I first wrote to Richard Landale in 1991. A recent graduate with a degree in agriculture, I was seeking an opportunity to work within the racing industry. I wrote to the managers of all fifty-nine racecourses and received letters back from approximately half, most of them very polite expressions of disinterest.
Richard was an exception. Together with Norman Gundill, who interviewed me whilst pacing at break-neck speed around the track at Pontefract, Richard offered a glimmer of hope. Having doused any expectation in relation to pay, by explaining that Kelso Racecourse was run on a shoe-string, he proceeded to offer the opportunity of some race-day work experience. I might even have taken him up if I hadn’t been based in Kent at the time.
The twenty-six years that have elapsed since probably constitute the longest job application process ever. No matter. I am really looking forward to my first race-meeting in charge of Kelso in a little under two weeks’ time. The track is in fantastic condition and the fences are almost ready – they’ll be measured by the BHA’s course inspector a few days before racing.
As you might expect, there are some notable differences between Cartmel and Kelso. It’s colder for a start; according to the Met Office the peak temperature at Cartmel in the last 24 hours was 15 degrees, just 12.9 degrees in Kelso. I’ve already donned my finest Hawick cashmere sweater and I’ve been extremely grateful for the warm welcome that has been extended to me by racing enthusiasts in the Borders, not to mention the whisky which is possibly more effective than extra layers of clothing and tastier than Ready Brek.
But if it sounds as though I’m complaining about the weather, I’m not. The leaves have started to turn on the beech trees that grow alongside the A68 and the move north has hastened the feeling that Autumn is here and that Winter is just around the corner. After all the fun and excitement of the Summer crowds at Cartmel, I am really looking forward to those crisp Winter days when the traditional National Hunt bred horses dominate the racing scene.
Last year’s Grand National winner, One For Arthur, is expected to commence his campaign at Kelso on 28th October and the race programme here offers plenty of development opportunities for stars of the future. The racecourse employs a larger workforce than it used to and we’re keen to develop human stars too – so if you’re an aspiring graduate with a passion for horseracing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We may have a job for you.
Having by-passed a possible engagement at Newton Abbot last weekend, this week’s selection will hopefully make a successful appearance at Stratford on Saturday. The horse’s name is Dear Sire, which is not how I addressed Richard Landale all those years ago – although I’m sure he’ll continue to be considered the King of Kelso for many years to come.