Salisbury: One of my favourite racecourses
PICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER
By David Ashforth 5:50PM 1 AUG 2016
MY UNCLE GEORGE, who made custard pies for the Doncaster Co-Op, had a system. It was a simple system and, occasionally, it produced winners. The system peaked in the 1970s, when Red Rum won the Grand National three times but it had already shown its worth at Aintree in 1968, when Red Alligator won.
George would have been cock-a-hoop in 2001, when Red Marauder won the National at 33-1 but unfortunately he wasn’t alive to be cock-a-hoop. Horses are like that; they win when you’ve stopped backing them.
George’s system was simply to back everything beginning with Red but it might just as easily have been to back things horticultural, in which case he’d have done a yankee at Salisbury. The first leg would be Arborist (2.00), followed by Percy Thrower or Plant Pot Power (2.30), then Flower Of Love (3.30), rounded off with Wild Flower (4.30).
If they all win, George wouldn’t have needed to make custard pies any more. He could have done what he liked doing, pottering around in the garden, doing the football pools on Friday evening, watching the racing on Saturday afternoon then checking to see whether he’d won a fortune on the pools (he hadn’t).
People might look down their noses at my uncle’s system but it had a lot to recommend it. Many more sophisticated systems don’t work, either, and they consume a lot more time.
Salisbury’s one of my favourite racecourses – the view to the countryside and cathedral, the swallows (or is it house martins or swifts?) in the stands, the air of contentment, until the first favourite gets stuffed. It’s a great course to introduce new racegoers, with a decent chance that they’ll leave without vowing never to go racing again.
Jeff Smith (the owner of Dancing Star, Lochsong, Arabian Queen, Persian Punch, Dashing Blade, Chief Singer etc) is chairman of the intriguingly named Bibury Club, which owns Salisbury racecourse. He’s showing his support by running Star Maker (2.00) and Galactic Prince (2.30). He’d probably be running something else later on but I expect he needs to get back home, to Merdon Manor, to prepare for the opening of its gardens on Sunday (2.00pm to 6.00pm. Admission £4, children free. Home made teas. It’s at Hursley, near Winchester).
I think I might go, to see what it’s like and whether or not Smith is pouring the tea and handing out uncashed ante-post betting receipts for Dancing Star in the Stewards’ Cup.Smith often wears an affable, slightly bemused expression, as if he might suddenly ask someone where he is.
Merdon Manor’s got quite an interesting history as it was once owned by Captain George Cooper who very wisely was the son of Lady Mary Cooper, the sister of James ‘Silent’ Smith. Smith inherited $ 50 million then died on his honeymoon in 1906 while on a round the world trip. It explains why Cooper was able to drive a Rolls-Royce and donate £5 million to the war effort during the First World War. I wonder if he owned horses?