Horseracing had a red-carpet moment, earlier this month, when the ITV Racing Team picked up a BAFTA for their coverage of the Grand National at Aintree.
While I bow to no one in my admiration for the achievements of the ITV production crew, I question whether they are really the best ‘shop window’ for the sport, as claimed by many commentators. That accolade surely belongs to Swan Shoes, on Bridge Street, winners of the annual Ladies Day Shop Window Competition at Kelso.
The purveyors of Kelso’s finest footwear outmanoeuvred last year’s winner, Border Blooms from Wood Market Street, to dance away with the prize which includes four tickets for the Final Furlong marquee at Sunday’s Ladies Day Race-meeting. After several years of consistently good entries, June Swan finally lifted the coveted challenge-shield by donning a latex mask of a horse’s head and performing live in her shop window, reading the Racing Post newspaper and waving to passers-by.
Special commendations were awarded by the judges to Border Blooms and Glendale Paints, both of whom concocted elaborate window displays depicting glamorous ladies in colourful dresses with binoculars and other racing paraphernalia. It’s always seems a bit invidious to choose a winner; even selecting runners-up can be difficult – so the success of those shortlisted should not divert from the fantastic effort made by all the shop-keepers of Kelso from the Bank Street Boutique to the British Heart Foundation charity shop and from Hector Innes (the photographer) to Border Cookware (where they sell very nice pans).
Next year I’m hoping that Kelso Travel, who are based in Roxburgh Street – the road that leads from the square towards Floors Castle – will be offering a new service called the Anthea Morshead Racing Tour. Over the Whit Holiday Weekend it’ll take in fixtures at York on Saturday, Kelso on Sunday and Cartmel on Bank Holiday Monday – at all of which you’ll find Anthea fulfilling the role of Clerk of the Course.
Of course there are other Clerks who will be acting on three consecutive days – including Ed Arkle at Goodwood on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. However, quite apart from the logistical challenge of getting to the right racecourse on the right day, Anthea’s weekend schedule is all the more notable due to the huge variance in the nature of the racecourses at which she’ll be supervising the running of the races.
York, with all due respect to Goodwood, is probably the best Flat racecourse in the country, regularly hosting some of the most valuable horseflesh in the World and the most particular jockeys and trainers.
Kelso is, of course, much more interesting! Mainly because the horses have to jump obstacles; I wonder why they’ve never thought of that at York? It’s a very different game and the track tends to attract good old-fashioned jumping-breds for the long, galloping, steeplechase circuit. High Jinx, a winner at the last Kelso meeting can follow up on Sunday.
Cartmel is something else entirely. It’s jump racing, but round a tight helter-skelter of a track packed with picnicking funfair-thrilled-racegoers, barely contained by the perimeter boundary of the racecourse. This week’s selection, The Steward, is trained by James Moffatt and runs at Cartmel, hopefully in the first race of their new season which is sponsored by Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding – sold from the Cartmel Village Shop which, despite featuring disappointingly little in the way of horses in the window, is probably the best village shop in the entire World.