The Secret Racegoer visits London’s racing pub – the Sydney Arms
If you have the odd £3.05m knocking about, you could be the new owner of London’s racing pub, the Sydney Arms, the freehold of which is on the market for a second time in three years after Green King sold it to an Italian private investor.
Today’s asking price is £500,000 more than Green King got.
The Secret Racegoer had a look behind the sofa to see what could be found and, despite being €10 the richer, could’t quite put together the required asking price, let alone the deposit.
Nevertheless, an appointment to view was undertaken not least to see if this desirable end of terrace freehouse could accommodate a decent pint of Guinness.
The Sydney Arms is on Sydney Street. Not the Sydney Street in East London where a siege took place in the presence of Home Secretary Winston Churchill, the hero or villain depending on your capacity to put your foot in your mouth, in 1911.
This is Sydney Street, Chelsea and, at 2.25 on a sunny Thursday afternoon, it’s certainly not under siege. There’s about half-a-dozen customers and they wouldn’t need the attention of the Home Secretary, whoever it is at the moment, to ensure law and order is being upheld.
Indeed, it feels more like an all-weather meeting at Kempton – not a lot of patrons about.
It takes a while for it to become apparent that the Sydney Arms can rightfully claim to be London’s racing pub.
There are three TV screens in the main bar, with the two large ones showing reruns of the previous night’s football. But the smaller screen facing the bar counter is tuned to Racing TV.
Then you notice that a newspaper rack contains the Daily Mail, the Sun and, yes, a copy of the Racing Post. First the Mail is picked up, then the Sun and then someone walks in and starts to read the Post.
At this point the only person showing interest in Racing TV is the Secret Racegoer, who watches a 25/1 shot, backed each-way in an eight-runner race, finish fourth. Purchase of the Sydney Arms freehold is now out of the question.
A decent pint of Guinness at £5.50 (this is Chelsea) can just about be afforded.
More racing evidence is spotted with a framed set of silks (white, black and white striped sleeves, and white cap) on the wall. Then three or more silks are noticed hanging from the ceiling.
And then someone comes in and asks if the racing is being shown. “Behind you” says the barman, pointing to the screen conveniently in his eye line, but seemingly of little interest to him.
By now, the interest in racing is starting to gain momentum.
All three screens have been turned to Racing TV and voices can be heard discussing future hopes for Royal Ascot and, more immediately, a runner that evening at Wolverhampton.
The all-weather contestant is Oliver Hardy, owned by Chelsea Thoroughbreds, who are also based on Sydney Street (which Google curiously refers to as a training establishment) and have close ties with the Sydney Arms.
The link is cemented by Hugh Stanley, a racing executive with Chelsea Thoroughbreds who also looks after the day-to-day running of the pub. It is he who has turned all the screens to the racing and is discussing the merits of the Wolverhampton runner.
Trained by Paul Cole, it too finished fourth in a field of eight, but expectations might have been higher than the Secret Racegoer’s Huntingdon runner, as it was the 3/1 second-favourite.
Whether or not racing is your game, the Sydney Arms is a pleasing London boozer. Food is available all day and, best of all, there was no music, which is all the better when you want to dream of Royal Ascot or just the 5.40 at Wolverhampton.
Well worth £3.05m if your sofa has deep cushions.