My Race Days
All Day...and All of the Night: Cheltenham: the Showcase
“I’m not content to be with you in the daytime
I want to be with you all of the time
The only time I feel alright is by your side
I want to be with you all of the time
All day and all of the night”
I am sure that many of those who love and work with horses feel that way about their charges; and frequently they are up late caring for them, rugging them up with thick duvets against the cold; travelling with them through the night; and up early in the morning to feed and ride them while most of us are asleep.
Certainly; Cheltenham races are always an event that passionate racegoers feel the same about too. It isn’t just a daytime affair. The night must be embraced too. The romance of the turf is about Cheltenham. When racing is on; it is a place that never sleeps. Whether it’s still propping up the bar with Irish racegoers in the Queens Hotel at dawn before deciding on some breakfast and a cab to the course to watch the horses arrive; or a romantic dinner and passionate night in a four poster at some intimate Cotswolds hotel; Cheltenham is as much about the night as the day. It is simply far too exciting for sleep.
Last year in my report I covered most of what the showcase meeting is about. Cheltenham opens its doors for the racegoer to see a behind the scenes view of how the racecourse works. Last year when wandering around on the ‘trail’ Edward Gillespie himself was showing people around the commentator’s box:
This year I found Edward hosting a Q and A session called ‘Jargon Buster’; a quiz for racegoers to see if they could explain some of the racing terminology encountered. Such questions as 'what does 5/4 the field’ mean; and ‘what is a distance marker’ was not easy to explain even for seasoned racegoers! The fact Edward is so hands on as an MD is testimony to justice that he received a lifetime achievement award recently.
The races attracted quality fields from as far away as Ireland; and both days saw really good crowds. On the Saturday almost 15 000 people were in attendance; not bad for a day when Ascot was competing as a big attraction; and certainly an indication that crowds are well up on what they used to be at this meeting. I think it will grow and grow as reports come back from those who have attended this meeting over the last two seasons and spread the word on how enjoyable it is. To give you some idea of how many people are employed to look after this amount of racegoers have a look at this video. This is the Saturday morning and a fire drill was called before gates opened. The people you see on the lawn are just the catering staff from a part of one of the grandstands. Horse racing is a huge employer of people; and whether it is those that care for the horses or those who cater for the racegoers as just some of those employees; it is work that will never be replaced by machines. Horses and racegoers require quality care! Catering satff at the races work very hard and are an integral part of raceday. Please appreciate them when racing!
The first day, the Friday; I was busy on my partner David’s exhibition stand but managed to get out to watch a couple of races. Seeing Sports Personality of the Year AP McCoy have his first winner of the season at Cheltenham was a highlight for me on a good card; and good promotion for his new autobiography; the release of which also coincided which the Cheltenham Literary festival.
Before leaving the course after an excellent day’s racing we popped into the Brightwells auction of horses. We spent half an hour or so just watching the horses parade around outside before they entered the ring; and while it was cold, the atmosphere was lovely as the horses were silhouetted against the strong lights in the dark.
I liked lot number 21; whose forehead star reminded me of my favourite horse Poker de Sivola; who is out for the season sadly due to a small injury which has been flaring up in training so he is having a year off. So I shall be watching lot 21; who turns out to be ‘Jamesson’; a 6 year old who has been placed in all three runs in Ireland in his first season without winning as yet. He went for £25 000 under the hammer. The top lot was ‘Kick for Touch’ which went for £45 000 so watch for that one too; it won and was placed for Nina Carberry from its first two runs. My old friend Carl Llewellyn, who appears to be a shrewd judge in an auction after being the winning bidder on the Agent Provocateur donated corset I modelled at the Silks racing Welfare charity ball earlier in the year , was the high bidder on ‘According to Trev’. Now this horse was actually part of a history making day in Ireland after being one of the winners that gave jockey Jamie Codd all 6 winners on the card at Tinahely pt to pt recently:
So watch out for ‘According to Trev’ at future Cheltenham meetings in the capable hands of the Twiston-Davies team if that is where he is headed. Talking of going through the card, as far as I know no jockey has ever done it over jumps under rules in the UK; so I wonder if we will ever see it done; maybe even at Cheltenham? If ever; Ruby Walsh or AP McCoy would be my bets to do it!
AP McCoy was to speak at a literary event later in the evening in the hub of the festival in town:
Now we had every intention of getting along to this but got a bit waylaid at the Montpelier wine bar and needed to be back at our hotel for 9.30 for dinner. The Montpelier wine bar has been for some years the number one watering hole for the hundreds of more discerning racegoers that spill onto the pavement outside and crowd around the tables there. Downstairs is rather a cosy restaurant but booking is essential on a race night. Howard Manning has been a staunch regular for years there as have my partner and brother Adrian; so it was a surprise for him to find Adrian and wife Roxy managing the establishment temporarily! Howard now lives in France near Albi; we had a lovely time when visiting him there and he took us to the Toulouse Lautrec museum there which was wonderful. Howard tries to get over for as many Cheltenham meets as he can so it shows you the level of commitment for the enthusiast.
Roxy; raised in Siberia, used to work for CRB bloodstock in the Czech Republic and as well as doing their PR on racedays and accounts, also ran Christian Reichner’s pub and restaurant; and even acted as DJ in his rock club; hence her experience put her and Adrian in good stead for being the hosts at a racing wine bar in Cheltenham. What was strange is the fact that next morning they were open at dawn for breakfast for the Rugby; and some Welsh racegoers who turned up on opening did not bat an eyelid at Adrian was behind the bar; ‘they didn’t even ask how come I was here; it was like I always am” Adrian said “I think it is because Martin and his mates always have a drink with us at our gallery at the races so there was no surprise to see me serving the drinks!” Of course they were a little bit disappointed to be robbed by the sending off of the Welsh Captain and subsequent defeat but no doubt they will have had a great day to make up for it at ‘Nam in the panoramic restaurant in which they were booked!
A number of jockeys and owners had also popped in the night before; including Jason Maguire.
The Montpelier was as usual heaving with people in a friendly atmosphere where racegoers and literary figures rubbed shoulders with the regulars. We had drinks with our friends Caroline, Alison and Sarah who are regulars there; but we also bumped into former Playschool presenter Johnny Ball who is also a children’s author.
It is rather strange to see people from tv from one’s childhood; it is like you know them and Johnny must get it all the time. Johnny is of course father of another female DJ Zoe Ball. Johnny was booed off stage recently when giving a talk on climate change for suggesting the figures – his special subject for children is mathematics – don’t add up.
Now people often ask me what I think about climate change being a palaeoclimatologist; specifically of course the anthropogenic influences. Well all I can say is that while people are concerned about climate change; many answers to our questions lie trapped in ice cores. We saw massive and sudden climate changes in the past in the quaternary period and we do not yet fully understand the mechanisms behind the rapid changes. We need to study past form in much more detail! My own research is looking at ice cores from the last ice age. The Cheltenham area was near the edge of the ice sheet maximum during the last ice age; there is even evidence for woolly rhino and other megafauna in the Cotswolds; which is an exciting thought!
Here is a news report by the BBC about such a find: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/7710415.stm
Here you can see the tip of the ice sheets just missing Cheltenham:
As the ice sheets retreated; then the area would have become more temperate, wooded, and suitable for more extensive human settlement; and I was interested to discover that there is a 5000 year old long barrow on Shurdington Hill. An ancient lane called Greenway – after which the Greenway Hotel where we were staying is named - links it, and is apparently an interesting walk.
Unfortunately I never got around to walking it but maybe next time we stay.
Certainly I was looking forward to my stay at the Greenway; which was part of my prize for winning the fashion Award at the Cheltenham festival in March. It is one of Gloucestershire’s finest hotels and dates from 1584. I had no idea until the day after that the Greenway was also a favourite haunt of the late Queen Mother when she was racing at Cheltenham; so as you can imagine it is a beautiful, secluded and exclusive place. I can see why she liked it there! The room in which we stayed was the Oak room; complete with a beautiful four poster and adjoining large corner bath suite. Let me show you around my ‘boudoir.’
Dinner consisted of a rabbit starter for myself and a deliciously rich yet light consommé for my partner; and David had duck while I took the lamb as a main. Both were presented exquisitely; cooked pink and tasted sublime. For dessert I would heartily recommend the Dark Chocolate Marquise with brandy snap and spiced orange syrup; and perhaps get your partner to take the cheese board; it is phenomenal and far too much for one! We dined as part of my prize but three courses for £52 per person for the quality – you will not eat better – is good value. Here is their sample a la carte menu:
Here is the Greenway website; but I note that the March Race meeting is already fully booked!
The gardens at the Greenway are beautiful and after dinner it was beautifully lit and apart from the odd owl was silent and romantic. Being brought up in the heart of Gloucestershire in the middle of the Forest of Dean I find something special about the tranquility of the night in the countryside.
Well as you can imagine with the ambience and four poster we had a lie in before breakfast after a fabulous night! Then next day we walked around the gardens by daylight; before getting a cab to the racecourse.
When en route to the racecourse the cab driver gave us a tour of all the decorated horse statues currently on show in the town. Here is the Racing Post sponsored one:
On arriving at the course I did a photoshoot for Graham McCartney the racecourse milliner; and I had done one the day before too. I was surprised to hear that I had made the front page of the Gloucestershire Echo! Here are some of Graham’s new hats for the season; and I shall be reviewing winter fashions in my next blog.
Well on to the Racing! An action packed day was made even more exciting for me by having three winners and two forecasts on the Tote! I had Billie Magern from the Twiston-Davies yard; while at 11/2 (five and a half to one) the Tote paid a measly £4.90.
Kalann I noted was fit from the flat and I could not understand his 7/1 price and he duly obliged. Tonic Melysse was 2nd under Ruby and ‘One for Joules’ fell but was okay after his fall.
Now in the next I wanted to bet on Balthazar King. I like him; and he runs well at Cheltenham. David put me off so i didn’t have a bet but then Balthazar King won of course! I think to be fair Chicago Grey was the fancied horse but unseated his rider when delivering his challenge.
Well I wasn’t going to be put off the other Hobbs horse Cockney Trucker in the next but I also liked the look of Ixora with Tom O’Brien up. I decided on Ixora and did the forecast – and it came in!!! I had £2 win on Ixora which paid £12.90 x 2; and had the forecast to 50p which meant half of the dividend which meant £40.40. So that made me about £150 up on the day for small stakes placed on 4 races. The finish of the race with Ixora and Cockney Trucker was a real thriller!
The atmosphere at the course was great both days; it's a very social occasion Cheltenham; and the Arkle Bar and lawn in front was as usual in full swing with the nice weather:
Lancetto gave Welsh trainer Evan Williams a Cheltenham winner while the Nicholls team had once again to settle for second with the lovely grey horse Toubab.
In the last race, the bumper there were a few at the head of the betting but I went for an outsider; ‘Catch Tammy’ at 40/1. In a ding dong battle with Irish raider Clondaw Warrior from the Hanlon yard ; and a subsequent steward’s enquiry I was denied going home with s small fortune. How ironic then; that on leaving the racecourse we bumped into him being loaded up for the return to Ireland! I hope when I asked his stable girl I didn’t give my feelings on the matter away!!! It was really nice to see the horses loaded up and once again that ‘horses in the night’ cosy feeling kicked in. I trust they had a safe journey home and I look forward to following Clondaw warrior’s progress through the season too.
Well it was time to say goodnight to Cheltenham. As I left the course I had a lovely warm feeling inside. I had had a fantastic weekend days and night; and my love affair with Cheltenham continues to blossom. I looked back at the illuminated stands and horseboxes from our cab; and the words ran through my mind from the song...I think it is true where Cheltenham is concerned once smitten; and the feeling of being reunited with a loved one after a long summer break is shared by every Cheltenham enthusiast: ’I believe ...that you and me... last forever’. See you in November for the Open. All the days, and all of the nights.
All Day and All of the Night; originally by the Kinks but this is my favourite version; by the Stranglers:
Video of the sales:
‘Because the Night’ Patti Smith
Video of the horses going back in the Night:
“Back in the Night” Dr Feelgood:
About Eliza Cook
Hi! I'm Eliza. I am a Geographer by profession, and am currently studying for a PhD in Geography at Swansea University. I will be investigating ice core records from Greenland pretty soon. But you don't want to hear about those.
On top of this, during a year out, I fell into working as an in-house model for Agent Provocateur. Strange but true! This experience heightened my appreciation of fashion - especially the eclectic and eccentric fashions of the races.
I've been a racing fan for two years. I love all racing, but a day at the jumps is where I really feel the most excitement. Having grown up in Gloucestershire, with two great racecourses on the doorstep - Cheltenham and Chepstow - it is a wonder that I didn't find racing sooner.
I've been privileged to be a part of some of the 'behind the scenes' elements of racing, from photographing frosty morning breeze-ups to attending the post Cheltenham Festival jockeys' celebration in the Weighing Room!
I am thrilled to be a 'Voice of the Races'. To me, the most striking feature of racing is the accessibility of participants - and the fact that everybody attending has a part to play. A day at the races has it all; wonderful horses, spectacle and fashion, in an adrenaline soaked atmosphere where people from all walks of life come together in mutual appreciation of the sport.
I can't wait to tell you all about my experiences at the races, the people I meet and the adventures I have, as well as the fashions I encounter and the stories I uncover.
I hope you enjoy it!
- 08.11.12 Cheltenham showcase 2012 ; A Fashion shoot, vintage fashion and fond Farewells; Sleek Bodies, Dark Lovers and a bit of Bondage.
- 15.10.12 Dubai International Arabian Raceday Newbury 2012 : the Pure Bred in Legend and Reality and a meeting of cultures
- 26.09.12 Fashion Pad : Racing, Rock n Roll and Retro; Barbours , Belstaffs and Burberrys , Biker Chic and Black Leather; and an addiction to Muck and Speed!
- 29.08.12 Friends at Fontwell Park: Number 6 and a figure of 8; Vintage Fashion & Fab history; Flying leaps, cricket & music...From The Jam and more!
- 29.08.12 After the first race; Fontwell
- 30.07.12 Eliza’s Log: back from a remote Arctic scientific research station; a suitably International blog; and some movies, art, fashion and music
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What would you say your favorite thing to do in the entire world would be?