As we live a mere 15 miles or so from Newmarket, it was rapidly becoming a crime that I hadn't yet been to a race meeting there. For those of you insufficiently versed in the Sport of Kings, Newmarket is considered the home of racing in the UK, and has been holding race meetings since the early 1600s. Friday the 30th September was "Shadwell Stud Middle Park Stakes Day", a meeting that featured a Group 1 (top level) race called, not surprisingly, the Middle Park Stakes amongst a total of 7 races. So off we went.
The races that day were on
the Rowley Mile course (there are two tracks at Newmarket - for more about them
http://www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk/ :) ) which is basically a huge straight with some stands at the end of it! Well OK not quite, more of a crooked L-shape, but with the majority of races this day being pretty much a straight drag. So on-track visibility of the actual races isn't what you'd expect if you've grown up used to the oval-ish tracks of Australia, New Zealand, and other less sophisticated colonies (i.e. America). However the course itself is beautiful, and a lot of attention has been paid to making everything look top notch.
Above is the Parade Ring and Winner's Enclosure which, as you can see, is beautifully presented. The only downside is once you've examined the horses walking around you have to make a quick dash around to the front of the stands to see the race itself. Luckily there are a number of big screens around the track (you can see one to the right of the building - which is the weighing room - in the picture above) so if the crowds are too bad you can stay put and watch the race that way. With the lack of real race visibility, this actually was probably the best way to go about it!
To show a bit more of the racetrack, here's a tale of The Queen vs. Jason, the tale of Race 3, the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars London Joel Stakes (Group 3)....oh, the drama ;)
In Race 3 was Forward Move, a horse bred, owned and raced by the Queen. Here's Forward Move's listing in the race card:
And here he is in the ring before the race (the second horse along, the chestnut, number 9):
Jason, however, fancied another runner, a horse called Rob Roy. Here's his card entry:
As you can see, he is an American bred colt. Not sure if that's why Jason fancied him or not! And here he is:
So the competition was underway, Jason vs. The Queen. Off they went to the start:
Off we went out to the stands to watch the race. Unlike most racetracks I've been to, there was nowhere really for the general public to sit and watch the races. Evidently to be comfortable at the UK races, you have to be in the Members Enclosure ;) However we got a good spot with a view of the straight, and we also could easily see the bookies boards:
Zooming in on one bookie's odds, you can see that Jason's pick was about fourth favourite at 9/1, and the Queen's horse was an outsider at 22/1. Would Jason place a bet to back his judgment? We'll see :)
The horses were down at the start. This race (worth £50,000, by the way) was over the Rowley Mile itself, so the barriers were only vaguely visible (past the camera crane and over on the far right, to those unfamiliar with racing!):
But naturally there was another big screen there so the crowd could see the race in full:
Off they went. As the race was over a straight mile, there wasn't a lot of jostling etc. With roughly a furlong to go, Rob Roy was in the first echelon, and Forward Move was not far behind the leading bunch but looked pressured to stay there:
As they swept past us with only a few metres to the finish, Rob Roy was half a length in front. Forward Move was not emulating his name, and was well beaten.
And the winner is:
Number 11, Rob Roy. Jason was feeling a lot happier than the Queen. Well, actually, he'd sort of lost track of what was going on and hadn't realised his horse had won (it's only fair to say Jason isn't exactly a big fan of the races, but he'd tagged along anyhow ;) )....... and of course he hadn't actually put any money on trusty Rob Roy. So the victory was slightly hollow.
Not for Rob Roy and his connections, however, who looked very pleased in their various ways:
So that was Race 3 done and dusted. On to Race 4, the big one of the day, the Middle Park Stakes (over six furlongs - about 1200m - and worth £170,000). This was another race I didn't want a bet in, as it was for 2 year old colts, a rather dodgy proposition in my book :) I was very interested to see the horses, though, as one of the runners had been getting a lot of press in the UK and Ireland (where he is trained): Ivan Denisovich. Here's his card. As you can see (those of you who are interested in such things) he is bred in the purple to an extraordinary degree! For those not into such things, please believe both his father, Danehill, and his mother, Hollywood Wildcat, are both very well known to say the least.
And here he is. The same people who are interested in his breeding will also agree he, like so many of his half brothers and sisters, looks a great deal like his famous father!
(I don't know who took this picture of Danehill, but it was in the Sydney Morning Herald on the occasion of his untimely death.)
At this point in the race proceedings, the rain came down! We beat a retreat to shelter, and the horses hit the track. (Due to the rain, though, there are less pictures from the rest of the day). And speaking of days, this was not the day in the life of Ivan Denisovich connections had been hoping for. (I'm sure most of you have seen that pun coming since the first time I mentioned the horse's name! Sorry it was so obvious, but it had to be done nether the less). The victor proved to be Amadeus Wolf, a handsome fellow by Mozart:
After managing to lose £10 in Race 5, I decided to have my last bets in Race 6 - a seven furlong handicap with a big field (and therefore good value!). Although the rain had set in, rather, enough so that we didn't take pictures in case the camera got drenched, here are my two 'get out' picks:
They both went off at 20-1 (a bit less on the tote), which I thought was rather generous. And so it proved! (Although I wasn't confident enough to think either would win, so went with a place only bet). Compton's Eleven ran very strongly to finish 2nd, and Lord of the East boxed on well to just get nosed out into 4th. I thought I'd lost money on him, but had failed to realise at first that the on-course tote at Newmarket will pay out on 4th if the race is a handicap and there are more than 14 runners. I was in luck! And just to prove I'm not making up this whole story:
There's the proof :) Good on you, brave fellows, slogging through the rain for my profit :) I'm not quite sure why they let you keep the ticket, other than to have you show it to the taxman I suppose. Instead I'll use it to boast about my only worthwhile bet of the day.
And that was the end of our day at the races. I enjoyed it, although I'm not sure Jason will ever go again - at least, not unless we pay up the extra bit to be in the Members for the day...... he's always looking for a chance to wear his Turkish tailored suit ;)
Go back to the main page if you want to see anything else :)