On collecting his award, having been voted Racing Writer of the Year at the 52nd annual Horserace Writers & Photographers Association Derby Awards lunch, Alastair Down made some properly astute observations in his acceptance speech. The problem is, as is often the way with these alcoholic-infused festive events, I can no longer remember exactly what he said.
A bitter cold descended at nightfall, a crisp frost biting into the ground before I’d even reached my bed. When temperatures plunge in the days before a race-meeting, sleep comes but fitfully to racecourse managers.
I awoke to the sound of wailing and the jangling of chains. “Ebenezer Garratt! Ebenezer Garratt!” wailed the voice, “I am the ghost of Christmas Past, the first of three spirits to visit you this night…
The new channel name for Racing UK, launched this weekend, will be every bit as classy as the horses that feature in the coverage.
It will quickly become synonymous with top quality racing and we’ll wonder why we ever confined our horizons to the domestic fixture list alone – just as we’ve forgotten that The Beach Boys were once known as The Pendletones, that Nike was once known as Blue Ribbon Sports and that the highly successful O2 Arena was once known as ‘that cruddy Millennium Dome’.
Oh dear! The Government has discovered that when it comes to Brexit, it isn’t possible to make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. The word ‘egg’ being a good old-fashioned Saxon term derived from the northern dialect, while ‘omelette’ is a fancy French name for an age-old recipe cooked the World over, from Persia to Japan.
The good news for racehorse owners in the North of England and Scotland is that they have the best racecourses in the country. And that’s official, because ten of the fifteen racecourses to have been awarded the Gold Standard, by the ROA this week, are in the North. Four of them: Ayr, Hamilton Park, Musselburgh and Perth are in Scotland.
This week the Racing Post website carried a photograph, by John Grossick, of Footpad jumping to victory in last season’s Arkle Novices Steeplechase. He is captured mid-air, in striking fashion – like a startled hare or a running dear, all power and speed, unleashed like a giant spring.
The remarkable thing about the best racing photographers is that they capture, in a still image, the explosive power of a firework – frozen in time and yet bursting with energy. And that’s what I love about this time of year: The Gunpowder Plot.
I was in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, just over the bridge from the medieval Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame. The narrow streets were crowded in the Latin Quarter, an area known for its lively student life, and I was about to have an experience that has stayed with me for more than 25 years…
Neon signs beckoned visitors down alleyways. And everywhere, hand-written posters were stuck to the inside of shop windows: ‘Le Grec Sandwich!’