The Secret Racegoer mixes his drinks between Brighton and Ascot
Its downhill for The Secret Racegoer as he mixes his drinks between Brighton and Ascot
The signs were not good when the TV screens started to show a huddle of people, including jockeys, staring at the ground just short of Brighton’s six-furlong start.
There were more bad omens when the runners for the third race in the parade ring returned to the stables and the jockeys returned to the weighing room. The Secret Racegoer stayed in the bar.
Then the confirmation. The “bing-bong” sounded, with an extra “bong” at the end, which seemed ominous. A pause, and then racegoers were told that this was a special announcement. There was a further pause, as if the announcer hadn’t yet thought of what he was going to say.
Due to false ground, races 3, 4, 5 and 6 were abandoned. Race seven, a 5f contest, would however be run at the scheduled time.
For some, like commentator Simon Holt, it would mean having to hang around for two hours for the finale to take place. It was indeed the finale, as this was Brighton’s last meeting of the season.
For others, a decision had to be made. Leave or stay? Those who elected to head home then wondered if the courtesy bus, not due to return to Brighton station until before the last race, would start running early.
For the Secret Racegoer, it was a simple matter of bringing forward post-race plans. Instead of a few pints after racing, Brighton’s finest hostelries would be visited earlier. It also meant that stakes on the abandoned races would be returned which, as this was Brighton, was something of a result.
A decision was made to walk down the hill (you can’t leave Brighton racecourse without going downhill) to The Hanover. “No need to rush” was the advice, “it doesn’t open until 3.00”. A bit of local knowledge – these are the sort of people to go racing with.
The walk took us past what seemed to be relatively recently built flats being knocked down. Maybe they’d been sited on false ground.
We weren’t the first people to arrive at The Hanover – unless the others hadn’t left when the doors were last closed. Beers were ordered and the Secret Racegoer’s choice of a pint of Doombar was much derided by those with knowledge of the locally brewed ales and their propensity to leave you either slightly unsteady or fully comatose.
The reason for the 3.00 opening became apparent when a couple of schoolboys came in. Doombar wasn’t their choice. Instead, they disappeared into a back room, no doubt to do their homework. Maybe for Fakenham the next day.
Next stop after The Hanover was The Prince Albert, which is “only a spit from Brighton station”, and is a typical Brighton pub. It has multi-coloured exterior, a small bar with lots of different rooms leading off, with rock band posters adorning the walls. And there’s the “dead rock stars graf wall (with a scribble from Banksy, too)”.
It’s located on a steep hill – you can’t leave Brighton station without going down a hill, unless you are going in the opposite direction, which means going up a hill.
The Prince Albert offers a range of “unusual beers for unusual people” and the Secret Racegoer, feeling fully at home, worried that anything strong might mean being wrong-footed on false ground, chose a beer not a lot above 3% in gravity.
Derision again from those who were drawn towards stronger brews, although they were risking the force of gravity taking them downhill, whether or not that was their intention.
By now the last race at Brighton had been run and not only were the stakes returned, but also some winnings.
Result. A rare winning day at Brighton. Two excellent pubs visited. Good beer and good company. And, the Secret Racegoer was on a train back to south London not a lot after 7pm, and steady on his feet.
Two days later and it was Champions Day at Ascot.
To cut a long story short, you’ll be relieved to know, there was a mood of celebration in the air. This was partly due to the meeting beating the weather, the sport being of the highest quality, and some winnings being pocketed, so a bottle of champagne seemed appropriate.
Unfortunately, the member of the bar team wasn’t well versed in opening fizz. The result would have done a winning grand-prix driver proud. A replacement bottle was opened by a colleague with no loss of wine.
And then a second bottle was ordered. And after that things went from fizzy to fuzzy. This might have had something to do with previously consumed Guinness and then a pint or two on the way home with the good folk from Paddy Power and William Hill.
The Secret Racegoer did not make it to Kempton the next day, but did hear tell of patrons of the annual members clubroom explaining to bar staff that you don’t put red wine in the fridge.
Another example of going downhill.
More Secret Racegoer reports
Joining the Mayfair set http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2ZV
Ascot’s Beer Festival http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2JE
A nice lunch in Newmarket http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2xk
It’s pretty much all Champion in Ireland http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2CT
Royal Ascot 2019 part 1 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2bn
Royal Ascot 2019 part 2 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2co
Sydney Arms, Chelsea http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-1E3
Saluting Enable http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2h2