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The Weekly Blog

The Best Racecourse in the South

North, South, East or West. We, like to think that the points of the compass are definitive, placing us in a distinct location. But it’s all relative – Kelso is south of Musselburgh, Cartmel is north of York and Ayr is west of Newton Abbot.

Comparisons between racecourses are relative too – so any racecourse which offers National Hunt racing is generally better than one that offers only Flat racing (obviously). A racecourse which offers Champagne at a reasonable price, is better than one that operates at a multiple of three-times the ordinary retail value. And a track which has a sweetie stand selling red liquorice is much better than one that has no sweetie stand at all.

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The Weekly Blog

Winter Sports

I may occasionally have worried about the rain, but I never suffered from Chionophobia whilst managing race-meetings at Cartmel .

A rare condition, more prevalent among Clerks and Managers of winter jumps tracks, Chionophobia is the fear of snow – usually the prospect of getting buried beneath it, although the term can also be stretched to include the fear of racecourses getting blanketed in the white stuff.

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The Weekly Blog

The Jumper for Jumpers

A spokesman for the British horseracing industry has condemned President Trump for re-tweeting messages bearing hateful narratives along the lines of: “I hate Christmas jumpers, they’re always so colourful, a hate anything which isn’t white.” Or something like that – I may have just made it all up.

Even so, I’m guessing that the totally Fake News, that Donald Trump is opposed to the display of loud wool-wear, is already prompting you to consider going out to buy a Christmas Jumper of your own – or maybe dozens of Christmas Jumpers to give to all your friends and family. I hope so, because The Racing Post has just launched its fourth range of charity jumpers, sales of which will benefit Racing Welfare.

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The Weekly Blog

The Purple & Green Friday Sale

R-r-r-r-roll up, Roll up! Get ready for the great Black Friday sale…

The very best offers available to racegoers are on sale now! Annual membership at Kelso and Cartmel costs just £140 at each racecourse. At Kelso that equates to just £9.33 for Club Enclosure admission at each of the 15 race-days. At Cartmel it works out at £15.55 per day in the Paddock Enclosure on each of the nine days – although members can also save £6 per day on car parking in the picnic areas, subject to space being available at whichever time you choose to arrive.

Both racecourses offer dozens of reciprocal days too: race-days at racecourses throughout Britain that have been designated as free days out for members of either Kelso or Cartmel. If you attend all 47 of Cartmel’s reciprocal days, each day of racing could cost as little as £2.50 – and it would be even less for Kelso members where the list of reciprocal events runs to 67.

You’ll have guessed, perhaps, that these offers aren’t only available on Black Friday; they’ll also be available on Blue Monday, Red Tuesday, Purple Wednesday and Orange Thursday.

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The Weekly Blog

Fake or Fortune

It’s been a big week for images of Christ. First came a series of objections to the most recent advertising campaign for Greggs, which featured a traditional nativity scene in which the infant Jesus was replaced by a sausage roll.

Then came the sale of a painting depicting The Saviour of the World, which had apparently been split in half, eaten by worms and scrubbed with a scouring pad, but which might just have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci. In case you haven’t heard, it made the equivalent of £341 million in a New York auction.

But in a world full of fake news, how certain can we be that the da Vinci painting is genuine, that this blog isn’t merely Russian-sponsored-Brexit-inspiring-disinformation, or even whether the sausage roll that I devoured this morning was made of pork?

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The Weekly Blog

News from Paradise

Be honest. On a scale of one-to-ten, how surprised were you when Panorama revealed that Prince Charles, a passionate environmental campaigner, allowed the Duchy of Cornwall to invest in a company called Sustainable Forestry Management Ltd?

Wouldn’t it have made a far more interesting story if the Paradise Papers had revealed that the Duchy was putting its wealth behind fracking and the increased exploitation of fossil fuels? While it might have been wise to declare his interest before dipping his oar into the pool of carbon trading initiatives, I’m struggling to spot any inconsistency in the Prince’s behaviour – he’s running strictly according to form.

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The Weekly Blog

The Malt Whisky of Gambling

I’ve just been down to the bookies in order to play on a FOBT. That’s right, one of the devil’s machines that, according to the popular press, allows punters to lose up to £100 every 20 seconds.

I approached the machine, a Fixed Odds Betting Terminal, with trepidation. After all, they’ve been nicknamed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ on the basis that they’re addictive and it’s possible to lose £1,000 in less than a minute and a half. Only I haven’t got a thousand pounds to lose and it takes me at least two minutes to locate the button which switches off the bright yellow ‘Gamble Aware’ notice.

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The Weekly Blog

The Halloween Race Train

While the clocks won’t change until midnight, there should be plenty of time to get home, after Kelso races, before the Strictly Come Dancing Halloween Special on Saturday night. To get in the mood I googled a few ghostly racing stories and came across these old song lyrics…

With apologies to Chris De Burgh and Spanish Train…

There’s a Scottish train which runs between Edinburgh Waverley and the Borders,
And as race-morning glows, the whistle blows – and the punters know… they’re under orders.
And then they utter to the Lord a prayer,
Read the form and check Betfair.

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The Weekly Blog

Riders on the Storm

As Storm Ophelia drove dark sepia clouds of continental dust across our skies on Monday, news-outlets were keen to remind us that it was thirty years, to the day, that we awoke to the devastation wrought by The Great Storm of 1987.

I love the fact that we’ve started to call it the ‘Great Storm’ – it’s become one of those legendary weather events, like the Summer of ’76, by which we measure increments of age. If you were alive in 1976 (and I never cease to feel disconcerted when I discover that most of my work colleagues were not) then you’ll remember Brian Cant, The Bay City Rollers and Red Rum.

If you remember the Great Storm of 1987, then your frames of reference will probably include Rick Astley, Fatal attraction and Desert Orchid.

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The Weekly Blog

Fish, Frogs and Good Horses

There’s a saying on the West Coast of Scotland, that it only rains twice a year – once in April through to August and again from September until March.

2017 will go down in grounds-men’s history as one of those horrible years when the rain just keeps coming, the abandonment of the three-day Ayr Gold Cup Meeting creating a blank page in the form book for ever more. The fact that Ayr managed to race again this week, on Thursday, is a great achievement – but it will be no consolation to the ground-staff.

At Cartmel this week they misplaced the rain-gauge, lost beneath the flood in the Parade Ring. Fortunately there is also an electronic gauge on the roof of the grandstand, which remains above the waterline – much to the relief of everyone that works in the racecourse office.

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