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 same period, so I really have no right to feel jaded at this point. And for the most part I don’t; it still feels like I’m going racing rather than to work. But there is certainly part of me that wants to stay with my family and new trampoline and enjoy a warm and sunny Bank Holiday at home. The car said it was 18.5 degrees when I left, but as I ventured up the A1 it crept down to 11 degrees and was blustery-cold. At least I’d got my coat and cap this time.
When I was getting into horse racing Huntingdon was my closest track. Well, strictly speaking it was Newmarket but even by that stage the jumping game was exerting a greater pull on my affections. I’d always wanted to go to the Bank Holiday meeting but never got around to it. Now was my chance. This was definitely one of those moments which wasn’t worth the wait.
It looked as though it were a Wolverhapton-esque set up as I approached a Holiday Inn, but this time the course was distinct and separate. Parking was a hassle and a long trek to the gate was followed by a long trek back to the action – why put the entrance on the far side? I went to get a drink and a moron jumped the queue and the inept bar staff let him. TVs flickered in and out of fuzziness, and frankly the whole place seemed a bit shabby. Kids asked “when are we going?” and whined for sweets; you can’t really blame them.
I know these seem like minor niggles, but they all meld into the experience of a day at the races. The only saving grace was that it was the Tommo Show again in the paddock. A similar routine to Uttoxeter with the selection of losing betting slips to allow the losers the chance of choosing more losing bets , but DT pulls it off with such energy and warmth that you can’t help but be swept along on the wave of positivity.
“Marcelo Saunders,” he intones as a slip is pulled from the hat, “you don’t get many of those do you? Where is she? Marcelo, are you out there? Behind me? Oh no she isn’t…..”
In the first race I went for Borguy to upset the favourite Maller Tree, and he would have, had he not fallen at the second last. It was a ghastly, mistimed lunge of a fall. In situations like this I can honestly tell you the money doesn’t matter, it’s all about the horse and jockey getting up, and they did. I was happy to lose. It is likely that at some point on this journey they will not get up, and when that moment comes I cannot shirk the situation – I must address it head on. But I’m glad they both got up today. The Injured Jockeys Fund and Racehorse Sanctuary shall not be required today, at least not at Huntingdon.
What they take with one hand they give with the other, and the Gods Of Probability allowed me a good winner in the second race. I hadn’t realised until I’d backed it and saw it leading over the open ditch in front of the stands that Arthur’s Oak had a big white splash down his nose. I really must listen to the wife more – she is always telling me this is the key to success (both the big white splash in horse racing terms, and listening to her in general).
The fourth race looked tricky and I managed to secure a small investment on the Jonjo O’Neill trained Clubs Are Trumps at 3/1. By the home turn he and the other joint favourite Cosway Spirit had duelled for too long, and both capitulated to the running on By The Boardwalk. When they jumped the last, I started walking to the exit. I’d had enough of Huntingdon and wanted to grab a few more Bank Holiday hours with my family. Racing crowds can make an array of unusual noises, and such a deep, yearning boom then came from the grandstand that I had to turn around. There is a long run in on the chase course and the leader was tiring. In a thrilling three-way finish Clubs Are Trumps just got back up to win.
I still left straight after collecting, but in a more positive mood, and the promise of three days at home always helps. I have perfected the art of winning small and losing big. If I can just add the other two quadrants to the spinner of betting outcomes I will be getting somewhere.