Good morning all,
Last week I had cause to visit Plumpton, one of my favourite tracks, as I was doing a bit of work down there. You can read about the work side of things on a different blog that I now do for a bookmaker, but you can read all about the social side of the day on today's main piece.
I have always maintained one golden rule when it comes to going racing. If you know you’re going to enjoy yourself when you get there, then it doesn’t matter how far away the track is, and how hard the drive. I’d rather take 2½ hours to get to Fakenham than, well, some tracks considerably nearer, shall we say.
I am reminding myself of this after this first hour on the road on Monday morning, as I set off from Nottingham to head to Plumpton, as I have achieved the grand sum of 18 miles. Yes, 18 miles in 60 minutes of lovely nose-to-tail traffic on the M1. It seems Storm Ciara the day before put people of travelling, but all they have done is carry it over until the next day.
Cheesed off and hungry already, I decide to go for the early break and call in at Leicester Forest East services. The W H Smith’s has no Racing Posts. It’s going well.
After a few more delays on the way down, and a mere 4½ hours after setting off, I arrive at Plumpton, and am immediately calmed. I love it here. When the good lady was still living down this way, in Redhill, we barely missed a Plumpton Monday.
I’m here for varying reasons, not least to catch up with the Goodwin Bookmakers boys for whom I’m writing a few blogs (you can find them on Twitter should you so wish) but the lovely Lawney (and equally lovely husband Alan) Hill has a runner here, and it gives me chance to catch up with them as well.
I see a couple of Northern friends here in Rob and Linda, both annual members at Huntingdon, who inform me they have shares in one running here today, Skipping On. Seems their journey down the A1 was easier than mine. I wish them the best of luck.
It’s freezing cold and windy, yet one bloke is walking round in a pair of shorts. He’s either brave, or stupid, or possibly both.
Next person I see is General Manager Dan Thompson. There are few people in racing as passionate about providing good customer service as Dan, and he loves his racing to boot. One day, he’ll be in charge of everything racing, and all will be well. For the time being, he tells me about the the changes he’s made to make the O&T more comfortable. “We pulled some boxes out to extend it, which goes against the grain of what courses are doing, but it makes the room so much better.” See what I mean? Comfort before a bit of profit. They’ve renovated the bars as well, and they too have a much fresher, more open feel to them.
First race time. I do a stupid thing and have an e/w bet in a race where there’s only one place to play for (front two are both short and take up 90% of the market) but I have backed Hewn With Granite a couple of times already and I’ll be damned if I’m letting go now. One book is offering 80s, which is a comedy price, and I have a bet. Imagine my joy as he gets up for third on the line. With that result, I’ll be walking away winning. Always nice to get in front early.
After a quick chat with pro-punter Steve “Tucker” Noyce, a regular on the Southern circuit, it’s off for a bit of lunch. Lawney and Alan are in there too, and I lunch with them. It’s always a pleasure to hear what they have to say. Alan is reading his Post. “Look”, he says to Lawney, “it says here you’re a course trainer with a good record.” “I’m very coarse,” replies Lawney dryly, and tells us a story about a recent point in which she happened to use some choice language which was overheard by one or two. Never change, Lawney.
I have another bet in the fourth and get very lucky again. You know it’s your day when a horse you’ve laid three places is one of only three left standing, but it’s so exhausted the jockey pulls it up rather than jump the last. I need to write some lottery numbers down, fast.
Time for Velvet Cognac to do his thing. Alan throws me the reins to hold whilst he gets saddled up, but he’s an absolute lamb anyway and just stands there, good as gold. “You gonna win today?” I ask the horse. “Don’t talk to him”, says Alan, “you’ll put him off.”
David Bass gives him a cracking ride at Velvet Cognac tries his hardest, rallying well for second when it looked more like he’d get swamped late. He’s entered up at Sedgefield next week. “Yeah, give him a week off, he’ll be fine. In fact, I think I’ll join him and have the week off too”, says Alan. Lawney is not impressed.
It’s almost time to set off back, but I manage to do a tenner on Dylan’s Sea Song in the last before I do. I’ve really enjoyed the day, but I’m not looking forward to the drive back. With good reason too, as it’s 9.50pm before I get back. If you see me wanting to do Plumpton and back in a day again, take the car keys off me. It’s for my own good.
Could do with finding some form before Cheltenham, yesterday's ran pretty moderately although when Annebelle went 28-1 (after I'd had 125s) at one stage yesterday morning I thought I'd found a good one. Not to be. I'll be at Southwell today but it's Huntingdon that I've had a bet, and a horse that's on trackers in Bit On The Side in the Mares Maiden Hurdle at 3.11. She's had a mention before, connections keep chucking her in good races as if they know she's got ability, and if she can jump better than she did at Ascot, then she ought to go close in a winnable race.
Good luck with all your bets today,