Small Track Syndrome

Good morning all,

Worcester has been in the news again this week, with Alan King and Warren Greatrex airing their grievances regarding the treatment of their owners on Saturday, which was Worcester's Ladies Day.

Why can some so-called smaller tracks get it right, and others so badly wrong? My thoughts on the main piece, plus today's selection from Carlisle. 

Worcester is one of those tracks that seems to serve a purpose, namely, to provide summer jumping, and you'd think that a track, relatively below the radar and with few weekend fixtures, could just chug along merrily and provide what it's asked to do without any major concerns. Yet it seems that, every year, there's complaints about the place, mainly from trainers and owners. Are they justified?

I go to Worcester quite often. Or at least I did, because I haven't been this season and I can't say I'm missing it. I often found myself in a bad mood before I'd even got there, because I knew what was coming. First off, before you've even got out the car, you've got to deal with one of the worst car parks on a British racecourse. Potholes everywhere and in wet weather, the main part was almost unusable. So you'd be shunted onto the grass. It's been like that for as long as I can remember. Maybe it's been fixed this year, I don't know.

Another thing – the staff, who are the same staff as work at other local racecourses. Indeed, many of them wear Wolverhampton jackets. I know quite a few of them and deal with them on a weekly basis. At other racecourses they seem quite happy, yet here, they simply forget about customer service. Grunts and pointing are often the order of the day. Why so? What is it about this place that changes folk?

Inside, you are faced with a grandstand that is, quite frankly, a relic of a bygone era. There's an upper and lower floor and if you're the sort that likes a sit down, get there early as the seats tend to go pretty quickly. The upper floor, where the restaurant is, reminds me of a 70's sitting room. There's been times when I've ordered food and had to wait for someone to get up so I can sit down to eat. That isn't good enough.

The lower floor has a bar, and a betting area, but again, simply isn't big enough to cope with more than a couple of hundred people. It can get very crowded in wet weather as there's not much shelter, other than here, on the track.

The Tote buildings are old, and need modernising. As does the weighing room and jockeys changing room, which frequently has a tent added onto the side, presumably for the women jockeys to get changed in. That can't be good enough either. And as for the owners and trainers bar, which I've been lucky enough to be in a few times, it's tiny. Really tiny. It doubles up as an annual members bar and any more than 50-60 in there and it feels very overcrowded. Last time I was in there the TV's weren't working properly.

There are good parts  – the parade ring is great, large and plenty of room for all to get around, and the course itself is a perfectly fair test of a horse. But those things alone don't make you feel welcome at the track. The racing and facilities really do seem to have been forgotten about.

Now, compare that to Fakenham, surely the smallest track in the country? (I'm happy if anyone wants to tell me otherwise!). That's a three hour drive from my house and yet I really don't mind it at all. And why? Because I know I'll enjoy myself when I get there. Now, in terms of the facilities, it's not that much better than Worcester, although there's a couple of tea bars and food outlets to have a sit down. But Fakenham compensate by making a great atmosphere – the locals cheer their course favourites home, the food is very reasonably priced and most of it is locally sourced, you're not charged a fortune to get in and the whole place has a very friendly, welcoming feel to it. It's like stepping back in time, but in a good way. Worcester feels like stepping back in time too, but at the other end of the scale. I can't help but think Hereford was reopened so that Worcester can be closed at some point in the near future. I have to say, if it goes, I'll not miss it.

I could do with a winner, my form hasn't been great for a couple of weeks and although Troika Steppes set off looking like he meant business yesterday, he folded rather tamely once tackled. So it's to Carlisle I go today and Johni Boxit is the one that catches the eye in the 7.45 there. Ferrier is favourite at present and he's your typical Prescott three-runs-at-shorter-then-into-handicaps horse. Entries for him over the next few days rather suggest a better run is expected tonight, but Johni Boxit's claims are fairly clear here after a better effort last week when second at Lingfield. He tried to make all the running there and is likely to try similar tactics here. I don't think he'll get taken on for the lead. Blinkers go on as well, and at the prices, I'll take a chance on him.

Today's selection – Johni Boxit 7.45 Carlisle.

Good luck with all your bets today,


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