Track Talk With Simon Rowlands - 28th January


28 January 2021

The winter weather remains a huge challenge for us. 

We lost our third successive fixture when last Friday’s meeting was abandoned due to extensive waterlogging. We had an incredible 111mm of rain in the five days prior to the day. 

These situations are no massive surprise in the heart of the winter but on top of the Covid pandemic, it is making life as a racecourse General Manager in Carmarthenshire frustrating to say the least. 

Our next meeting is on Thursday 4th February so I’m hoping for better luck with the elements in the coming ten days. There’s also racing at our sister course at Chepstow on Friday 5th February.

I was pleased to see that a £17.7m funding package, to help spectator sports severely impacted by the pandemic, has been announced by the Welsh Government. It has been designed to provide immediate financial support for spectator sports through the remainder of the winter period.

The three racecourses in Wales will share £1.2m. Support is also going to rugby union, football, cricket and ice hockey. Rugby league, netball and horseracing are also in line to benefit.  

As readers will be aware, our revenue streams from ticket sales, hospitality, catering, sponsorship and non-racings events such as conferences, wedding receptions and outdoor activities have been severely impacted so this support is hugely welcomed.

At this stage, it’s difficult to guess when spectators might return to racecourses. There is another meeting between elite sports in Wales and the Welsh Government in early March. The Cheltenham Festival takes place the same month and it is hard to imagine anyone other than the participants and possibly the owners in attendance.

Our planning for later this year continues and I’ve been thinking of various ideas to develop once spectators are allowed to return. One of them is how to embrace the history of horse racing in West Wales and play our part ensuring it is never forgotten.

I’ve already mentioned in this column my desire to remember the Anthony brothers from Carmarthenshire who as jockeys and trainers won Grand Nationals and Gold Cups in the 1920s and 1930s.

Another piece of history I think we need to recognise in some way is Tenby Racecourse which held its first fixtures in 1847 and its final meeting in 1936.  It is most famous as being the location of a betting scandal that rocked the racing world involving a horse called Oyster Maid who won an eight runner selling handicap hurdle in 1927.

I haven’t got enough space here to go through all the details but suffice to say that tens of thousands of pounds were won, which were obviously huge sums of money all those years ago.   

The story is told in Chris Pitt’s book ‘A Long Time Gone’ which details the history of racecourses around the country that have closed.

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