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Nathan's Horse
Nathan's Horse

Life After Football Part 2

By: Nathan Baxter
Date: 03/06/2007

OH the joys of summer. I have spent last three weekends dragging the missus out on various outings, visiting National Trust monuments and the like. Enjoyable as it is the passion is missing and it was time to take her instead to a sporting occasion. What better than the Derby?

Home > Features > 2007 Features > Life After Football #2

I have never been to a flat racing meeting before. Other than a few trips to Market Rasen and a race meeting the day after Town played Cheltenham away a few years ago, my experience of live horse racing was fairly limited, but at least I can understand a race card and know how to bet. So off we headed to the climax of the flat racing season, a shortish trip for us from our exile south of the capital to Epsom in Surrey.

Like good Grimbarians we had bought the cheapest tickets at £15 a piece. This entitled us to walk around only a limited area of the course adjoining the beginning of the finishing straight, but the winning post was a distant object further down the track. But at least we had a large screen on which to watch the action. In the distance were vaguely interesting looking funfairs and other entertainment but our tickets didn't allow us to stray that far.

With over an hour to go before the first race I was beginning to regret only bringing one book with me. The spectators rapidly took their spaces around us, the sensible ones bringing their own drinks and food with them something which had not occurred to me (not being allowed to take drinks into a football ground).

Finally the racing began. It transpired that our view comprised of about 1 second of the horses flashing past, and the remainder of the race had to be watched on the big screen. Because of the background noise it was impossible to hear the commentary and the only way of following "your" horse was to remember what its colours looked like - Arsenal home, Bristol Rovers, West Brom to name but a few, and its number. To be honest you'd see more sat watching it in the bookies.

In between each race fell a cavernous half hour to be filled with pretending to study the race card knowledgeably and walking round the bookies to try and get the best odds on a bet that stood little chance of winning. Imagine a football match which had 5 minutes each way, and 80 minutes half time and that's what it was like at Epsom.

Most disappointing of all was the lack of atmosphere. The vast majority of people there seemed to have come to sit around in the sun, improve their tan, drink and the actual racing itself was a matter of profound indifference. There was no rivalry, nobody cared. Doesn't Frankie Dettori have his own set of supporters, and the other jockies their own followers? "Who Are You?" I wanted to chant at the people in the adjoining posh bit. "Will you come to Blundell Park?". Sadly I hadn't drunk enough.

After six races and lots of money lost we left without a single winner between two of us. We couldn't be bothered to hang around for the final race. I won't tell you how much we lost but enough to do something very substantial with!

I can honestly say that I would rather watch Scunny reserves than go to Epsom racecourse again, although if I did do I would make sure I bought tickets in the grandstand within view of the winning post.

Overall rating: 1/10

My next quest for summer sport sees me watching cricket and rugby league matches later this month. At least I'll be able to see the whole pitch and there won't be loads of hanging about in between the action.

Roll on August!

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