The Secret Racegoer getting the forecast wrong at Haydock
It seems the further north you go the more stands a racecourse appears to have, with Aintree and York topping the count with five apiece. It’s the same at Haydock, with the Be Friendly Stand, Makerfield Stand, Grandstand, Centenary Stand and Tommy Whittle Stand.
What’s surprising is that, with Haydock Park being such a compact racecourse, it is no mean feat of planning to fit them all in. What it does mean is that there is little more than the length of an average-sized garden between the stands and the home-straight running rail at the winning line.
And the back straight is not much further away than the length of a football pitch. But whilst everything is close at hand across the course, what Haydock does have is a very long back straight and very long home straight.
For the day when the Secret Racegoer attended, the race programme made use of the long home straight, with four races run over 6f or less. A race or two more around the bends would have been nice.
In the middle of the track is a landing strip, and not long before the first race a light aircraft landed. Its passenger was Jamie Spencer, up from Newmarket for one ride at the racecourse which is equal distance between Manchester and Liverpool.
Of course, his horse, 11/8 favourite Dubai Station, won. Trained by Karl Burke, it was held up (nothing else should be expected with Spencer aboard), suffered a spot of interference at the 2f marker, but was powered into the lead on the testing ground a furlong from home to beat Partridge by a length.
About 10 minutes after the race, the plane taxied down the infield, turned round, gathered speed and took to the air, its passenger having earned his share of the first place £5,000 prize money.
All the signs were there, but the Secret Racegoer ignored them and backed the runner-up
Signs which were not ignored were those of the BBC weather forecast. In the morning, the prediction was sunny spells and a light breeze. By the time of the first race, the prospect of light showers had been introduced.
But, as the horses headed to the start from the picturesque, tree-lined paddock, Haydock was hit by a cloudburst, with the “light breeze” causing the rain to fall at a 45-degree angle.
Throughout the afternoon, the BBC’s meteorologists’ prediction of “light showers” steadfastly remained whilst repeated cloudbursts, now accompanied by lightning, were blown in by the “light breeze”.
After only one race the “light showers” caused the going to be changed from good-to-soft to soft, and the number of non-runners mounted up.
This was one of Haydock’s quieter days, which is just as well as a big crowd would have had difficulty in sheltering from the “light showers”. It also meant that not every bar was open.
The racecard (£3) listed 19 bars, no doubt mobbed on Friday nights and Saturdays, with predictable repercussions if stupidity kicks in, but nine were closed. Some of those that were open offered “a full bar service, including Draught Carling, Worthingtons.” Fuller bar service has been known.
- A slight diversion at this point. The Secret Racegoer bumped into Eddie Freemantle who had some useful information. Apparently, the pubs in nearby Wigan are better than those in Warrington.
Fortunately, the Secret Racegoer’s homing instinct kicked in, and draught Guinness was located, for £5.20 a pint (Haydock is a Jockey Club track as is Epsom who feel £6 a pint is an acceptable price).
Further exploration found the Premier Lounge Bar which only had canned Guinness. “We get quite a few requests for draught Guinness” said a member of the bar team.
A pleasing aspect of the afternoon was the pre-race paddock descriptions over the PA of the parading horses. Insightful comments on their appearance and demeanour were a helpful feature and an ideal aid for those new to the sport on what to look for in a racehorse.
Similarly, there was post-race analysis, helpfully pointing out the moment Partridge was stuffed.
And there was the usual northern abundance of customer care. Asking if there was somewhere where a bag could be left was met by someone going down two floors to check if the cloakroom was open and coming back to say it was.
You wont get them doing that at Newmarket, not least because they no longer provide a cloakroom.
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