Laytown: racing has taken place there since 1868
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Ashforth 6:00PM 12 SEP 2016
ALL-WEATHER racing is sometimes, disparagingly, called racing on sand. In Ireland they have raced on sand, at Laytown, since 1868. This shows a level of flair, imagination and love of the seaside that Britain imitated half-heartedly in 1890, when Margate introduced donkey rides; a pale imitation of the real thing.
If British trainers have a sand horse, they have to go to Laytown to exploit its sand-loving qualities, which is what Jamie Osborne is doing, for the first time, with a team of six, one for each race. Three of Osborne’s team (I Will Excel, Athassel and Snoozing Indian) are joining him from Irish yards and taking in Laytown on their way to Lambourn. Well done Jamie but shame on Britain.
When you look at the state of sand racing in Britain (donkey rides at Margate ended in 2008) it’s hard to believe that we once ruled the seas and, presumably, the beaches (apart from Dunkirk). Come on Britain! We can do better than that!
It’s high time, at low tide, that someone examined Berrow Beach, near Burnham-On-Sea, and Pendine Sands, near Tenby, with a view to racing on them. Laytown’s races are all over six or seven furlongs. There are several miles of beach at Berrow and Pendine so you’d be able to run the Berrow Beach Cesarewitch. Just like the one at Newmarket, racegoers would be able to stare into the distance and wonder what on earth’s happening. Then, as they enter the final couple of furlongs, try to work out which one’s in front.
The BHA and Arc have failed dismally to spot the coastline’s potential but the local authority at Burnham have been more perceptive, describing Berrow Beach as “a wonderful location for beach horse riding.”
Pendine Sands is a bit more challenging because of the behaviour of the beach’s current owner, the Ministry of Defence. As the MOD puts it, “there is the risk that the public might discover items of UXO (Unexploded Ordnance).” If they do, they are advised “Do not touch or attempt to pick up the object.”
Racing already deals with stray golf balls and restoration work at Pendine has enabled motor racing to take place again at the beach famous for Malcolm Campbell’s world land speed record of 146.16 mph in Blue Bird in 1924. Pendine Sands was once described as “the finest natural speedway imaginable.” It can be again! Nick Rust! Martin Cruddace! Stop twiddling your thumbs and create a sand course the envy of Laytown.
William Carson, who rides four of the Osborne sextet, has never ridden at Laytown before but he’s probably ridden a donkey at Margate, or Southwell, and I’m sure he’ll do his mounts justice.
Meanwhile, at Chepstow, Victoria Wood (7) is having only her second ever ride, on No Pleasing You (3.10). In three attempts No Pleasing You has yet to beat another horse but if success eludes her Wood can cheer herself up by playing her namesake’s wonderful song, The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let’s Do It).