York – a pleasure to be back
Mike Deasy on the joy of returning to York, a bookmaker’s costly birthday greeting, excellent coverage in the Post (no, not that one), and needing something to complain about
Since the Derby at Epsom and then Royal Ascot, there have been many opportunities to attend big race meetings, albeit with restricted attendance.
But Glorious Goodwood and then York’s Ebor Festival have taken place with the shackles removed.
Goodwood, as usual, took place in superb surroundings, although the weather was a bit grim and the going spoilt things somewhat.
But being at Goodwood comes at a price. A price, or prices, mostly imposed by the Duke of Richmond where the undeniable beauty of the South Downs scenery seems to give licence to charging the earth, whether that’s the cost of admission or the cost of food and drink.
Regarding the cost of admission, there are some high-class contests which attract the crème-de-la-crème to the five days in West Sussex, whilst other races might be termed bargain-basement stuff, except you’re unlikely to be on the receiving end of a bargain at Goodwood.
Nobody put it better than Alastair Down who said that when he’d been to Goodwood he felt “his pocket had been picked”.
York on the other hand is value personified.
The four-day Ebor Festival is packed with top-class races competed for by top-class horses. That includes the world’s best race, based on the ratings of recent winners, and Mishriff’s win in the Juddmonte International looks like maintaining that status.
And the Yorkshire Oaks continues to be won by fillies of the highest calibre with Snowfall being no exception.
Indeed, returning to York this year seemed like being back at the races as if nothing had happened during the past couple of years. It was the sport putting on one of its best events – the joie de vivre of being on the Knavesmire was well and truly back.
York’s Ebor Festival is how it should be. Great sport to draw the crowds, with no mention of Olly Murs or the like.
A costly birthday greeting
It wasn’t all a bed of roses for one of the major bookmaker’s on-course representatives on the second day at York.
A significant birthday for the partner of a wealthy client required a greetings card of some grandeur. And it needed to be kept flat until it was time to hand it over to the birthday girl. So the said card was placed between a laptop keyboard and screen. Closing the laptop would keep it flat.
Unfortunately, the card came in a plastic envelope which included a press-stud. The laptop was closed and the press-stud broke the screen.
There are times when you feel sorry for a bookmaker and, after laughing at his predicament, I also came close to feeling sorry for him. Still, the cost of an expensive repair was softened by a glass or two of fizz in the Moet bar.
Little to complain about
There is little if anything to complain about at a day’s racing at York. But if that was to be the case, these scribblings wouldn’t amount to much.
So, let’s point to two things which irked, neither of which were within the control of the racecourse.
First, it’s inevitable that there are long queues for the shuttle-bus from York Station to the the Knavesmire. But it takes an age to fill each bus. That’s because everybody has to pay the driver.
Meanwhile, two members of the bus company’s finest, wearing their high-viz jackets, stand by and watch the queue shuffling along.
Why not sell tickets to people in the queue, as they do at Cheltenham Station and Chichester Station for Goodwood, where the boarding of the buses is consequently achieved in half the time?
Maintaining the public transport theme, albeit the link to York races is tenuous at best, is ordering a small bottle of red wine for the journey home on an LNER train only to find it had been kept in the fridge. It was then put in a bag next a microwaved tuna melt.
It seems that red wine arrives on board in the fridge and it’s up to a member of the train crew to remember to remove it so that it can return to room (or carriage) temperature.
Excellent coverage in the Post – no, not that one
I think it’s fair to say that the Ebor Festival meeting is second only to Royal Ascot as being Britain’s premier Flat race-meeting, not that I’d say that in the presence of a Yorkshireman.
So it was interesting to see how the venerable Yorkshire Post, a regional daily of some quality, covered the four-day meeting, especially as local newspapers are under severe pressure with declining circulation and ever-fewer column-inches devoted to racing.
Indeed, a contributor to The Guardian at York said his own paper’s reduced racing coverage was “a disgrace”.
But the Yorkshire Post acquitted itself well on day two of the meeting. There was a picture in the news pages of racegoers back on the Knavesmire, albeit on a page headed ‘Coronavirus’.
On the back page there was a prominent photo of Mishriff finishing home alone in the Juddmonte International in front of the busy stands.
And the paper’s racing pages rose to the occasion. A page of racecards, including the colours for the Group 1 highlight, were supported by two reports of the previous day’s racing and a preview of the Yorkshire Oaks. All were compiled by the Yorkshire Post’s racing correspondent Tom Richmond.
There are not many regional papers which retain a racing correspondent so all credit to the Yorkshire Post – a quality product.
The Racing Hub’s team of tipsters get their fair shate of winners but a shout-out for Old Nell’s Fancy which, on day two of the Ebor Festival, was 28/1 winner Cruyff Turn.
Earlier this year there was a 50/1 winner recommended so a level-stakes profit is guaranteed for the year.
Kissed by an angel
There’s nowt better to sign a day at York races than a visit to the York Tap in York station.
Notorious, at 3.8 so not as scary as it sounds, is an excellent citrusy pint accompanied by a pork pie that’s been kissed by an angel.