And They’re Off

Hamilton

Things are going swimmingly, however that goes. Truth be told, I am just beginning to get a little bit smug. Despite my haphazard approach to things and my flagrant disregard for timekeeping, I have actually managed to plot my way…
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Goodwood

As the old adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and at Goodwood it’s not a Good-one. The drive through the villages of Surrey and Sussex is pretty, but as soon as you get within…
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Redcar

This story is really all about how I came to be standing sockless on the streets of Newcastle in a bizarre 2am pyjama party, shivering from a raw mix of cold air and adrenaline. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
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Ripon

Barry holds court over the assembled guests sprinkled around the dining room for breakfast. His clearing of the plates turns into an elucidation on Europe, via some strange balloons in the second world war and his time on the town…
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Thirsk

As we leave the Judges Court in York we award Asia (the receptionist, not the continent) a small plastic trophy for best hotel so far in our Yorkshire swing. She seems slightly baffled by the presentation ceremony but accepts the…
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York

To say I cut it fine for the 10.30 from Kings Cross would be putting it mildly. The journey started off well, Eric arriving on time and taking me to the local station, unfortunately without my case that sat mutely…
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Bath

I am relieved to finally be free of the big stretches of time behind the wheel, but as if to rain on my post-driving parade, the Gods Of Probability do a right royal job of screwing up the trains. Two…
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Wincanton

I arrive more than two hours early for Wincanton, which is virtually unheard of in these time-pressured months. The reason is that I am meeting Richard to walk the course. This is the brave and slightly bonkers chap I met…
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Towcester

Before I started this lunacy I gathered my closest friends to tell them what I was doing. It took on the guise of an informal planning meeting as I wanted their strategic input and inspired ideas – I wanted them,…
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Ludlow

I am really looking forward to Ludlow. Not only was it nominated by Chesterfield John as his favourite course when I randomly found him completing his own quest in Taunton, but Ivan informs me that it serves a wonderful prawn…
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Haydock

I have been to Haydock Park once before as part a friend’s Stag party a long time ago. There was a punch up in the car park at the end of the day, the brouhaha apparently starting over who would…
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Chester

I share a taxi to the course with 3 lads from Liverpool University. I’m not sure they’ve been racing much before, because they have a carrier bag chinking with lager and vodka, which is unlikely to be waved through the…
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Worcester

There are so many stories from today it’s hard to know which one to choose. Indeed, they do not sit in splendid isolation, but intertwine in a variety of knotty ways which may make it difficult to separate them. You…
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Fakenham

Those of you that are still concentrating (do keep up, there will be a test at the end) may be confused as to why I’m in Fakenham when it was scheduled to be the finale to my quest. You’ll be…
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Beverley

The family and I have been watching the latest Bear Grylls diet programme ‘The Island’ where mostly slim young things get even slimmer (if not younger) on a desert island which appears really nice from a distance but actually resembles…
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Salisbury

Another day, another racecourse. Sunday is Salisbury, and it’s sunny. Friends have spotted a slightly jaded attitude recently which has prompted encouraging noises such as “you’re in the last month now!” and “it’s the home stretch”, to which I usually…
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Newmarket

There is a feeling of going back to the beginning. On the drive up to Newmarket I pass within 400 yards of the house where I was born and grew up, the garden where I learnt to ride a bike…
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Sedgefield

I’m enormously excited by the prospect of visiting Sedgefield as they are promising to take visitors ‘Around The World In One Raceday’! What better for a man going around the British racecourses in eighty days to also go around the…
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Pontefract

The Premier Inn Castleford welcome is about as good as it gets. Everyone smiles as you enter, and the check in is efficient. They explain an enormous amount of things I didn’t know about the Premier Inn, and if I…
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Nottingham

The ‘Incident of the iPhone in the Loo’ is finally resolved two weeks later. I had cancelled my insurance towards the end of the first free month, but not before they had prudently taken my payment for the next, so…
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Sandown

There is only one story to be followed at Sandown, and strangely it doesn’t concern my amazing achievement of passing the halfway point of my eighty day quest. Today, AP McCoy shall ride his final race in a glittering career…
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Plumpton

The wife notes that I’m dragging my heels slightly on the way to Trumpton, as she calls it. She is right, as usual, but don’t tell her I said that. When I eventually get into the car the satnav tells…
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Perth

This is my longest round trip of the journey, but it goes smoothly enough. The taxi driver from Edinburgh to Perth is an interesting guy who gently stitches me up for the fare off the meter – this laissez faire…
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Epsom

I’m meeting my campaign manager Paul, who is distinct and separate to my Passepar-one Paul. He’s not really my campaign manager, just a friend who I quizzed before I started. He helped me plan out this ludicrous venture in a…
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Brighton

There is an element of Chepstow to Brighton, but it’s not as cold or windy. The stands cast a shadow over the course so that in the last furlong it’s like watching the finish through an old-fashioned kaleidoscope as they…
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Windsor

We meet in Browns by the riverside. A smattering of shiny, happy customers drink in the sun on the patio whilst I crouch in the shade and get down to the hard work* that is studying the form (* hard…
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Ayr

There is an unexpected breakfast served in the tiny window of an eighty minute flight to Glasgow. It’s not easy to serve a plane-load of people a hot and tasty meal within the confines of a small galley on a…
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Fontwell

Eric picks me up for the taxi to the station. A big Welsh bear of a man, he has driven me and my family around for over 10 years now. He also likes the horses, so I tell him about…
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Carlisle

The car gets tedious after a while and is bad for my back, and Carlisle doesn’t have an airport, so I bite the bullet (an expensive bullet it is too) and get the train. I effectively gain 10 hours of…
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Ffos Las

I slept fitfully in the Premier Inn as the man in the bed next to mine kept shouting at me to stop snoring, and yet every time he woke me I wasn’t snoring at all! Simon has a 1pm tee…
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Aintree

This is my first visit to Aintree and the Grand National. Excitement is high for a race that defines “iconic” in the equine world, and I hope that the real thing will live up to 35 years worth of TV…
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Leicester

Those who know the M1 understand that it can be a cruel mistress. 50 limits abound, often for no particular reason, and traffic that flows suddenly stops, often for no particular reason. This will make me sound like a geek,…
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Huntingdon

Huntingdon signposts that I am a third of the way through my quest. 19 racecourses in 25 days. I am sure there are jockeys, trainers, stable staff and others who have accumulated more racecourses and hours and mileage in the…
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Kempton

Simon’s newsagent has acted on our consternation that the Racing Post now only comes out on a Sunday, and has managed to secure a copy for us a day early. Now that’s service for you. We come to terms with…
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Lingfield

The day starts unravelling early with news that the tram will be replaced with a bus at Reeve’s Corner. And my search for a Racing Post has proved unsuccessful. Simon’s local newsagent thinks it only comes out on a Sunday….
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Wolverhampton

Time to wheel out the Scrabble System and dust it off. It’s been too long, old friend. When I started betting on the horses some 25 years ago I was naive enough to think there may be a system that…
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Chelmsford City

You can see Chelmsford City from a distance. The floodlights stand tall and legion like sentinels, and sit incongruously in the arid Spanish-style surroundings. Finding the entrance is tougher, but after an aborted attempt at the owners and trainers entrance,…
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Southwell

I’m meeting Jason at Southwell. Things happen when Jason is around, things that you just couldn’t script. Less than a year ago I laughed so much that I didn’t know if I could stop one morning as he skippered us,…
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Ascot

After a misunderstanding on the tickets, I panic-changed into jacket and tie to join the immaculately turned out Andrew, Maura and girls for the Prince’s Countryside Fund Raceday. The website promised, somewhat alarmingly, a day “giving children an appreciation of…
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Doncaster

The morning brings news of my son’s sterling performance in an epic 2-2 draw against the unfairly-gifted Knaphill Jedis. He was recognised with the Man Of The Match award afterwards, and I’m 200 miles away chasing some very strange dream,…
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Wetherby

My satnav and I had another disagreement on the way up to Wetherby. When I deliberately entered 5EH at the end of the postcode instead of the correct 5HE, just to see if it was concentrating, the stupid machine took…
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Newbury

The world is an amazing place. If you ask enough times, it can open itself up to you like a blossoming flower, and offer you untold possibilities. Yesterday was a shining example. I had emailed Julian Thick, CEO of Newbury…
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Newton Abbot

A little over a year ago, a savage storm battered the Devon coastline and destroyed the track at Dawlish. Yet as I travel west past Exeter on a calm and social train to Newton Abbot, there is little evidence of…
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Market Rasen

I know what you’re thinking. Market Rasen wasn’t meant to be this early in the schedule? Yes, I was thinking that too, but then the Ffos Las farce occurred and things had to be juggled. Still, better for it to…
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Bangor-On-Dee

There was more dissent from my hands-free kit on the long drive. I think it was still sulking from our Chepstow spat. With false sincerity it informed me “I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests at…
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Chepstow

Day 7 of my quest. One week in and I’ve lost many pounds (sterling) and gained 1 pound (weight). I must admit to my weightwatchers diet going slightly awry. It’s very hard to turn down an inclusive Full English breakfast….
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Warwick

It’s Wednesday and it’s Warwick. A place I know literally nothing about, other than it has a racecourse. It’s very pretty, I discover, as I eschew a taxi and walk through the centre. I’m keeping an eye out for the…
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Exeter

It took me until 17:46 by the station clock to finally laugh about it. And when I did, it was big, cackling, guffawing laughs that made the people next to me on the platform edge away slowly. But let me…
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Taunton

Taunton just had a completely different feel. There was smiling and talking and people helping each other with bags on the train down. When I arrived at the station three disparate groups immediately and easily coalesced to share a taxi…
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NOT Ffos Las

The Rising Sun is a lovely pub, and after it’s busiest week of the year the bar staff were still smiling and the place had a relaxed vibe, basking in the aftermath of something momentous passing through town. It has…
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Uttoxeter

The short trip to drop Paul at the station was strewn with red lights, of which Cheltenham seems to have a staggering array. These are provincial red lights too – no hurry on a sunny Saturday morning for these guys….
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Cheltenham

Lets get one thing straight – I love Cheltenham. I love the theatre and the drama. I love the setting and the people. And I love the horses. How I have loved the horses over the years. This place thrives…
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