Good morning all,
Two very different experiences over the past couple of weeks for me – as you know, I was at Yarmouth last week, originally just to go to the dogs on the Wednesday night, but we managed to go racing, thanks to friends that couldn't make it, on the Tuesday and Wednesday.
And this week we were present at the Warwick trial on Monday which, sadly, looks like being the last racing the public look like attending for some time, quite possibly up to six months.
The why's and wherefore's of the implications of that are for another day, but my experiences of the first of my visits, Yarmouth, are on today's main piece.
Yarmouth, seemingly like so many places I enjoy going to, is a long way away from the Midlands but normally the journey there flies by. You know there's three days of the Eastern Festival to look forward to, a chance to catch up with friends and basically have a late-season bookmakers jolly for three days. It's something I always look forward to.
The week before, and with Yarmouth Greyhounds taking bookings for their big night of the year, the East Anglian Derby, four of us – Steve, Tony, Speech and myself decide it would be good to have a night out there and book in the restaurant. Speech (Robert Speechley, bookmaker extraordinare and owner of S&D Racing) has a place near Caister that we can all crash at, and even though we won't be going racing, at least a good night at the dogs can compensate to some small extent.
However, once it's known I'm off to Yarmouth, I'm offered four badges by a friend who has a runner on the card but can't make it. The lads are delighted – we're now having a day's racing as well, and this feels a bit more like the “normal” Yarmouth we know and love each year.
We arrive at the track around 12, and go through all the protocols in place. Temperature testing, quick health check, names and addresses for test and trace. All spot on. However, the first surprise is then finding that we'll be situated in the middle of the track for the afternoon. The stands are a no-go area, and will remain deserted. It seems a strange decision, given how few owners will turn up, and watching them coming at you head-on means you can't really see how a race is developing.
There is a bookmaker in attendance – Colin Armes, who is not expecting any great business but, in his words, is just glad to get out of the house. It's a good job he's not expecting to make a fortune today – it turns out that just 21 people are in attendance as owners or reps, and bear in mind we are four of them.
Thankfully the weather is superb and we are able to sit outside with a drink (socially disatanced, of course) and enjoy the sun. Sadly, we aren't able to go over to the paddock and look at the horses for any race other than our own, and even then viewing is restricted to one side of the paddock. It all feels very strange.
I recognise someone that comes to Yarmouth every year – indeed, two years ago we were in the same B&B. He's got a horse with Mick Appleby, or part of it anyway, so has come along to see how he gets on. It's nice to see a familiar face as much as anything, and we have a chat and a catch up.
Lunch is a buffet box – sandwiches, pork pie, scone and some crisps, and is grand. There's some soup as well, if you want it, but on an unexpectedly hot day, I'm happy to give that the swerve.
The afternoon is pleasant enough and there's plenty of laughing and joking as the company is good, but this does feel a rather soulless experience, if the truth be told. Yarmouth in September really is one of those occasions that needs a crowd, that needs the call of the bookmakers, that needs Tommo, dammit. And although we have the latter on commentary, the lack of the first two means it simply doesn't feel right.
Wednesday night sees us at the dogs, and immediately this feels a bit more like it. Again, all the Covid compliances are dealt with on arrival and, masked up, we are shown to out seats. All services will be at-seat tonight, drinks, food, Tote bets. The lads have some hilarious banter with the young girls that will be serving us tonight. Hilarious to them, anyway, you could see the poor girls visibly thinking “idiots” every time they walked past us.
Unsurprisingly we've seen a few more familiar faces and have a chat before the starters arrive (baby BBQ ribs, excellent) and then we get down to the serious business of trying to make a few quid. Speech sets off like a scalded cat and is well in front after 4 races, I'm holding my own and Tony's method of going for 1-2-3 in combination forecasts and trios hasn't yielded him anything. So he switches to 1-5-6 instead and I don't need to tell you what happens next.
Yes, the next race, the 7.34 and the first of the sprints throws up 1-3-2. And the winner is a 16-1 shot. A £211 tricast and £159 on track Trio gone begging. We should be consoling Tony but because we're all awful people, we're laughing instead. Never change yout trap numbers, kids.
After the mains (lamb shank, very good) we go outside to watch a race or two. Masks are back on (if you're not sat down, they have to be) but a few people haven't got them on and are standing a bit too close for comfort. Social distancing appears to have gone out of the window somewhat here, and it makes one of our group feel a bit uncomfortable. So we don't stay out for long, and are soon back at the table.
Sadly none of us backs the Derby winner but we make up for it with Sheldon winning the stayers race that follows (I fancy it quite strongly) and at the end of the night, it has just about been profitable. Great fun, and hopefully next year, we can do this without the restrictions. Here's hoping.
On to today and with Newmarket looking like it's going to have plenty of cut by racetime, I'm having a small win bet on Zabeel Prince to cause an upset in the Joel Stakes at 3.35. There's definitely classier horses here – Kameko and Benbatl head them up – but this ground wil suit him and it was a step back in the right direction at York last time. He was only beaten half a length in this in 2018 and although I'll grant you this is a classier affair, he should be fitter after a couple of outings and I'd not rule him out.
Shame there's not the dead 8 for an e/w bet but worth a small win bet all the same.
Good luck with all your bets today,