A week of mid-summer Madness for the Secret Racegoer
Racehorses and racegoers, including the Secret Racegoer, endured sky-high temperatures at the track last week, and it was appropriate that Windsor’s Monday evening fixture was a Caribbean themed Rum n’ Reggae night.
A dark rum and a pint or two of the dark stuff were not the most sensible ways of taking on fluids in the heat, and a rather quiet Tuesday was consequently had by the Secret Racegoer.
As temperatures rose, Wednesday’s evening fixture at Sandown ended with mid-summer madness – the ever-youthful ska band Madness, who hit the charts in the mid-eighties, and who were now performing in something close to the mid-eighties.
After some 45 minutes of watching Madness, it was time for one couple of racegoers to head back to the car park and onwards to home, possibly humming to themselves “Driving In My Car”, or maybe thinking of their destination and singing “Our House Is A Very Nice House”.
Unfortunately, as they crossed the track, Sandown’s sprinklers burst into action and they were both drenched. It’s not clear if “Baggy Trousers” came to mind or if “The Sun And The Rain” struck a chord. Either way, “House Of Fun” was probably inappropriate.
The next day, Southwell tried to beat the heat and began proceedings at 11.25, with an early finish at 2.30. Whether or not it was wise to hold a jumps meeting in such circumstances (80% in a Racing Hub Twitter poll thought not), the last two races were abandoned.
It was also debatable if late July was the right time to hold a pantomime-horse race, but in the blistering heat participants lined up to take part in Sandown’s unseasonal event. It also seemed unnecessary that the competitors were left standing a long while at the start for the race to get underway.
Commentator Mike Cattermole was getting slightly agitated at the delay, although it was not clear if this was down to concerns about pantomime animal welfare or more pressing matters.
Three days later, and torrential rain forced the late abandonment of Uttoxeter’s summer jumps fixture. The “Sun And The Rain” indeed.
The heat was expected to cause rail travel problems and, on Thursday, the wife of one racegoer was stuck in Yorkshire with seemingly no way of getting home to London. This meant her husband could take a leisurely journey home from the races, via a Battersea pub, as his trains were running to schedule.
Fortunately, his wife was able to get on board one of the few trains heading back to London. Less fortunate was the husband, as his trains home were now disrupted and the fear set it in that he could now be beaten home by his wife.
The Secret Racegoer will find out at Goodwood if “It Must Be Love” is still a suitable anthem.
The weather was not to blame for train disruption for racegoers heading to Saturday’s King George at Ascot from Waterloo. A broken down train was one of the issues which led to late arrivals at the Berkshire track.
Braced for bad news
The Secret Racegoer was on an earlier train but was still disconcerted by the following on-board message:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the guard speaking. I have an important announcement to make, so please listen carefully.” Passengers braced themselves for bad news. He went on “A young lady has suffered a wardrobe malfunction. If there is anyone on board who has a safety-pin, can they please come and find me.”
The young lady might have thought the Madness song “Embarrassment” was in tune with her predicament. Others may have considered “Shut Up” somewhat applicable. Apparently, more than one safety-pin was forthcoming, but it’s not known if it was the guard who carried out the necessary repairs.
There was nothing mad about Enable winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. It was magnificent.
The Secret Racegoer was fortunate to be present at Ascot in 1975, when Grundy and Bustino eyeballed each other up the straight in that epic tussle. As the pair crossed the line, with Grundy prevailing, the knees almost genuflected in rhythm as the horses passed the winning post with their respective pulsating do-or-die final effort.
The memory of saying “Wow” still resonates. It’s also a memory assisted by racing photographer Gerry Cranham who took an iconic picture from high in the Ascot grandstand as the two combatants flashed past the post. It captured, in a split-second, the “race of the century”.
On Saturday, there was another lasting aide to remember this century’s titanic battle between Enable and Crystal Ocean. Simon Holt’s racecourse commentary not only captured the moment of a split-second, but the whole two-and-a-half minutes of unfolding action.
He knew he was witnessing a remarkable race, just as Cliff Morgan knew he was describing one of rugby’s greatest tries ever when the Barbarian’s went from one end of the Cardiff pitch to another to go over the line against the All Blacks in 1973.
Enter “that try” into a search engine, and you’ll see on You Tube a great sporting moment. Enable v Crystal Ocean is worthy of a similar, simple description, accompanied by another brilliant soundtrack.