Horse racing like music loves it’s festivals, For a few days in different locations of the country at various times of the year, many thousands of people from all walks of life unite for the one thing that brings them together in a shared bond that takes them away from the drudgery of the work place into something special which makes the long hours all worthwhile.
Music has Glastonbury as its main festival, an event which to be honest I would not want to attend, one of my yearly traditions is to look at the stages and see whose on and decide if there is anyone I would genuinely wanted to see, I think last year I deduced that had I arrived on the Friday that come Saturday tea time I’d be packed up and heading off home, for the record it was three acts in total.
One main reason has to be the fact that for quite a few of them you must camp onsite in a poxy tent, well as someone who has become used to staying in various well known hotel chains and frequenting the bars for a good meal and a few nice pints before and after racing, I much prefer a comfy bed on a luxury mattress plus using a bathroom on my own and not sharing with others.
For racing though we have the edge in my view as regards festivals and with Autumn upon us racing has plenty to offer, Ireland has events such as Irish Champions Weekend and the week long bonanza that is the Listowel Harvest Festival, here in the UK we have the St Leger,Ayr Gold Cup and the Rowley Mile Newmarket weekends for starters and that’s before the jumpers get going in earnest!
Everyone has their favourite in this game, I enjoy the two day October meeting at Cheltenham, it’s so relaxing and has a first day back at term feel towards it, Newbury’s two day March meeting is always nice to attend and with the Cheltenham Festival just two weeks or so before it, it’s the last proper decent card before it, Last season I finally did both days of the Charlie Hall Chase meeting at Wetherby which was a lovely treat.
As someone who is from the north west though I will always have the Grand National meeting as my number one festival, now don’t get me wrong I love Cheltenham but I’ve never attended the festival in my life.
It sort of has the same effect for me when any of my favourite bands go on tour, I always like it when the top horses come to my part of the world to race at either Haydock or Aintree and where as many people I know will go from city to city when a band is touring, I prefer to enjoy it local, saves on travel expenses for one thing!
If there is one major gripe that I have though, it is that here in the UK we don’t have one participle type of festival that Ireland has plenty of, Mixed!
During Glorious Goodwood the Irish for me go one better and have Galway, two days longer and on a course which to my knowledge has only two steeplechase distances, four hurdle and five flat distances yet holds more races and caters for horses of many differing abilities and unites both codes under one roof, let’s face it if you suggested to Ascot or Newmarket to hold a valuable handicap over two miles for amateur riders you would probably get told to stop being silly the one on the Monday of Galway is one of the toughest handicaps around.
British racing only has one mixed day in the calendar year, Swinton Hurdle day at my local course Haydock and for me it’s one I seriously love as you can get potential Royal Ascot and Cheltenham horses together for one afternoon.
It’s scandalous and stupid to think that we don’t have a three or four day meeting that can do this, I would love to see more of them in this country and I firmly believe it would be a very popular one too, you wouldn’t even have to cater for the top class horses just as long as the racing was competitive and enjoyable to watch.
Naturally many will have objections for such an idea, but it’s worth trying as both codes of the sport are seldom seen together which is a shame as it’s a great way to showcase the sport, if I had free reign I’d have a Thursday to Saturday meeting with seven races on each day, two of the days to have four flat and three jumps with four jumps and reverse it on the other day.
So while the music fans head out to various fields, parks and country estates to set up camp whilst pushing a cart full of beer and carrying a heavy backpack like the Special Forces recruits have to do on their tough training programme and enjoy performances by many diverse acts, racing will be still be too scared to try something new and keep stuck in the dark ages.
Article by @WattyRacing