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, I park up and ask the guy selling the Racing Posts if he’s got any tips.
“Not yet, but when Tracksuit Dave arrives he’ll have some. Give me an 8/1 winner last week.” I’m intrigued.
“Yeah, you can’t miss him. Wears a tracksuit,” really? “and he walks like this….” and the guy does an impression of a cross between a bear and a wardrobe, shuffling along. I’m beginning to wonder if this is all some elaborate April Fools routine, but he seems genuine enough. I ask if Tracksuit Dave is a professional punter.
“Yeah, he’s famous. Lovely guy too. Knows all the TV lot. He’s got Tommo’s phone number!” Well, a friend of Tommo is a friend of mine, and I make a mental note to look out for tracksuited wardrobes this afternoon.
The facilities are clean and fresh, and look like villas huddled together in a desert-scape. This is the course that has risen from the ashes of the ill-fated Great Leighs, and it only recently resumed racing after a five year hiatus at the venue.
Today’s betting strategy is the each way double. Not that ludicrous, you may think, especially when compared to throwing coins at a patterned carpet, but I’m planning on using them on short-priced favourites. You would never back a 6/4 favourite each way, but put two of them together in a each way double and all of a sudden it becomes a decent proposition. Even if they both just place you would get your money back, and there’s always the hope that they both win for big bucks.
The trouble with the Chelmsford card was which races to employ this tactic with. The first two had seven runners, which doesn’t really suit each way terms, so I went for a sizable double on Vejovis at 5/4 in the third race and Poppy Bond at 2/1 in the fourth.
So with that sorted I actually studied the form and found a lovely winner in the second. Jockey Kieron Fox, who has a 60% strike rate when teaming up with trainer John Best, gave Ninety Minutes a peach of a ride and he won well. I know it’s easy to say in hindsight, but the winner had form over one of the other market leaders, who themselves tied in closely with many others. I was very surprised it was as big as 5/2.
I toyed with the idea of stopping there – even if my each way double was fruitless I would be ahead on the day. But I am beginning to dislike this somewhat heartless approach, and it certainly won’t reduce the betting deficit, so I ploughed on.
Vejovis was disappointing in the third race and the each way double was immediately sunk. I catch a glimpse of Tracksuit Dave. He’s not as big as a wardrobe, and seems a genial enough fellow, but a busy one too. He seems to know everyone, and my chances of catching a word with him seem slim.
The fifth race has twelve grand on offer for the winner and has attracted some nice sorts. I think the favourite Wakea is the wrong price and look for an unexposed outsider. My idea is right, but I choose the wrong outsider and Marco Botti’s 4 year old Norab wins nicely.
There is nothing wrong with Chelmsford at all, but I’m just not feeling it today, so leave after the horses have exited the track. This is the first racecourse I’ve been to where all the facilities are in the centre of the course. On first glance it appears like an efficient use of space, but you actually get a strangely detached feel as you can only look out over the final finishing straight and end up watching everything else on the giant screen. You just can’t get a sense of perspective. It’s like going to an art gallery and only looking at the bottom half of each painting.
But like Southwell yesterday, it’s a relaxed and diverse crowd, and it’s easy to do want you want to do. Some bright lights doesn’t make it a city, but it’s a nice enough little track and racing needs the Chelmsfords to succeed. I’ve actually enjoyed the feel of the first two days of my all-weather week, and I’m looking forward to Wolverhampton.