Ludlow

I am really looking forward to Ludlow. Not only was it nominated by Chesterfield John as his favourite course when I randomly found him completing his own quest in Taunton, but Ivan informs me that it serves a wonderful prawn curry from an outlet in the middle of the track. I have to avoid this blog becoming the rants of a fast food critic, but the culinary offerings so far have been simply dreadful on the whole, and I am really excited at the prospect of a decent meal.

Ludlow racecourse is indeed lovely. The Edwardian stands give the place a sense of history and the punters seem at ease in their varied and comfortable surroundings. I climb the stairs to the roof to survey the glorious scene from a stunning position. The tiered viewing angles give a feeling of watching gladiators from an amphitheatre, although the runners in the first race fight out a mostly civilized battle with a 14/1 outsider winning – that probably wouldn’t have happened in Roman times.

The stunning view of the action from the the Ludlow roof

The stunning view of the action from the the Ludlow roof

After the race there is a steady stream of people heading towards the centre of the course. Either they are going to the curiously-sited paddock, or they too have heard rumours of a sublime prawn curry, so I put a little more spring in my step worried that they could sell out. I find…..a burger van. My search becomes more frantic, like Anneka Rice in the closing minutes of Treasure Hunt, and reaches it’s nadir when I somehow think a stall might be lurking behind a bouncy castle in the Course Enclosure.

Of course it’s not Neil! Why would they hide a food outlet behind a bouncy castle, and even if they wanted to, the health and safety executive would be worried that a child would launch themselves into a hot wok. I ponder for a second what extraordinary twists and turns of fate have led me to be standing in a Shropshire field peering behind a giant inflatable for a mystical curry.

Luckily, I manage to snap out of it quickly because thinking like that can mess you up. It’s a bit like the concept of infinity – we’ve lost too many great mathematicians to that cruel mistress over the years. In any case, I haven’t given up the search that easily and I hunt out a couple of neon-vested stewards, who have apparently never heard of a prawn curry and repeat the words like I’ve just asked them where I might obtain a handglider.

“Prawn curry? Prawn curry?? No, no I don’t think so.” They look confused, like I’m talking in riddles, and quickly refer the matter onwards, “This man here will know.”

A senior neon-vest ambles over and confirms the worst.

“Yeah, the guy packed up a couple of years ago, sold the business and retired. Loads of people still ask about the prawn curry.”

I refrain from asking him if that tells him something, but I’m left deflated and meekly thank them before moving on. Possibly the lowest ebb of my journey so far has not been derived from an unlucky loser or a pang of homesickness, but from a missing Indian dish. But once you’ve got a curry in your mind it’s hard to let it go.

In the second, I fancy Greenlaw to improve from his previous race that I witnessed. He won at Wetherby with Big Casino (a winner at Haydock yesterday) back in third. More importantly, he hung to his right at Wetherby and finished wide on the course, and I think he’ll be better off going clockwise with the inside rail to help straighten him out.

This is just one of the many imponderables to attempt to factor into the rocket science that is form studying. Betting on athletics, for example, must be a lot simpler as the tracks are a standard size and configuration, with fairly similar surfaces I would guess. Furthermore, the athletes are always running in the same direction, left-handed in horse racing parlance. I wonder if there have been athletes over the years who would have been better going right-handed and never got a chance to shine, a thousand unknown Olympic champions defeated by a convention.

Greenlaw doesn’t realise, though, that he’s meant to improve for going right-handed. Perhaps it’s got nothing to do with it and it was the ground, or the opposition, or he just didn’t fancy it today because he was promised a certain type of hay in Ludlow that failed to materialise. The Twiston-Davies team send out Belmount to win well on his debut over fences. Ivan would have insurance-backed it if he were here to avoid another “kick in the goolies”.

On the drive home I have been lent a Dick Francis audiobook. I love the way the reader’s voice changes halfway through a line when he realises he’s doing the wrong accent, and how all the female characters end up sounding like Dick Emery. It’s arrant tosh, but at least it stops me moping about the prawn curry.