Thursday, June 12, 2008

A perfect day


We meet again..., originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Anyway, after a tortuous journey to Charing Cross, there was a short wait for fast train to Tattenham Corner and not just any train brand new stock. I think we stopped at Purley after East Croydon and then it was full speed ahead to The Derby. No shunting around the railway cuttings past woody Surrey villages in 1960’s carriages, which had become part of the charm of going tio The Derby, this was excellent though and whatsmo re we even arrived before the first race. Not much time to put money on Conduit the widely tipped and highly fancied favourite who came from last to first up the straight to win and take out lots of money from the bookmakers’ satchels (one assumes).

Despite the warnings of the BBC, it was a warm day, a bit cloudy at times, but warm and dry without a cooling wind. It is a great experience to be on the Downs, which are public commons. Nobody there to take money off you and not a lot they can do about telling you what to do. You can take your shirt off, bring in as much booze as you like, or buy it in one of the bars, and drink it to your heart’s content, you can wander down to the start and watch them come back at the finish, you can set up an impromptu concert or attend a planned one, go to the fairground and have your fortune read by a gypsy. You can even go shopping at one of the market stalls. Lots of security guards around with their fluorescent jackets, but not a lot they can do to control the public on their commons. Such a relief from the over controlled business of everyday life.

I would say that it was a good deal less busy than last year when it was a few degrees hotter, sunnier and when Frankie was due to win his first Derby on the favourite Authorized – which he duly did. But still, plenty enough people to create an atmosphere, especially near the betting rings and bars and next to the racetrack. There were a few people I remembered photographing last year, which was quite amazing and they were photographed aagain.

I had put my money on over the internet at Fiona’s shop, getting the odds of 66-1 about outsiders Washinton Irving and Alessandro Volta as well at 12-1 about Doctor Freemantle, odds which were much better than those being offered on course, so I was relaxed about that, just venturing five pounds on Lady Gloria to win her race at 12-1, which she duly did, earning me enough to pay my way for the day…

As is tradition, I walked down to the start and took photos of the horses whilst they walked around, many of them sweating up and somehow less impressive than they used to be in the days of the old paddock. I realized that I had forgotten my pocket radio, which I always bring to Cheltenham, so could not catch any of the commentary so I did not have much idea of what happened in the race, as I ran from the start across the downs to the finish, to see the horses coming back to the stands to be unsaddled. I was a bit disappointed to hear that it was New Approach who won the race and he turned out to be the least popular winner of the race I have ever known.

This had all to do with the trainer than anything the horse had ever done, which was to become the Champion two-year-old of last season, then come second in the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas over the shorter trip of a mile. No the trainer had first insulted the race by saying it was no longer important for a potential stallion to have won The Derby and said he would go for the Irish Derby instead, thereby declaring that his horse would not run. When the horse was left in the race two weeks earlier (and money had to be paid for him to be left on the list of entries) the trainer said that this was a big mistake and that he had no intention of running the horse in The Derby. And then it was the Monday before the race that this silly trainer ‘changed his mind’ and said that he would be running his horse in The Derby after all. Run he did and the rest is history albeit there were boos from the crowd when the trainers’ name was called… Oh well, at least it was a good horse who won the race and I suppose we hope that he continues to thrive and win a few more top class races, unlike most of the recent Derby winners like Authorized and Sir Percy.

My horses came 4th, 5th and 6th, which wasn’t bad but didn’t win me any money –but hadn’t lost me much either, such were the generous odds.

I had a date down in Haslemere with my cousin Jim, where I was due to meet up with Fiona and Thomas and spend the night, so after a couple more races I took the bus back down to Epsom from where a rain soon appeared to take me to Guildford, where a train was waiting to take me to Haslemere. Amazing. Had a bit of trouble finding the house, but found it in the end and there we had a wonderful evening, with some other cousins coming around, going for a swim, having a delicious barbecue and catching up on the gossip. What a perfect day it had been.

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