How low can we go?


Racing wouldn’t be racing without a great deal of muttering, and some shouting, while we stab a few backs, smiling sweetly as we do so. That’s what makes life interesting I suppose.

This time it began when – shock and horror – the Borrowdale Park Final Fields were published. Seven races with only 32 runners – how low can we go? I even had to quit hermit crab mode and go out and speak to people, to find out what went on. Now, having run the full gamut of rage, grief, despair and depression, I have returned to normal. It is a case of so what… we are going to race… think of half full rather than half empty glasses… and, hopefully, this will not occur again.

It couldn’t happen… but it did. Having entered a number of runners for Saturday’s race meeting, Penny Fisher scratched all of them on Monday because of misgivings about the going, coupled with continuing frustration about the state of the training track. Penny was not trying to be difficult, “simply putting her horses first”, something she, as a trainer, is absolutely entitled to do. Owners were aware when their horses were nominated that they would be scratched if Penny decided conditions had not improved sufficiently.

Quite apart from the fact that Penny doesn’t believe in using a race as a training gallop, she believes “the course has not had enough time to recover from the delayed scarification, there is insufficient regrowth, and it is very hard.”

Bridget Stidolph and Kirk Swanson have chosen to race as they consider the condition of the course is much the same as it was in July, and we have raced, previously, with penetrometer readings of 16 and 17 at this time of year.

In 2014 at the race meeting on September 7, the reading was 16. It was 17 on September 20, 2015; 16 on September 10, 2016, and 20 on September 24, 2017. And, that said, I hope at least one decent rain is not too far away.

Unfortunately, finances have not improved during the racing break so it would not be surprising if there were some delays and maintenance hitches during this period.


However, Gary Carter, chairman of MOTA disagrees. Although MOTA is not responsible for the maintenance of the racecourse, he and deputy MOTA chairman, Scott Buchan, have over the last week, in response to several queries, walked the course three times. The first time, with available trainers, on August 29, then on September 1, and on September 4.

He said: “Scott took the time to meet with both groundsmen on course on September 4 and has covered in depth the aspects that have caused concern. As a result, contrary to hearsay, the due process that has been followed over the last six weeks has been in accordance with common practice adhered to over the past five years –

“Scarification and course cutting occurred exactly one day after the last race meeting. It was not delayed by weeks as is being portrayed. There were no new blades provided despite being requested three weeks in advance.

“The mulch redistribution was done twice this year, as opposed to once as was done in the previous years, because both groundsmen in their opinion saw fit to get a more even spread.

“Watering of the course has been more efficiently applied this year with over 35mm of water applied per application on running areas as opposed to 25mm in previous years. This is due to Gyles Dorward and Charles Piers managing to salvage a further irrigation line that allows a 3-tiered watering system. This has been changed to lines of two being applied so that the convergence of sprayed water is concentrated more so on the area of running (this results in 35mm of water falling on central used areas than outside areas).

“The accusation that no/or less water has been applied than in the past seasons is also factually incorrect, to the contrary, more water has been applied this season than the previous five seasons. Within full Reservoir capacity over the last two weeks nearly 1.5 times more water has been applied, with the section from the pull up to the 1000m mark having a final watering from Tuesday – Friday this week.”

Mr Carter added he was “cognisant of the fact that salaries are late, that the testing times have not abated … yet “ and thanked and congratulated everyone for playing their part in keeping racing alive.


Clever Mushangwe of the MTC said he expects the course will be “fine and raceable on Saturday and in the condition it has been at all times after the break. Our regards go to Mr Dorward who has assisted with the course maintenance, giving his time and resources.

“I am aware that the sand tracks were not furnished with more sand during the break due to lack of finances and thus a cause of concern to Mrs Fisher which led to her withdrawing her horses.”

Mr Mushangwe said the MTC would supply up to date penetrometer readings when the current irrigation cycle was completed.


When all is said and done I can’t help wondering if this race meeting would have been cancelled or postponed if it were not the AFZ Charity race day. Perhaps, later, we can all start quarrelling about whether charity should begin at home when very difficult circumstances prevail.

Keep those glasses full on Saturday, pray everyone gets home safe and sound, and enjoy the start of our new racing season.

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