Yesterday evening, we went racing at Larkhill. Set high on Salisbury Plain behind a military camp down a dirt track, a glorious evening was had by all as we watched a very full card of seven races. Lisa and I chose the horse that we thought would win each race, but didn't bet.
A strong countryside "bent" was exhibited by most of our fellow racers - tweeds, plumby English voices, dogs, and "Fight Prejudice - Fight the Ban" posters and sweatshirts all around. Picnic tables set out amongst the cars, upperclass take aways (roast pork in a bap, genuine CORNISH pasties), and the beer tent. Bouncy castles alongside army tanks. Soldiers and bowler-hatted officials. Landrovers.
Then, of course, there was the racing.
Since the races are over two and a half miles, bincoulars and a good steady leaning post were mandatory - but there were other places you could see the horses too.
Around the ring, young ladies and young gentlemen paraded the horses prior to each race while we watched the form. For some stablehands, it was a battle of wills between themself and a strong horse that really wanted to get out onto the track, for others it was a walk in the park. Having decided which horse you fancied, you could choose your oncourse bookie or visit the Tote if you preferred
Each of the bookies was stood in a row on his stand, fixing and altering his odds as bets were taken - as "Pulham Down" looked to be in good shape, but "Porlock Hill" was sweating too much too early.
And then the race itself. Although the course was long, the commentary, blared out over loudspeakers kept us informed of the few pixels we could see with our bare eyes (or the few more with our binoculars) as the ran one and a half times round the circuit, over the jumps, and finishes at (!!) the finishing line just across from the parade ground.
I even managed to get a picture of the finishing line, with the winner crossing ...
The whole thing ran like a well oiled machine; as horses completed one race and returned to their trailers, the next horses were already arriving in the ring. Chance for just a quick snack before back to watching the spectacle. As a child, watching racing on the TV I used to think that half an hour was too long a gap between races but here, on the ground, it was just right.
All in all, a great evening's racing. If you get a chance, look up your local "Point to Point"
See our share data pages
for further pictures. (written 2005-05-26, updated 2006-06-05)
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