The Secret Racegoer – back in the old routine
The Secret Racegoer is back in the old routine at a track that hasn’t raced in front of spectators since 2019 – it’s Brighton with a chilly sea-breeze and celebration of Class 6 racing
At last, the long wait was over. The power supply was restored at Victoria Station and the Secret Racegoer could start his return to the races.
Brighton races on Tuesday to be precise as Monday was for returning to pubs, two to be precise before precision went out of the window.
So, nothing new about a journey to the races being disrupted by train delays and cancellations.
What was new was the removal of the taxi rank from the front of Brighton station, with the Secret Racegoer failing to see the signage to the new, temporary location. “It’s going to be permanent” said the cabbie, ‘they don’t want us in front of the station.” He was not happy
The arrangements for getting into the racecourse were straightforward – one entrance for owners and annual members, another for everyone else.
Two of the racecourse staff were at the members and owners entrance, with one person processing members, the other owners. Members outnumbered owners by about 10 to one, which meant there was a queue of members braced against the sea breeze (or chilly wind if you are a townie).
The occasional owner sailed on by.
After that imbalance, everyone found they were in the same single-enclosure.
Something new were tables and chairs set out in front of the stand, lining the running rail. If you got one of these that was your residency for the afternoon, sitting in warm sunshine sheltered from the sea-breeze which had now been officially upgraded from chilly to plain cold
The Secret Racegoer has often wondered, when a racecourse operates a single enclosure, if regular racegoers graduate to their normal habitat – grandstand or members.
It seems they do, as in the members’ bar the usual (masked) faces were present. And, as if nothing had happened, which in many respects it hadn’t, conversation picked up from where it left off in 2019.
There were a few niceties before views were exchanged about the day’s sport where the consensus was that it was an eight-race card of biggish fields but of poor quality, which is putting it kindly.
This was largely a celebration of Class 6 racing with only one standout runner, the Hughie Morrison-trained Raven Arc in the last, who duly won at 10/3.
Already a four-year-old, this was his first win at the Sussex track and he has left it a little late to become a Brighton specialist because, as everyone knows, this is the place for course specialists
Sadly, we won’t see one of Brighton’s favourite specialists, Roy Rocket, who died since Brighton last raced, aged 11.
He rarely raced anywhere else and, whilst his strike-rate had recently declined, he had notched up eight victories at his favourite track.
He was trainer John Berry’s pride and joy and was much loved by Brighton’s racegoers.
Someone who should have been a Brighton specialist was jockey Callum Shepherd. Born and bred in Brighton, he’d had 65 rides up on Race Hill but had yet to cross the line in front.
But racing’s return to his local track saw his first win courtesy of the Ray Guest-trained Jewel In My Crown who won a seven-furlong contest (they all seemed to be seven-furlongs) by three-and-a-quarter-lengths.
“It was” said Callum “a horrendous statistic so it’s good to get that one out of the way”.
The low-quality racing continued and so too did, if the Secret Racegoer can opine, the low quality conversation, whilst fairly insipid pale ale was consumed. There might be a connection there.
What did have the table guessing, more so than seeking winners, was how did one of its members lose his trousers on the way back from a funeral.
He set out wearing his wedding/funeral suit but some hours later stepped off his return train to London with only his wedding/funeral jacket.
The possibility that something stronger than insipid pale ale contributed to the loss of the strides (and a loss of memory) means the precise moment and reason why the suit reduced by half will never be fully known, although the victim has a theory which is best left at the Brighton table.
So, there was the Secret Racegoer back at the racecourse and, being Brighton, slightly the poorer in financial terms but richer for meeting up with old friends.
And he was faithful to an old routine, a pint of Guinness in the Railway Bell before getting the train home. A routine this time greatly enhanced by the pub’s choice of music – The Clash.
Back next week.