York (Baytown Kestrel, Flying Bear)
York gives the impression that it has thought hard about how to make owners and spectators happy. I usually travel to York races on the train but this year took the car to the busy August festival. The owners car park is organised for quick entry and get away. Kim Bailey writes about how he’d like to see this introduced for owners car parks at UK racecourses. I can see why as it works very well. The owners building at York is brilliantly positioned, with a balcony that on one side overlooks the paddock and on the other the finishing line. You couldn’t wish for better viewing. The dining room is excellent – food is close to Ascot standards, albeit you have to pay. Canny Yorkshire folk. But I don’t mind at all – it’s good value. The owners bar was very busy. By mid afternoon sitting/standing outside was a more comfortable option, but with it being York’s August festival it’s understandable. York possesses a charm few courses in the country can match and it is a pleasure to own/part-own a horse running at the course.
Rating: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Wincanton (Douchkirk, Heath Hunter)
Wincanton states in the letter you receive when your horse is entered for a race at the course that “our owners facilities are some of the best in Jumps racing”. Hmmmmmm – they need to get out more. With a few minor changes they could be, but they aren’t there yet. There are usually queues for owners badges on arrival, the owners facility is very crowded with nowhere to sit and there are long queues for food. The ‘hot local pie’ on offer was, sadly, passed over due to the queues in favour of wanting to see some racing. Views of the finish are good from the owners bar, but then you have to face the scrum inside to get a drink or go to the paddock. It’s interesting that Wincanton has an arrangement that ROA membership gives you access to the owners facility. I’m not an ROA member. I know Rachel Hood, ROA Chief Executive would find this ‘extraordinary’, consider it because ‘I’m not sufficiently immersed in racing‘ or wish to ‘free ride‘ on the efforts the ROA makes on behalf of owners. She wrote as much in the July 2012 edition of Owner Breeder magazine. Maybe that article was a parody and I’m not in on the joke. What I do know is that if racecourses such as Wincanton, with capacity constrained owners facilities, have arrangements with the ROA so that its members can use those facilities even if they don’t have a horse running, and that usage detracting from the experience of owners with runners on the day, those racecourses and the ROA are doing a disservice to those owners that do have runners and, in the long run, to all owners. In Wincanton’s defence the Clerk of the Course has stated its badge arrangements with the ROA are being reviewed and they are also looking at how to alleviate the overcrowding and queues. A few minor changes here and there and Wincanton could be miles better.
Rating: 😀 😀
Sedgefield (Innsbruck, Heath Hunter)
Sedgefield looks after owners. Decent food in the owners bar, plenty of places to sit and a jolly atmosphere. The course itself is the epitome of weekday National Hunt racing. Viewing is ok, but none of the stands have the height to make it exceptional for anyone. If you’re lucky enough to have a winner you are looked after very well with a photograph of your winning horse in a frame presented to you within short order of the race having finished. A nice touch.
Rating: 😀 😀 😀 😀
Huntingdon (Dr. Darcey)
You’d think on a rare sunny day in February that three people sitting on a deserted set of steps each drinking a cup of tea wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. When those steps are outside the owners enclosure opposite the winning post at Huntingdon racecourse it’s an occasion for the security guards to move in. Apparently the health and safety risks were too great for us to continue with our reckless tea drinking. No matter the tea was in a pathetic little paper cup with a sad teabag bobbing up and down within it – the spillage risk was too great for Mr & Mrs HiViz to bear. You’d think a featureless racecourse next to a motorway that doesn’t have a fixture list to set the world alight might want to differentiate itself as a course based upon, say, friendliness, or facilities, or, I don’t know a decent hot meal, or tea served in china cups, or something, anything (!) that suggests a bit of effort. No chance. Huntingdon fails and fails badly. I can only imagine that Huntingon and Newbury raceourses are twinned. Huntingdon is a course to avoid as an owner.
Goodwood (Silken Thoughts, Platinum Proof, Palazzo Bianco, Flying Bear)
Goodwood has plenty going for it as a racecourse. A wonderful setting and home to the fantastic Glorious Goodwood festival. The amount of racing gives many owners a shot at having a runner there. Plus the course hasn’t messed things up as it has expanded – certainly not for owners. The views from owners seats at Goodwood is the best of any racecourse in the country. The owners pavilion is stylish with an excellent choice of food, and whilst it gets busy service is good. Food and drink isn’t cheap, but it hardly seems to matter. If you grab a table paddock side on a sunny day, where else would you rather be?
Rating: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀