It is small, quirky, and generally friendly, but it has a few foibles.  On the day we visited as we are near the end of our challenge, Madam Hoof booked hospitality.  The outcome of this was us having no idea where we were going and nobody seemed to be able to help us.  The caterers were fabulous, but they needed the help of the race course office, to which all roads seemed to point.  In the end we found we were in the Winning Post restaurant and a good choice it was.


In the restaurant, we found a few things we liked.  The view was great, out table, shared, was with nice people who knew about racing, not just about corporate hospitality.  The food was one of the best we have had at racing save eating with Albert Roux at Cheltenham two years ago. A great starter, a main that was cooked to our individual liking and then a dessert that was ready for us when we wanted it.  This is the way to cater for people, other tracks, see my comments, you could learn.   But of course, what I am talking about only happens when the Front of House (FoH) works properly.  Our waiters, Elizabeth on food and Dijon (like the mustard) could not have done a better job if they tried. What was interesting was to see Neil (swallow) commanding the room.  We have had enough experience of great FoH to know what it looks like.  At all times Neil knew exactly what table needed what and all the time he kept a calm and friendly demeanour.  Nick the general manager must be doing a good job here to make this part of the experience work so well, but this is not more than we expect from Compass the corporate caterers to the stars.


Oh, go on then, I will talk about the track.   Standard configuration (A) with a parade ring behind the main stand with an access path between the two.  We saw the common tidal flow between races as the punters washed back and forth between pre and post-race reverie.  The interesting thing here was the observation that Madam Hoof made about the horse path.  Many of the horses appeared to get disturbed by the path from the ring to the track as they passed the car park.  Did this explain a couple of the outliers in the form?  Possibly, but also it may have just been the heat or the preternaturally warm February weather.


The track is a delight for visibility and even the back straight can be seen equally easy from the stands as from the ground.  The light behind the horses today added a beauty not often seen outside the morning gallops at Newmarket; a sigh to behold.  If you are trying to get photos, there is plenty of opportunity to get to the last two fences on the hurdles course and the last fence on the chase.  On a busier day this might have been an issue, but on a warm February mid-week afternoon, it was pretty damned good.


In conclusion, Wincanton is an odd place.  Easy for the local or the driver, harder for the long-distance commuter. The addition of more courtesy buses may cost money for the track, but it would add to the numbers able to attend. It is a glorious track for watching horse racing, especially on a sunny day, but whatever the farmers were doing with sillage in the local area, is something I never want to experience again; the smell could have wiped out a small nation.


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