On Thursday evening we went late night shopping at Tesco in Oxford to get some nice picnic items for the bank holiday day out. We spent a pleasant hour or so roaming the aisles locating goodies to pop in the hamper before heading home, preparing the sandwiches and scooting to bed ready for an early start.
Good Friday dawned and off we zoomed at 7.30 am for the short trip down the A34, through Wantage and down into The Valley of the Racehorse, arriving around 8.15am. All good so far as nothing was due to kick off at any of the stables until 8.30am. We drove aimlessly around Lambourn for a bit before deciding to park in Car Park 3 – just opposite the main arena for the afternoon’s events.
It was at this point things started to go wrong.
Turning the car into the muddy field designated Car Park 3 I thought to myself ……hmmm…..we might have some problems getting back out of here later. It was already quite boggy (no other cars had even parked at this point) and there was a steepish drop from the gate down to the parking area. Pushing my fears to the back of my mind, I advanced towards the ladies selling programmes for the day – only to be told I was going to be rushed £12 a head for entry. Oh well, seems reasonable I suppose if you ignore the fact that I had found no mention of it on the website.
£25 lighter (including the programme), we parked the car and examined the map that came with the programme. It was at this point we realised that the car park we had chosen was a fair old walk from Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, the one yard I was really keen on seeing (along with Barry Hills’ operation at Faringdon Place.) Realising it would be a big story to try and move the car now and unsure whether we were able to park elsewhere with our tickets anyway, we decided to head off on foot and enjoy the walk!
What we failed to appreciate was that Seven Barrows was actually about 4 miles away over narrow, muddy country roads from which we would have to leap every few yards on to the world’s muddiest roadside banks to avoid the cars hurtling down (we later discovered) to the large car park thoughtfully positioned right next to Henderson’s yard! To lighten the mood a little, it began to rain……..torentially and relentlessly.
As we hobbled out of Lambourn village proper onto the Wantage Road, a knight in shining armour pulled alongside and asked if we wanted a lift. Climbing gratefully into the warmth of his peugeot, I told him we were going to Nicky Henderson’s. Unfortunately he wasn’t going all the way but was kind enough to drop us at Faringdon Place en route.
We couldn’t break our journey there because, inexplicably, Barry Hills had decided he was going to have a bit of a lie in and open at 9.30am instead of 8.30am like everybody else. So, on we trudged, completing our journey just as all the people who’d had slumped in bed half the morning but had the foresight to drive instead of walk, filled Henderson’s yard to capacity and made it almost impossible to get close to a stable, let alone see a horse.
Using Mrs MYBP as a battering ram I managed to get a few photos. The rather attractive equine specimen that you can see at the top of the post is Binocular, winner of this year’s Champion Hurdle at The Festival. Quite a lively character who looked suspiciously like he was laughing at all the wet, bedraggled characters standing at the door of his box. There are some more pictures at the end of the post. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like I am going to be able to put up any video on this occasion as for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get my pc to read from the rather old fashioned mini-disc that I recorded onto. Bear with me, I may work it out and get something on here one day!
Despite the rain, which was easing off at this point, we had a nice time seeing some of the top hurdlers and jumpers in the country. Nicky Henderson has a fantastic set up there – one I’m sure most trainers would give their eye teeth for. Not sure exactly how many he has in training ( mainly because I can’t be bothered to count) but his horses in training list took up a full 4 pages of the programme!
Dreading the walk back to Lambourn I took an executive decision to call a taxi. 10 frustrating minutes and half a dozen phone calls later it appeared that not a single taxi firm in Lambourn could be bothered to answer their phones. Many thanks Ray’s and Pottinger’s taxis!
We finally headed off and were halfway back to Faringdon Place with our thumbs out when a very nice man called Hugo and his girlfriend/wife took pity and picked us up. Turns out that Hugo used to be with Brian Meehan at Manton and will be getting his trainer’s licence later in the year. Revealing that I had a small piece of a horse with Julia Fielden in Newmarket, he took my contact details and will call me when he gets his licence in the hope of snaring me into a syndicate with him. Seemed a really nice guy and I will consider what he offers very carefully – if only because he was kind enough to rescue us on a wet and windy day!
We finally made it back to the car and ate some of our picnic as the rain got heavier and heavier and heavier. Our car park was now like a quagmire and Mrs MYBP and I were soaked to the skin and caked in mud. The great british bank holiday! It appeared that people were starting to leave ( time now was around 1pm). The afternoon’s festivities were not due to start until 2pm (including a schooling session involving Tony McCoy and John Francombe which I was really looking forward to). The rain wasn’t letting up and we decided enough was enough – time to bail out and go home. Now all we had to do was navigate exiting the car park. No easy task – we had sat and watched several people fail to escape without a team of people pushing them! Luckily, as we approached the exit, a team of hardy stalwarts gathered around the car and fired us out of the gate like a cork from a bottle of champagne. Many thanks guys – we’d still be there if it weren’t for you!
So there you have it – we missed everything in the afternoon ( another good reason to not post any video today!) and were tucked up drinking coffee at my Mum’s in Wantage by 2pm.
Pity we missed the main part but it was still worth going to see the horses! Pictures below for your perusal.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the post today. Keep your eyes peeled for some really useful betting stuff over the next couple of weeks. I will also be putting up some reviews of racing/betting books that I have enjoyed recently.