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In Praise Of…

Good morning all,

Whilst on our visit down to the South West this week, we took in a visit to Newton Abbot as part of it. Have a read of my review of the place and our evening out on the main piece. Plus a selection from Pontefract tonight, where I'll be working later on.

The good lady and myself have taken a bit of time off this week to go and visit her parents who, after ten happy years in Bath, have now moved back to Tavistock, where they were previously. Naturally, we timed the visit to give ourselves a chance of a race meeting, ideally one we’ve not been to for some time. As neither Exeter nor Taunton have got their seasons underway yet, it was an evening meeting at Newton Abbot that became our focus of attention. 

It’s a long old way down the M5 to the place, you basically keep going until you fall off the end of it, but it’s not far from that point and once we arrived we were greeted by cheery faces that couldn’t have been more helpful in finding us a parking space. (Are you listening, Worcester? Cheery, helpful car park people!) 

The admittance process was a doddle, and with that we set off to have a walk around. Being in a different part of the country that I’m used to going racing in, I was sure I wouldn’t know any of the bookmakers but lo and behind, all the way from the Midlands on a busman’s holiday of the South West themselves were the Swanbet firm. We have a good catch up and then, as we’re playing at holidaymakers rather than punters tonight, we set off to find a bar. 

A pint of Thatchers for the good lady and a lager for myself. I get a tenner out (and yes, they’re taking cash – other courses again, take note) wondering if it’ll be enough, so you can imagine my joy at getting £1.40 change. Yes, £8.60 for two pints which at racecourse prices, is very reasonable indeed. 

We go outside (no problem taking drinks outside, as there still seems to be at some places) and have a look at the card, see what we might be backing tonight. I’ve decided I’ll be playing in-running in the main, plus a few paddock picks, see how that goes. 

I’m already hungry, having had nothing much since breakfast time bar a couple of mints, so I go in search of some food. There’s a food bar with outdoor decking so you can sit down and eat your food, and the prices, well, they’re incredible. I go for a half-pound burger (which was delicious) and chips (crispy, piping hot, really good) for seven quid. Yes, seven quid. An absolute bargain. Later in the evening, the good lady goes for the sausage bap. So food and drink for both of us has cost just under twenty quid. That is a superb effort from the course, it really is. No wonder there’s a queue a mile long for food later. 

There are three bars, all of which unsurprisingly have queues but they are soon dealt with, and you’re not queueing long. The holiday crowd is there to enjoy themselves and have a bet, and with security everywhere there’s no chance of any trouble. The ice-cream van, selling local ice-cream, is doing a good trade, and everyone’s enjoying themselves. 

There’s plenty of room for everyone around the paddock, and for viewing the races you’ve a choice of the stands, or you can go down to the rail and watch them jumping the last. The new black, plastic hurdles really do make a thump as they go over them, it’s not something I had ever noticed before, but they really are noisy! 

Better still, the evening’s punting is going well, although Catch The Cuban (who looked very well beforehand) getting caught on the run-in was a kick in the teeth! Aye Aye Charlie gets an easy lead in the stayers handicap hurdle and I decide to get on at halfway at 4-1, a good call. Delight Of Dubai wins the next and I go and have a word with the trainer Noel Williams afterwards, one of the funniest trainers going. He tells me she’s in the sales next week but before that, she may well come back here for another race, possibly dropping in trip and having some headgear on. She’s very game and genuine and will make a nice chaser for someone. 

I kick myself for not having a saver on Sergeant in the handicap hurdle, as I thought he might need the run, but I’m wrong. He wins with a bit in hand, but at least Magical Thomas cops a bit of the place money. 

It’s been an excellent night. We keep talking about how to get novice racegoers coming back again and again with all sorts of gimmicks but Newton Abbot prove you don’t need to do that to get them in. Reasonably priced, decent food with somewhere to sit down to eat it, drink that doesn’t cost the earth, and an all-round pleasant experience is more than enough. Get people in and don’t take the mickey out of them with extortionate pricing, and they’ll keep coming back. I’m already looking forward to my next visit. If only it was a bit nearer…

On to tonight, and it's the 5.30 at Pontefract that catches my eye.

This looks a winnable nursery, and the eye is drawn towards Sir Min, having his first start for Charlie Fellowes, having left Ian Williams. The owner, Paul Wildes, has already moved one of his in that direction recently (Sir Benedict) and although he’s not won for his new yard as yet, he’s finished second twice, and looks sure to be winning soon. 

Two of his four runs, including on debut at Chester, have not been without promise, and this stiff 6f ought to suit him well on visual evidence to date. His latest effort at Chester is a non-event, having unseated Ollie Stammers early in the contest after being hampered, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. 

The yard are 2-8 with them first time up in the past year, and it’s also worth noting the yard’s excellent record at Pontefract, with a 26% strike rate here. There are enough pointers to suggest a better run may well be forthcoming tonight. 

Good luck with all your bets today,

David.

7 thoughts on “In Praise Of…”

  1. The Abbott has been one of my fave courses even before I moved down here. The Owners and Trainers bar just does cake, biscuits and pasties but is nonetheless of excellent quality. The team do a greaat job there and hope t catch up with you next time you are down

  2. Wonderful run down on Newton Abbot David I'm in Western Australia jealous and envious and so pleased to get your mail a credit to you I've been following for some time on Daily Punt.So few personnel comments like yours are rare these days! also liked your choice of Charlie Fellows steed at Pontefract today.Well done all the best P.G.

  3. It doesn't what the courses do, if the lack of runners issue is not addressed soon, racing as we know it is finished. I was a guest at Sedgie yesterday, 6 races – 30 runners – zero gate receipts

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. I hope racecourse managers up and down the country read it and take note. There are some very good ideas that come from Newton Abbot.

    A previous contributor also has a good point. Will BHA do anything positive to assist the cause.

    Experience says management in organisations are woefully poor at addressing problems. Sorry to finish on a pessimistic note. I hope I am wrong.

    Thank you once again for an enlightening piece.

    1. Thanks RJ. I honestly think solutions are staring us in the face, but we insist on Racing Leagues and concerts to try and get people in.

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