Sunday, 2 July 2017


When is this expansion of German style Christmas Markets going to reach saturation point ? At the end of November they shoot up everywhere, cities, suburbs, large towns,small towns.They are not the real thing, far from it, and are as out of place as Germans playing Cricket on a Nuremberg village green, if they have village greens there.

Many feel the same way about this disturbing growth in All Weather racing in the UK. Non traditional surfaces may be fine in the USA, laid down as early as the 1800's as turf could not withstand meetings lasting weeks on end but to many here they are an unwelcome infringement.

Racing in the States was at its very peak in the 1970's with the scene graced by the likes of the incomparable Secretariat, Seattle Slew, the battles between Affirmed and Alydar, and the superb Spectacular Bid at the end of the decade. Remember when connections of the latter challenged the connections of Troy to a transatlantic match ?

We could watch from afar, a little envious but very appreciative and respectful. It was however their arm of the sport. It did not belong to us. We had our very own great champions in the same decade, notably Nijinsky. Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef. The 1970's on either side of the Atlantic has not been equaled since in popularity, appeal and quality offered by the flagship horses at the top of the tree.

It becomes even more worrying when you realise that we've had our own second rate brand of sand racing for 28 years in the UK now. And as these needless changes for the worse are augmented, it is done so with the younger generations in mind.

It's a sombre thought but for those that have now reached their forties this abomination is very much the norm. This sunk in when someone revealed to me the other week that he was planning a booze up for his fortieth and was considering an All Weather meeting at Newcastle. To the traditionalist that sounds like a visit to hell.

Arena Leisure seem to stand for and promote ordinariness. Much of their flat is cold,soulless, garbage to many. The tinny sounding '2017 Betfred  Northumberland Plate Festival' opened with 'Collingwood Insurance Beeswing Ladies Day', an evening that ended with a UB40 concert.

The Gosforth Park Cup was run on this card. Once a notable Northern sprint handicap in the calendar it has been neglected down the years, lost in a mass of similar races with  its prestige taking a knock similar to both the Queens Prize and Rosebery at Kempton. Running the race on sand is the final insult.

In contrast there was nothing much wrong with the 'Pitman's Derby'. It was the nearest thing we had to the Melbourne Cup and was won and contested by some popular equine characters, many hardy sorts with a touch of class like Tug Of War and Sergeant Cecil, to the classy and quirky like Ascot Gold Cup winner Celeric.

It has now been sacrificed in the name of so called commercial nous. As with the previous year yesterday's running was all a bit tame. Hannigan's horse building up a lead, the winner racing prominently all the way. It's just not for the UK.

We now have that ridiculously titled All Weather Champions Day at Lingfield. The offered fare does not remotely live up to the billing. Just look at the winners this year.

The 'Marathon Champion'  Winning Story has since finished fifth in the Ormonde and thirteenth of twenty sixth in the Queen Alexandra - a race you would think suitable for one who is a champ in the staying sphere.

The 'Fillies and Mares Champion'  Realtra has since been fourth in a poor Group 3 at Lingfield followed by a fifth in a Listed event at Musselburgh, while 'Sprint Champion' Kimberella  was third in a Group 3 at Newcastle yesterday.

The 'Mile Champion' Sovereign Debt has been the nearest thing to a star to emerge with popular victories in the Group 2 Sandown Mile and Group 3 Diomed. His star status is one of the cult variety only and he is far off from a being a 'champion', similar with the three year old ' champion' from the sprint category, Second Thoughts, who ran a good if distant second to Harry Angel at Haydock in his only race since.

The crowned ' Middle Distance Champion'  was Convey. He was sixth of seven on his only race since over in Sha Tin but its worth noting that in the previous two highest grade events he'd tackled, both at Group 2 level, he finished seventh of ten and last of six.

So there we have it. A celebration of mediocrity in a very dull and mediocre arm of the sport.

And if you want to stir up a further concern just consider the Arena Leisure have Doncaster (in picture) amongst their venues. This is a course that needs a bit of a boost. Most of the cards are unappealing and the St Leger just plods on, even if Camelot's participation did give it a short lived boost in esteem.

If common sense was given priority over the bank balances of shareholders then the fixtures would be reduced but quality of race increased. Of course this won't happen and it would be naive to think that the sanding over of this traditional venue has not been considered.

The oldest classic run on All Weather ! All sounds very gimmicky and something that the short term gainers might like. Absolute sacrilege of course but don't believe it could never happen in times of ill thought out and carelessly implemented change.

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