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. My wife, aka The Keeper Of My Discipline, suspected something was up a few days ago. My beer-chin has returned, despite two rows (that is exercise on the rowing machine, not marital disputes). I was quite pleased with only gaining a pound, given how many hog roasts I’ve had this last week (only kidding, honey).

So from now on, “it’s celery, apples, walnuts and grapes. No cheese!” Hang on, that sounds a bit like a scene from Fawlty Towers….

Again I passed a horsebox on way to the races, this time on the M4 just past Membury Services. Thankfully there was no name of a trainer on this one, so I wouldn’t be tortured by thoughts of “should I or shouldn’t I?” all the way to Chepstow.

I was racing the Satnav to get there for the first race. The Satnav won and I missed it by a few minutes. I’d already had a blazing row with my hands-free kit, which refused to call anyone, instead questioning what I wanted to know about that person.

“I want to know why you’re such a turd!” I screamed.

“I’m not sure why you think that.” it retorted and that was the end of the matter.

So I had time to dally on the way in and examine a quite extraordinary creation on the roundabout by the entrance. I should have asked who the artist was. It really was rather good.

One that I backed - jumped a bit wooden

One that I backed at Chepstow yesterday – looked great in the paddock, but lacked a bit of pace and jumped a bit wooden.

Steve zapped my ticket at the entrance. I asked him who had won the first and he replied that he had, on Indian Stream, except that he hadn’t because he wasn’t allowed to bet whilst on duty. I asked him about the second race and he nominated the favourite It’s A Long Road. It was pulled up.

It was a sunny day so I took my sunglasses from the car. I needn’t have. The stands are north facing and most of the viewing areas were plunged in shadow. The racecourse management had decided to install invisible and entirely made-up chillers that blasted icy air through the betting ring. One local said “Cor – somebody’s left the door open!” I like the gentle Welsh humour.

Steve, who had relocated and was now performing an indistinct role near the paddock, fancied the favourite again in the third race. I wondered if this was his stock reply to any quizzing by punters. Nominating the favourite each time is likely to minimise the disgruntlement.

I plumped for a 33/1 each way on Billy My Boy (ok, my youngest is called William, but I liked his profile) and then ventured down to the bottom bend. Chepstow really is an extraordinary rollercoaster of a racecourse. The home straight resembles a slide at a water park, and the back straight resembles the climb up a Brecon Beacon. But it is the vertigo-inducing bend after the finishing post that intrigues me most.

As I waited for them to go past, a couple scrambled up from the horsebox area. I asked them if they had a runner (they just looked like they did) and the chap confirmed it was Tugboat in the hunter chase. “He’ll love tanking up that hill!” he said.

“Got a chance?” I suggested, always looking for inside information.

“Oh, he’s just here for the beer money” replied the chap, before disappearing sharply to shelter from the arctic wind.

I wasn’t sure whether he meant that his horse was an alcoholic who only consented to race on the agreement that any winnings would be swapped for ale in his nosebag, but either way the vibes weren’t overly positive.

The runners came thundering down the hill towards us and tottered around the sharp turn before beginning the steep incline. Steve’s favourite won a tad cosily, but Billy My Boy seemed to run very well in second to give me a cheeky return. I don’t really know, though. I couldn’t see the race. I was stood in a massive dip on a Welsh hillside. I didn’t mind though. I love the idiosyncrasies of our racecourses. Every football match is played on a standard pitch (except if you are John Beck’s Cambridge United of the late 1980’s where the corners resembled a sandpit to give the wingers something to chase).

Runners in the third race approaching the bottom bend

Runners in the third race approach the bottom bend

The fourth race was interesting, a competitive handicap chase over 3 miles. The racecourse commentator claimed that Waldorf Salad was a prospect for next season’s Welsh National. He’s trained by Venetia Williams, who knows a thing or two about the race, and is a big and scopey 7 year old. He certainly looks every inch a decent staying chaser, and possibly a bit of a handful too.

Waldorf Salad was a good starter (geddit? starter? …..oh it doesn’t matter) but he got tapped for toe on the home bend and then made a juddering mistake three out. The ground may have been a little quick for him yesterday so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet.

After a winner in the fifth and another ‘no bet’ in the sixth I left in profit for the second day in a row. Discipline again, Neil. Careful now, it might be catching.

Tugboat finished a staying on second in the hunter chase, beaten only a couple of lengths at 16/1. He should get a few beers tonight, given the £304 he earned. But don’t forget about Waldorf Salad for the future. “It’s celery, apples….”