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 time at the other end of the country, so scoffs his breakfast like a Doberman Pinscher and bolts for the M62 after he has concluded his latest game in an ongoing series of hide and seek. In this episode, he discovers his car keys in the zipped inside pocket of his holdall after only six or seven minutes of frantic bag-tipping.
He questions what is happening to him, as though fearing some early-onset Alzheimer’s, but I suspect turning 40 and not sleeping for two nights would be a more likely explanation. Simon comments that if you poke a man with a stick for just 72 hours he will die because his body will shut down due to lack of sleep. We become embroiled in a silly argument over whether the person holding the stick will also die, because they will presumably not have slept for 72 hours either.
My satnav insists that the quickest way from Liverpool to Ffos Las is across the Brecon Beacons. I’ve been known to put my right foot down at times, but the stupid box fails to comprehend that I can’t maintain an average speed of 60mph on a road with more switchbacks than Alp D’Huez. I make it to the next stop on my tour of British Wind Tunnels with minutes to spare.
As I leap from the car the door is almost ripped off its hinges by the savage wind. The sheer ferocity has blown over metal railings in the car park, and I struggle to lurch my way to the entrance. This really is getting beyond the pale now. It would be nice to go a week without feeling that I’m auditioning for the latest Sir Ranulph Fiennes expedition. Is Britain always this windy and I’m only now noticing because of my recent fad for standing in fields?
They have run out of Racing Posts so for the first time in my life I buy a racecard, which is smaller and thinner and more expensive. Unconvinced, I note that it gives only two out of five stars to Driftashore in the first race, which has already started, and who goes on to win at 20/1.
Ffos Las has continued the beach theme started by Aintree, and has a big sign up for The Beach Hut, which turns out to be a tarmac-floored shed serving lager. There are a variety of inflatable distractions dotted around for the umpteenth ‘Family Fun!’ day of my journey. I worry that they might take off in the violent gusts, so much so in fact that I lose track of time whilst examining their tethers and miss the second race as well.
I decide that I shall make Ffos Las my first single bet racecourse, and peruse the third race. Surprisingly I spot a great betting opportunity in a contest of only five runners. Even more surprisingly, it’s an odds on shot. I’ve done well recently to avoid some dodgy short-priced favourites, but this one looks like the real deal. Some folk reckon that backing odds on is the quick way to the poor house, but you’d back Usain Bolt at any price to win the Dads race at a sports day, and I think this is a not dissimilar situation.
Tanerko Emery was a high-class hurdler, running well in some big races for trainer David Pipe, including a third place in the 2013 Welsh Champion Hurdle, and two staying-on efforts over a shorter distance in competitive handicaps at Sandown and the Cheltenham Festival a month later. He’d recently produced two modest efforts after being absent for more than a year, but this race was a huge drop in class and he was now running against frankly ordinary opponents. Significantly, he’s always looked like he would appreciate this step up in trip to 3 miles. Less significantly, the racecard also selects it.
I really think this should be a 1/2 shot or even less, and can’t believe it when I get 5/6. He is backed in to 8/11, which still looks like remarkable value, but I resist the temptation to steam in again. Jockey Sean Bowen hardly moves a muscle as Tanerko Emery saunters clear up the home straight. This is as close to printing money as I have found on this quest so far.
Strangely, I have no urge to reinvest my winnings in later races and I’m happy to walk away with a wad of cash for a change. I’ve been away for three days now and am aching to get home, so I complete my seven hours of driving on largely amenable roads.
I feel like I’ve seen all the colours of the racing spectrum on this extended weekend. The contrast between the glamour and excitement of Aintree and the grassroots fare of Ffos Las is stark, but without either of these strands on the spectrum the light of British horse racing would not shine as brightly, and when the wind blows it can blow hard and cold wherever you are.