Not many runners, not many obstacles and not many racegoers
Not many runners, not many obstacles and not many witnesses, but there’s no lack of enthusiasm when the Secret Racegoer visits Kempton Park on a Monday afternoon
“Welcome back to Kempton Park on a lovely afternoon” said racecourse commentator John Hunt to the Monday afternoon jump racing faithful. There’s no denying that it was a lovely afternoon but therein lay the problem.
A dry month had been a significant factor in there being just 31 declared runners across the six races. The Secret Racegoer couldn’t remember a racecard that ran to just 20 pages, and the six contests were easily contained within a double-page spread in the Racing Post.
If there were slim pickings among the horses for the Secret Racegoer to consider, the bright sunshine resulted in the hurdles and fences down the Sunbury track’s back straight being taken out of commission.
It was not something the Secret Racegoer had witnessed before at Kempton. But it was probably good news for the novice hurdlers and chasers.
One race where the runners were due to encounter 13 obstacles was reduced to eight, resulting in a prolonged gallop down the far side of the track that was longer than some Flat races run on Kempton’s all-weather.
It wasn’t an issue however for one contender, My Sister Sarah, who had been sent over from Ireland by Willie Mullins to take part in the Listed mare’s hurdle. Mullins’ last runner at Kempton was Faugheen, who picked up £56,950 for winning the 2015 Christmas Hurdle.
The winner on Monday was set to earn £14,237.50. One runner, provided she got round, was guaranteed £670.
Nico de Boinville steered the Irish raider (pictured) to a seven-length victory and £14,237.50 was heading to County Carlo.
A shade over 60 lengths behind the winner was the Alistair Ralph-trained Getaway Totherock which meant £670 was on its way to Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
The lack of runners, obstacles and racegoers did not put off the on-course bookmaker Sam Harris who was there in force with five joints on the rails.
Nor did it deter the enthusiasm of one of the firm’s representatives who was shouting out ahead of a seven-runner race “What a race! Look at this Countdown conundrum!”
Flat fans may well have been at home watching the frosty Anne Robinson on the Channel 4 game show, preferring to be at a racecourse in the summer when it rains.
But the day’s prize for enthusiasm went to a group of schoolchildren from one of over 250 schools which, courtesy of the Racing to School charity, spend a day at a nearby racecourse.
Kempton was hosting a vociferous group of pupils for an afternoon of challenges and discovery. As well as behind the scene tours and meeting up with racing’s administrators and participants, they get to watch three of the races.
Indeed, their second race featured one of the afternoon’s dramas when Sebastopol had the two-mile two-furlong novices’ chase at his mercy, only to fall at the last fence where the school children were lining the running rail.
The stricken horse rolled over onto jockey Aiden Coleman. It didn’t look good for either rider or mount and the screens went up.
After an agonising wait, Sebastopol, who had been winded, walked away from behind the screens, and moments later they came down to reveal Coleman back on two feet.
The dangers of horse-racing were demonstrated to the class who, along with the faithful, let out cheers and rounds of applause at the pleasing outcome.
In fact, the children never really let up cheering, dressed in jockeys’ silks so they could support horse and rider adorned in similar colours.
School trips were never like this for the Secret Racegoer, where the best thing on offer from Ingram Road Secondary Modern for Herberts was a geography field trip to Box Hill. It probably rained.
Just as the Secret Racegoer was becoming a teenager, he took his education into his own hands and used to bunk off school to go to Kempton Park. Many lessons were learnt, and they still are.
♦ The Secret Racegoer was talking to Mike Deasy
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Racing to School
Racing to School, which this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is an education charity that aims to inspire young minds through the provision of free, interactive, and healthy outdoor educational events for schools, staged at a variety of racing venues.
In 2019, Racing to School delivered a record 372 events across the country.
The charity works with young people with special educational needs and over one third of their output is targeted to engage those from inner city, rural and deprived areas.
Racing to School’s staff has a range of industry backgrounds including former jockeys who have retrained to develop their second careers, and their experience is invaluable as the charity introduces horseracing as an accessible sport to young people.
Racing to School also delivers two Beacon Projects: the Aintree Beacon Project and Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project, which focus on engaging schools in racing areas with a bespoke programme of learning activity.
You can find out more about Racing to School and how you can support it at About Us – Racing to School