Around The Races In Seventy Seven Days?

Last week the BHA unveiled the 2018 fixture list and revealed around £10m of the Levy funding will be targeted towards the middle and lower tiers of the sport. Those who followed my tour of all the racecourses in 2015 will know that this is a hugely welcome statement of intent aimed at halting the decline in owners, horse population, field sizes and prize-money at this grassroots level.

As I wrote in a letter published in the Racing Post, my worry is that without a strong foundation the whole pack of cards becomes increasingly unstable and the very essence of horse racing could be lost forever. Stable staff and other workers in the industry may not be excited by the rise in evening and Sunday fixtures, but if it helps secure their future it may be a price worth paying.

But of course the release of each fixture list (again refreshingly early this year, for which the authorities are to be commended) is not only important for various planners and leaders but also allows us dreamers to plan outings, holidays and (if crazy enough) tours of all the British racecourses in eighty days or less.

Could you be the new world record holder?

Here is the first thing any budding racecourse tourist needs to understand – with many flat courses closing their doors through the winter and some of their jumping counterparts easing off over the summer, your three month sabbatical from work, family, friends and most other aspects of real life is either going to be in the Spring or Autumn.

What I found during my 2015 odyssey is that I preferred the bread and butter racing to the clamour and oppressiveness of the more popular meetings. If you want to take in the big festivals and feature days across all codes you will have to stick to a March – June window, but if like me you are happy to drift to an easier rhythm then it has to be August – November when the long summer evenings melt into an autumnal anticipation of the coming jumps season.

With a record 1,508 fixtures in 2018, and 313 in my chosen window of Monday 27 August to Sunday 11 November, you may think it would be relatively easy to find a path through the maze. Trust me, it’s not. Cartmel, Ludlow, Taunton and Towcester leave little room for manoeuvre as they only host one fixture in that time, whilst there were plenty of others with just two or three.

You will also note that this is a period of only 77 days, thus offering you both a little leeway if you run into problems but also, more importantly, an opportunity to beat my world record (note to self – must phone up the Guinness Book of Records) of 78 days. This is all the more challenging because there are now two extra stops compared to my tour in 2015, Hereford and Yarmouth, both of whom were out of action during my journey.

However, I have worked my scheduling magic and today offer you a route that encompasses 28 jumps, 27 flat and 5 all-weather fixtures, with 5 evening and 3 twilight meetings. Highlights include an October week that includes the opening days of jumps action from both Cheltenham and Aintree, and an eight-day Scottish swing which includes four days off for good, or bad, behaviour.

Wherever you live you should be able to benefit from the grouping of fixtures into geographical regions. From my own experiences two years ago I could tell you where to (and where not to) stay, eat, drink and visit. However, you can read that in my book and I feel anything too prescriptive might stifle the random creativity of your own journey, and I might as well set up a tour agency instead of writing a blog (actually, that’s not a bad idea…)

So here it is, my attempt at the 2018 incarnation of Around The Races In Eighty Days, or Around The Races In Seventy Seven Days really although ATRISSD doesn’t scan as well as ATRIED. Take bits of it to tour certain regions you haven’t visited before or, if you’re feeling really daring, have those difficult conversations with the boss or the wife (or both) about “something I’ve always wanted to do” that will necessitate disappearing for three months.

Sadly I won’t be joining you next year. My race is run and my days on tour are over. I offer you this route freely, without any requirement to subscribe, phone a premium rate number or deposit £3,000 in my Nigerian uncle’s bank account. All I ask is that if I’ve inspired you to follow your own dream then please email me (via my website) and it would be great to meet up for an afternoon’s racing at some point. I will enjoy hearing of your adventures…..

1 Mon 27/08/2018 – Cartmel
2 Tue 28/08/2018 – Ripon
3 Wed 29/08/2018 – Catterick
4 Thu 30/08/2018 – Carlisle
5 Fri 31/08/2018 – Thirsk
6 Sat 01/09/2018 – Beverley
7 Sun 02/09/2018 – Brighton
8 Mon 03/09/2018 – Windsor
9 Tue 04/09/2018 – Goodwood
10 Wed 05/09/2018
11 Thu 06/09/2018
12 Fri 07/09/2018 – Musselburgh
13 Sat 08/09/2018
14 Sun 09/09/2018 – York
15 Mon 10/09/2018
16 Tue 11/09/2018
17 Wed 12/09/2018 – Doncaster
18 Thu 13/09/2018 – Epsom Downs
19 Fri 14/09/2018 – Salisbury
20 Sat 15/09/2018 – Bath
21 Sun 16/09/2018 – Ffos Las
22 Mon 17/09/2018 – Worcester
23 Tue 18/09/2018 – Chepstow
24 Wed 19/09/2018 – Kelso
25 Thu 20/09/2018
26 Fri 21/09/2018
27 Sat 22/09/2018 – Ayr
28 Sun 23/09/2018 – Hamilton Park
29 Mon 24/09/2018
30 Tue 25/09/2018
31 Wed 26/09/2018 – Perth
32 Thu 27/09/2018 – Pontefract
33 Fri 28/09/2018 – Haydock Park
34 Sat 29/09/2018 – Chester
35 Sun 30/09/2018
36 Mon 01/10/2018
37 Tue 02/10/2018 – Southwell
38 Wed 03/10/2018 – Nottingham
39 Thu 04/10/2018 – Warwick
40 Fri 05/10/2018
41 Sat 06/10/2018 – Wolverhampton
42 Sun 07/10/2018 – Uttoxeter
43 Mon 08/10/2018 – Stratford
44 Tue 09/10/2018 – Leicester
45 Wed 10/10/2018 – Towcester
46 Thu 11/10/2018 – Exeter
47 Fri 12/10/2018 – Newton Abbot
48 Sat 13/10/2018 – Newmarket
49 Sun 13/10/2018
50 Mon 15/10/2018 – Yarmouth
51 Tue 16/10/2018 – Huntingdon
52 Wed 17/10/2018 – Wetherby
53 Thu 18/10/2018 – Chelmsford
54 Fri 19/10/2018 – Fakenham
55 Sat 20/10/2018 – Market Rasen
56 Sun 21/10/2018
57 Mon 22/10/2018 – Plumpton
58 Tue 23/10/2018
59 Wed 24/10/2018 – Fontwell
60 Thu 25/10/2018 – Ludlow
61 Fri 26/10/2018 – Cheltenham
62 Sat 27/10/2018 – Newbury
63 Sun 28/10/2018 – Aintree
64 Mon 29/10/2018
65 Tue 30/10/2018 – Bangor-On-Dee
66 Wed 31/10/2018 – Taunton
67 Thu 01/11/2018 – Lingfield Park
68 Fri 02/11/2018 – Kempton Park
69 Sat 03/11/2018 – Ascot
70 Sun 04/11/2018
71 Mon 05/11/2018 – Hereford
72 Tue 06/11/2018 – Redcar
73 Wed 07/11/2018 – Newcastle
74 Thu 08/11/2018 – Sedgefield
75 Fri 09/11/2018 – Hexham
76 Sat 10/11/2018 – Wincanton
77 Sun 11/11/2018 – Sandown Park

(PS If anyone can devise a better route I’d love to know!)