16th August 2020
I didn’t go to either of the first two meetings to be held at Chester this year, on Monday and Friday of this week, but had runners at both and, for the first time since the resumption of racing, we had really positive feedback from our owners about the experience and the hospitality on offer. They were, apparently, treated to a three-course dinner in a restaurant overlooking the finish. One owner described it as ‘five star treatment’.
I was delighted, but not particularly surprised, to hear it. Chester, along with Musselburgh, Chelmsford and York, stands apart from other racecourses in terms of its attitude to the participants. There will be little, if any, good come from this pandemic – apart, perhaps, from me having lost a bit of weight – but it will serve to sort a lot of wheat from chaff in many walks of life, including racing.
I didn’t go to Pontefract either this week but Charlie did and reported back that it seemed they had watered half the track, not the first mile or the last mile but the inside half. I watched it again on television and I think it is almost certain that he is right. They did this last year to a point where the outside half was baked and the inside was lush but i thought there had been some intervention by the BHA and that this could not happen again. It didn’t seem to make a lot of difference on Friday – maybe because very few jockeys spotted it and attempted to take advantage of the drier ground and maybe because the inside was still fast.
Charlie’s opinion was that rain would have resulted in an extreme difference and I would have thought that, not only are they risking meetings with a considerable bias, but there is likely to be a long term effect. If Charlie is wrong and they have not watered just the inside half recently then I can only conclude that the damage is already done. I will certainly be making an effort to attend Pontefract as soon as possible to walk the track.