Back To The Races!

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Horse racing has been a life-line for many throughout the pandemic – a distraction from the horror of Coronavirus, entertainment for those long lockdown days and, crucially, interaction with others through social media.

The pandemic took away the opportunity to go to the racecourses to see friends and racehorses in person. The TV just had to do. But now, crowds are allowed back on course.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was over the moon to be back on the racecourse this Tuesday at my beloved Leicester. It is a track that holds so many brilliant memories of times picnicking with my grandparents and when I did my first ever interview in February of 2018.

The weather did not disappoint. It was probably the warmest I’ve ever been on a racecourse with the sun never going behind a cloud. There were people in shorts and t-shirts, which was bizarre to see – but we are in June after all. Leicester struggled before the pandemic with abandoning meetings due to the adverse weather conditions so it was great to see a good crowd this raceday.

Overnight between Monday and Tuesday, the ground-staff put on 2mm – 3mm of water onto the track to help it after racing on Monday. The ground was good to firm but seemed to be beautiful flat racing ground. The staff at Leicester Racecourse did a great job to make us feel safe. We had to wear masks when going indoors, which was completely fair. My only issue was that there weren’t racecards in book format, just an A3 page with the cards on – it wasn’t a big deal though!

Ernie’s Valentine winning under Hollie Doyle.

The first race was a competitive six runner novice stakes and all of these two-year-olds were having their first raceday experience. Over five furlongs, it was fast and furious with Mr Mccann making the running in the red colours owned by some Liverpool football players. He couldn’t quite hold on as Ernie’s Valentine and Wings Of War passed him in the closing stages. Hollie Doyle gave Ernie’s Valentine a great ride to win as he was very edgy and it took a while to coax him into the stalls. This half-brother to Montatham looks to have a big future and you could say the same for Wings Of War and Mr Mccann.

Dhabab

More experienced two year olds were on show for the next race on the card but it was a horse having his first day out at the races who won – Dhabab for Rab Havlin and John Gosden. He was green but managed to stay on really well. The winning margin was two lengths and the second placed horse was Sweeping, who shaped really nicely on his debut. Triple Times, a relation of Cape Byron and Ostilio, ran well to finish third.

Muhalhel

A William Haggas runner in a claiming race is a rare occurrence so there was no shock that Muhalhel, under Tom Marquand, was a strong winner at odds of 4/7. He was claimed out of the race for £10,000 by Alice Haynes but there was plenty of interest in him. It looks like his new team will have a lot of fun. Accrington Stanley came second and they both pulled eight lengths clear of the third. He should be in the winner’s enclosure too if the handicapper is kind.

My hypothetical “Ride Of The Day” Award goes to Dougie Costello for his ride on Croeso Cymraeg. This son of Dick Turpin went very close to winning over track and trip fifteen days ago and, when they jumped out of the stalls, it looked like another defeat was on the cards. He was a good few lengths detached but Costello sneaked through the other horses in the closing stages and, when a gap opened for him, he went straight through it and won by a head. Croeso Cymraeg is definitely not the easiest as he was walked to post by his groom.

Classy Dame

Tom Marquand picked up another winner on the day with Classy Dame for the Eddery team. Even though she was 18/1, she skipped clear in the last one hundred yards and managed to put one and a half lengths between her and her rivals. These fillies sired by Belardo can do no wrong at the minute! In second place was The Thunderer, who was a bit of a monkey for his handler before the race but put up a good performance.

Spirit Of Bermuda
Strung Out Like The Washing.

It was the Tom Marquand show yet again when Spirit Of Bermuda won for the William Haggas team, giving them a double on the day, in the 4:15 contest. She managed to be one length ahead by the furlong pole and, when she flashed by the winning post, she was nearly two lengths in front. There were large gaps between the fillies in the race was they crossed the line. She seems a quirky filly after almost refusing to race last time but everything came together today.

Night Of Romance (red) and Persaria before finishing first and third respectively.

My mum was especially pleased with the result of the final race as her pick Night Of Romance won. It was the filly’s first ever win and she did it in comfortable and convincing fashion. Pierre-Louis Jamin now has a 22% strike rate (two wins from nine rides) at Leicester. He is a very talented jockey and one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

It was amazing to be back at the racecourse and I think it is hugely important that we support our local racecourses as the world starts opening up again. Going racing is the best day out!

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