Archive for the ‘Horseracing’ Category

Horseracing at Catterick, Monday 28th November 2022

December 5, 2022

It’s been quiet for a while on the horseracing front. The syndicate voted to keep Ironopolis and run him as a three-year-old. It’s a decision I was pleased with as I think he has potential and I’d rather see him win in our colours than in someone else’s.

It was also decided that as he won’t run until Spring at the earliest, we would lease a horse for a few months for over the winter. One of the syndicate members has a suitable horse and so it’s ownership was temporarily switched and a few of us went along to Catterick to see his first run over hurdles.

Catterick is a small, quiet track and just the sort of place I like, particularly on a winter weekday. There was a lot of fog in the air, so much so that there was some doubt over whether the meeting would go ahead. The commentator struggled once the horses were more than about fifty yards from his position and so had to just make assumptions as to where he thought they might be.

The owner’s badges entitled us to some lunch and so we had cottage pie in an upper tier restaurant that would have normally provided a great view of the course. On this occasion it was fine for the hundred yards or so to the right or left but of little benefit elsewhere.

Positive Force didn’t have the best of days. The bookies had him down as fifth choice in a field of seven and he finished sixth. It might have been that he was still not fully rested from his flat season efforts or maybe the ground was a bit of the soft side. Alternatively, he may just be a horse that isn’t keen on jumping over things.

There was talk of a possible run on the all-weather, so maybe reverting to the flat and a shorter distance might suit him better.

Horseracing at Newcastle, Tuesday 21st September 2022

October 5, 2022

It had been a few weeks since Ironopolis had run at Ripon and we were keen to put that disappointment behind us. He is bred to get well over a mile and and with the races getting longer as the season progresses, he was entered into a ten furlong race at Newcastle on the all-weather surface.

Jen, Isla and I drove up north through the Tyne Tunnel. Isla is getting a bit old now to believe that she has to hold her breath when we drive through a tunnel, although I suspect her mam still did it at that age. Soph was telling me recently that she still gets a bit anxious when the hazard warning lights go on in a car, a consequence of me telling her as a small child that they were the warning that the ejector seats were about to activate.

The meeting was very quiet. It seemed that just about everyone there had an owner’s badge on. Maybe it’s all funded by the bookies or the racing channels rather than relying on gate money. Whilst we could have watched from the owner’s balcony, we took seats in the grandstand which was pretty much deserted.

Ironopolis ran well. He didn’t really get involved until the last couple of furlongs but then picked off all but two highly rated horses for third place. The jockey was open in his assessment, reckoning that he was difficult to steer and might win one race a year. It’s likely that he won’t run again this season but hopefully he will continue to develop and we’ll see him progress as a three year old.

Horseracing at Ripon, Saturday 13th August 2022

August 25, 2022

Ironopolis had the second run of his career in a one mile restricted novice race at Ripon. Isla was away on holiday and so it was just Jen and I that went along to see how he got on. We were able to leave the car in the shade under a tree in the Owners Car Park and got in just in time for the first race.

There was a good turnout with the Club Enclosure sold out and plenty of people taking advantage of being able to take their own beer into the Course Enclosure. A brass band was knocking out the tunes in the bandstand. It made me wish that it was a drinking day.

We watched the first race from the Club Stand. When it was time for Ironopolis to run we could have gone into a a small section reserved for Owners and Trainers, but we had a good enough view from the seats immediately behind that section. There was a dedicated bar for us too, where we caught up with some of the other syndicate members, before heading out to the parade ring for a chat with the trainer and jockey.

The pre-race chat between the syndicate mainly dealt with the horse being backed into 6-4. He drifted to 9-4, but still went off as 2-1 favourite in a nine horse field. There was a consensus that the price was too short, although I could see why he would attract support after a strong finish on his first run and an assessment in the race card that he was likely to improve.

The word from the trainer was that he still doesn’t do much when working at the stables. He didn’t do a lot in this race either and was never in contention, jogging home in sixth place. The jockey reckoned that he didn’t like running around a bend. Others thought that he likely needs softer ground and a less undulating track. Perhaps he needs to be told that lower grade horses usually get their balls chopped off.

We watched the third race from the grandstand, for a different perspective. As we were looking after the dog we called it a day after that one and headed home. Hopefully Ironopolis will be back on a track that suits him before long.

Horseracing at Redcar, Sunday 17th July 2022

July 24, 2022

Back, I think, in 2019 I joined a horseracing syndicate put together via a football message board. It was interesting to get involved with but when I took the job in Moscow it proved less enjoyable to follow from afar and so I gave it up. A couple of years later, there was an option to rejoin. Jen and I were back in the UK by then and so ended up with a twentieth share in a two-year-old that, after a tight vote, was named Ironopolis.

He’s a horse whose grandad won the Derby and is likely to do best at distances around the mile mark. Isla and I have been to see him ride on the gallops a couple of times earlier in the year at his stables at the top of Sutton Bank. Oddly, he declined the carrots that Isla had brought. Maybe we’ll try apples next time.

With him not being bred for the shorter sprints there was little opportunity for him to run early in the flat season. Besides all that, he’s a bit of a late developer and so it was mid-July before he finally made it to a track.

Jen and I got Owner’s passes and Soph and Isla came along as well to see how he got on. On entering the grandstand at Redcar, Soph and Isla were given free entry by a bloke who had some spare passes. Result.

We watched the first race of the day from the steps at the front of the grandstand and then I made my way over to the Owners and Trainers stand to catch up with the other syndicate members. Some I knew from the stable visits or from the message board, others I was meeting for the first time. The word from the stable was not to expect too much and that this opening outing was primarily intended to get the horse used to the experience of racing. Nevertheless, it was hard not to see it as an opportunity to gauge how he compared to the other horses in his 7f maiden.

He started slowly out of the stalls and was trailing in the opening stages but picked up as the race went on. Once he got into his stride he began overhauling other horses to finish in fourth position and in the prize money. I think he won around four hundred quid for the syndicate kitty which isn’t far off a week’s worth of training fees.

We got a debrief from the jockey and assistant trainer in the parade ring afterwards. The gist of it being that it took the horse a while to realise what he was supposed to be doing and it wasn’t until he went past the horse in second last position that he started racing.

A fast-finishing fourth place was seen by everyone as a very pleasing outcome for a first race. Hopefully he’ll be back on the track again before too long to gain some more experience.

Rothbury v West Moor & Jesmond, Saturday 14th May 2022, 2.30pm

May 24, 2022

The Boro’s season is over, but there is still the odd game taking place. This one was the final fixture for both sides in the twelfth-tier Division One of the Northern Alliance League. It was pretty much a dead game in that neither side were involved in matters at either end of the table and West Moor were guaranteed a sixth-place finish regardless of the result. Rothbury had a little more to play for in that if results elsewhere went their way, then they might move up from ninth position to seventh. I doubt that it kept them awake the night before.

The drive up to Armstrong Park was a scenic as it gets. I think that it just about borders the Northumberland National Park. It’s a fair distance though, around seventy-five minutes from Teesside, although as I didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon it was no big deal.

That morning Isla and I had been to have another look at the racehorse. We watched him on the gallops and had a chat with some of the stable staff. Apparently, he’s not one for the minimum distances so won’t make his debut until later in the season when the races get longer. Oddly enough, he doesn’t like carrots. Weirdo horse.

There was a clubhouse, I think, at Armstrong Park or maybe it was just the changing rooms. A few people were stood in front of it, but most were sat along one side of the pitch on a raised embankment area. The smart folks had brought camping chairs with them but most, like me, had found a spot where a level piece of ground met the slope so that there was somewhere to angle your legs downwards. As usual there were dogs in attendance including a spaniel and an enormous Dalmatian.

Rothbury were in red, with West Moor in blue and white. They each had to volunteer a sub to run the line, although the Rothbury lad was so biased that after a while the ref, who rarely strayed from the centre circle, just ignored him. The lack of exertion from the man in the middle wasn’t only limited to covering ground, but extended to whistle blowing. If he could let play go on he did do and on the occasions when forced to blow his whistle he did it so quietly that it undermined any authority that he may have had.

The visitors went two up in the first half, with Rothbury pulling one back early in the second half before West Moor rattled in another two to make the game safe. There was a late consolation for Rothbury and it finished four-two.

At the end the ref continued his minimal effort approach by blowing just twice to bring the game and the Northern Alliance season to an end.

Middlesbrough v Derby, Saturday 12th February 2022, 3pm

February 24, 2022

The Boro games are coming fast and furious at the moment. That’s what happens when you combine a Championship season with a good cup run, although I suppose it’s nothing compared to the second UEFA season where we had to fit in League Cup games up to the quarter final, FA Cup to the semi and the UEFA Cup all the way to the final. Happy days.

I’d spent the morning of the game on a Boro-related activity in that I’d been to a racing stable just past the top of Sutton Bank. Now that I’m back in the country full-time I’ve joined a horse racing syndicate made up of Boro fans and my granddaughter, Isla, and I went along to have a look at our horse.

We chatted with the jockey riding him out and then went up to the gallops to see him run past. I can’t tell a slow horse from a fast one in those conditions but the other syndicate members who all know a lot more than me seemed content with his progress. Hopefully there will be some enjoyable days out racing.

After swapping one grandchild for another, Harry and I set off for the Riverside for a game with a bit of an edge to it. For some reason a fair few Derby fans blame Steve Gibson for their financial misfortunes rather than their own overspending and then penalties for cheating by breaching the FFP rules. There had been an announcement the previous day that a settlement for our claim had been reached but there was still some tension as we walked to the ground.

We made it through the underpass just before the arrival of a heavily-policed group of Derby fans walking from the station. Plenty of pictures of our chairman had been stuck to walls and lamp posts along the route to goad them and there were a few Boro fans wearing Gibbo masks.

Outside the stadium we passed the fanzone area. I could hear some music but didn’t know whether it was live or a DJ. I later discovered that Finn Forster had been playing. He’s a fella that I’ve seen a couple of times before and if I’d known I’d have got there early enough to take in his set. I’ve tickets for his Stockton gig next month and so I’ll have to settle for seeing him then.

There was a heightened atmosphere inside the ground too with more sections down the sides joining in with the singing led by the North and South stands, particularly when the songs glorified Gibbo. I recognize everything that he has done for the club, but I’ve not felt the same about him since he came out as a Conservative supporter. Despite my disappointment over his political allegiances, I joined in. When he’s under attack from the opposition I take the view that despite being a Tory, he’s our Tory.

And the game? Another great performance. We passed Derby to death until space opened up for Jones on the right and his accurate balls into the box led to our first three goals. A late fourth from Watmore put us well out of sight and back into the play-off spots.

Selangor Horse Racing, Saturday 19th January 2019

April 30, 2019

Jen and I had been to the Royal Selangor Turf Club in KL a couple of times before but as I’d never been able to get a reply to my inquiries about going in a posh bit we had always just been in the non-air-conditioned and noisy sections.

This time though I got an almost immediate reply to my email and we were able to book two places in a special lounge for 170 ringgits a head including lunch and afternoon tea. We stayed over in KL the night before in the Bukit Bintang part of town and had half a suckling pig to eat. Half a pig between two seems a lot, but they are slaughtered at only two weeks old so it worked out fine. Fine for us anyway, less so for the pig.

Next day we took a cab to the track, got dropped off at the regular entrance and then wandered up to the VIP bit. It looked as if a wedding party were also in attendance but fortunately they were doing their celebrating in a different lounge to us.

We collected our badges and a race card from the front desk and took a couple of escalators to high in the stand. We were shepherded into our lounge and seated at a table for eight that had a couple of fellas opposite us.

I’d have much preferred a table for two. It’s no reflection on our table companions who were friendly enough, it’s just I’m quite anti-social and don’t have any interest in small talk with people I don’t know. Or any size talk really.

The lunch was good. It had a few prawns and some fish in it. Probably some other stuff too but I wasn’t paying attention. We got a glass of wine and then a refill. That was the lot though and when I asked for more they claimed to have run out. The only other option was Carlsberg which I’m starting to conclude is probably The Worst Lager in the World and so it was a relatively low-alcohol afternoon.

The betting was hectic in that as well as the live racing beyond the window we also had Macau and a couple of Australian tracks on the telly. I was able to bet with my phone for the Australian races which made things a little easier, but a punt on the live stuff and the Macau racing required frequent trips to the tote lady sat by the door.

Afternoon tea wasn’t as good as lunch and with a lack of wine and the air-conditioning on the warm side we’d had enough by about four o’clock. Just the two winners all afternoon meant that we failed to claw back any of the admission charge and instead put us slightly further out of pocket on the day.

Racing at Sedgefield, Friday 13th April 2018

May 8, 2018

Jen and I were in the UK for a few days and staying in Sedgefield. There was a Friday afternoon race meeting on and as it was only a twenty minute walk away we had a stroll over.

We got there shortly before the first race and paid sixteen quid each to get into the grandstand section. It didn’t look as if the cheaper area in the centre of the circuit was open. I’ve been to Sedgefield before for evening and Saturday fixtures and there are usually a few families in there. Perhaps with this meeting being on a weekday and, I imagine, a lot of punters preferring to watch Aintree on the telly, it wasn’t worth them bothering opening it up.

Once inside it was clear that we’d picked a quiet day with probably no more than a couple of hundred attendees. That’s fine with me though, I can do without the crowds, particularly groups of people on the drink. My own drinking is fine, it’s just other people doing it that I don’t like.

I started with a pint of John Smith’s Smooth. It’s terrible stuff but there didn’t appear to be anything else. Fortunately I spotted some bottles of Wainwright’s Golden Ale in a fridge behind the bar. They were a lot more drinkable, with a hoppy, floral flavour. The barmaid apologised for the £5.10 price tag but it still struck me as better value than the John Smiths and would still have been even if they had been giving the Smooth away for free.

It wasn’t the best of weather with a hint of rain in the air and enough mist to make viewing of the far side of the course less than ideal. But, cold and damp trumps the hot and damp climate of Malaysia and I was more than happy to have to keep warm in a battered old Barbour that I’ve inherited from my Dad.

There were seven races, six over jumps and a bumper to finish, with another seven on the big screen from Aintree. We made a poor start to the betting but clawed it back over the course of the afternoon and went into the last race in the position where if our horse were to win then we’d have made a small profit and if it lost we’d go home a few quid down. It was second. Still a good day though.

Horse Racing at Bangkok, Saturday 16th December 2017

January 18, 2018

We’ve been to Bangkok for the weekend a few times but as the horse racing usually takes place on a Sunday afternoon we’ve not had the opportunity to attend. I’d noticed a rare Saturday fixture at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club though and so we thought we’d pop along.

Our hotel was right next to the track. It was also handy for Lumphini Park and we spent the morning wandering around watching water monitors fight each other over a carp that one of them must have caught in the lake. We also saw one monitor digging up and scoffing some eggs, probably buried by a turtle.

The highlight of the wandering about though came outside of the park when we stumbled upon a cock fight at the end of a quiet alley. I got the impression that we weren’t particularly welcome and so we didn’t hang about but Jen managed to snap a couple of photos before we left them to it.

As with the recent trip to Ipoh, we got lucky with our hotel room overlooking the race track. So much so that we pulled a couple of chairs up to the window and watched the opening two races of the ten race card from there.

Good as the hotel room was, it didn’t have a tote counter and our view didn’t extend as far around the track as the starting stalls. It took us twenty minutes or so to walk to the track entrance. We were directed away from the posh bit, possibly due to membership requirements but more likely for scruffiness.

The 100 Baht section had no such qualms about letting us in and the stand overlooked the parade ring at one side and the winning post at the other. There was a 50 Baht gate a little further along which got you into a grandstand beyond the finishing line. Both areas seemed quite busy.

Our stand had a roof but wasn’t enclosed and so we didn’t benefit from air-conditioning. It was breezy though and with steady supply of chilled cans of Singha for just over a quid a pop I managed to avoid over-heating.

There were no seats in the stand either, just concrete terracing. That was ok too and we took up a position on the back row. Every now and then we’d have a tray of street-type food from one of the stalls that were lining the concourse area.

One of the odd things about the racing was that the horses would head around to the starting stalls a good twenty minutes before the scheduled start time of their race. They would then be loaded up and left to stand for at least a quarter of an hour. I couldn’t really see why they would do this as it seemed a long time to be cooped up.

For a change, we limited our betting to the live racing and that gave us plenty of time to ponder our selections. It was time that we didn’t really need as we followed our usual selection process of backing the horse with the best name. The system, once again, was spectacularly unsuccessful. There was a horse called Brian in one race and our early two quid bet briefly had him favourite on the tote. Once the more knowledgeable punters had placed their wagers he drifted to around 800/1.

I’m pleased to report that despite the lack of confidence from the market Brian managed to outperform expectations by finishing second to last. Hopefully that might delay his day out at the glue factory. After a day with no returns whatsoever we retired to the nearby St Regis where we were the only customers in a sealed off whisky and cigar bar. I was even able to turn their plinkety-plonk music off when no-one was looking. Perfect ending really.


Horse Racing at Ipoh, Saturday 7th October 2017

January 10, 2018

I’d never really considered how well off we are for race courses in the UK. I can’t be bothered to check but there has to be around fifty or so. Most other places that I’ve lived are much less well served. For example, South Africa about half a dozen, Korea has three and Malaysia just the three as well. Jen and I had already been to the tracks at Selangor and Penang and so this trip to Ipoh ticked off the final Malaysian track.

We live south of Kuala Lumpur and the three-hour drive north takes you around the edges of the city and then on to Ipoh. I’d booked a hotel that overlooked the racecourse and we got lucky with the view from our room.

After finding not much in the way of facilities during our visit to Penang racecourse I had emailed ahead this time asking if there was a lounge or restaurant that we could book. I received a very nice reply from a Mr. Soo who generously offered us complimentary places in their Members Lounge.

The Members Lounge had its own entrance and once we’d taken the lift to an upper floor we had a table in an air-conditioned glass-fronted area of the stand. There were plenty of tote counters and we were able to watch racing from Australia, Macau and, I think, Seoul on the screens.

As ever, so many betting opportunities is not necessarily a good thing. Our race card covered all of the televised meetings and so we had a bet in every race. It makes for a hectic afternoon and I think it would probably have been better if I’d made some or all of the bets in advance.

If there was a downside to the lounge it was that it didn’t sell beer and so I had to keep nipping down the concourse for my cans. I can live with that though. We did get afternoon tea provided, with a bit of cake and a sandwich and I think if we had arrived earlier than we did we might have got some lunch.

I ventured outside a couple of times onto the terrace but most people stayed inside the lounge and a lot didn’t even look out of the window at the live races.

Despite betting on around twenty races altogether our tactic of making selections based upon the names of the horses failed to pay off on all but one occasion. It was a pleasant afternoon though in comfortable surroundings. Cheers, Mr. Soo.