Another day, another racecourse. Sunday is Salisbury, and it’s sunny. Friends have spotted a slightly jaded attitude recently which has prompted encouraging noises such as “you’re in the last month now!” and “it’s the home stretch”, to which I usually retort that it’s a marathon not a 5 furlong sprint, and I feel as though I’ve just shambled past the Cutty Sark and have been overtaken by a pantomime horse who is being interviewed by Bob Wilson. As if to confirm my declining mental state, I’ve spent two weeks looking for the charger for my now lifeless new dictaphone, before remembering that it is battery powered.
I go past Stonehenge on the way down and wonder what it’s all about. If my tour of the racecourses is a folly, it’s a significantly lesser one than the enormous stone circle in a Wiltshire field. There surely must be a message in there, a meaningful if yet undiscovered reason for the preposterous thing to exist. I’m talking about Stonehenge by the way, rather than my ridiculous undertaking, although both fit the same mould of ‘as yet, not fully explained’.
When I get to Salisbury I’m kept waiting 20 minutes to get in on account of parking the other side of the track before a race is due off. I’m utterly confused by the sight of flat horses approaching a tape rather than entering stalls, but later realise that this is because the 1 mile 6 furlong contest both starts and finishes in the same spot albeit in opposite directions after navigating a loop, and if there were a problem moving the stalls the race would have to be stopped.
I’m beginning to get a feel for prices that are wrong, and I get strong feelings at Salisbury this afternoon. Great Page is backed into 1/3 today after winning nicely on his debut at Windsor a couple of weeks ago, which I watched first hand, but these are silly odds when so little is known about the opposition. I’m right, but again I choose the wrong vanquisher.
In the next race it’s the other way around. I think Soluble should be a lot shorter than his chief rival Purple Rock, and again I’m right (he beats him) but wrong (other horses beat him).
There is a great view from the top of the grandstand and the vibrant crowd form the usual patchwork quilt of humanity on both sides of the course. There’s a good atmosphere and plenty of different areas to explore. Some haven’t even bothered paying the entrance fee – caravanners get the deckchairs out and watch the giant screen from the other side of a chain-link fence, whilst tweeded folk lay out picnics in the car park. Racing doesn’t necessarily bring these diverse groups of society together, but it allows them to mingle easily and get what they want out of their afternoon, and Salisbury racecourse facilitates that coming together rather well.
By the time I leave I have yet to find a winner, discover the hidden meaning of the stone circle a few miles away, or gain a shining insight into why am I still doing this despite all the obvious reasons to stop. I suppose, like Stonehenge, whatever the justifications they both stand as a monument to stubbornness – when you’ve decided to start something, you may as well finish it.