The last time a good friend and I went to York racecourse, back in 2008, it was abandoned due to the course being flooded. We were a bit miffed as we’d travelled a long way. So had all the horses, and they’d been looking forward to it too.
The Stewards hadn’t even tried to get racing underway before calling it a day. This was a typical British response to a little bit of adverse weather i.e. “Our whole country grinds to a halt.”(© The Daily Mail). In countries that have regular disastrous flooding, like India, they prepare for these eventualities by investing in equine snorkels and flippers. So even if the going is heavy in places, and twenty feet under in others, they can still carry out a five-furlong sprint/breaststroke.
Still, I suppose we should have prepared ourselves for the worst, as the racecourse lays on a piece of ancient land called ‘The Knavesmire’. There’s a clue in the name, i.e. the ‘mire’ bit. In hindsight it was a bit of a daft place to build a racecourse in the first place, unless they’d started out racing turtles.
York is very prone to flooding. This is mostly due to the River Ouse oozing a bit too much, as it did on that occasion. They reckoned that the abandoning of that 2008 meeting cost the city around £5m. This was because the 75,000 race-goers would have forked-out for hotel rooms charging five times what they normally do, and they’d also have drunk the place dry.
There was some helpful emergency advice offered in the local press by one of York’s tourist staff. He suggested that the racegoers visit his museum instead, to see their fine collection of ‘Viking swords, Roman sculptures and ancient jewels.’
Unfortunately my friend and I had being looking forward to the ‘drinking the place dry’ bit, so the prospect of staring at cabinets full of rusting weaponry, headless statues and medieval bling didn’t really appeal to our hedonistic desires. So we went to Spurn Point nature reserve instead…and who says anarchy is dead?
Ten years later and I was back in York for racing last weekend. I’m pleased to report that the course has now dried out, unlike me. Unfortunately my friend is no longer with us, so this was a celebration of his memory. Indeed, I think he would have greatly appreciated us enjoying a gloriously sunny afternoon of gambling, drinking and feasting on fatted calves from the lofty vantage point of a hospitality box.
Someone was certainly smiling down on our day because, whilst we were basking in tropical temperatures, down in London they experienced the mother of all monsoon thunderstorms with widespread flooding and 20,000 lightning strikes battering the city. I returned home the next day to find my two shell-shocked cats floating around the garden in an upturned garden umbrella.
On Friday I intend to go to watch the Oaks at Epsom for a considerably less hospitable day on The Downs with some warm sandwiches, a couple of scotch eggs and a four-pack of Lidl’s finest lager.
However, the storms are still lingering down here. So, my greatly missed friend, if you are watching that race meeting from on high can you pull some strings again and keep the going good? And whilst you’re there, if you happen to have any influence on the result of the big race could you bring it to bear on the 8/1 shot ‘Forever Together’….and it would be quite apt too.
For more unreliable travel guides to this sceptered isle click here.