An Al Duncan musing

This is Scottish Racing.....21st Century style!

Sunday evenings in my pre-teen years involved visits to our home of aunts and uncles on my mum's side of the family, from neighbouring villages. No accompanying cousins that might return a kicked or thrown ball, just lots of gossip and smoke-filled rooms.
But, it wasn't all bad......lots of talk of greyhounds, horse racing and '3-cross tanner doubles', and I was hooked at an early age.

My first visit to a Scottish racecourse may well have been Musselburgh in the early 70s, but by then I had seen flat racing at Newmarket, the St. Leger at Doncaster, and the Linlithgow & Stirlingshire Hunt Point-to-Point at Oatridge on Fionavon's 'National day.
From accompanying aunts and uncles to race and dog tracks, things fells into place in late teens as schoolmates and 'the boys from the pub' were equally hooked on racing. In those carefree days, journeys to Musselburgh, Kelso, Perth, Lanark (RIP), Hamilton and Ayr were pretty frequent.
The infrastructure and facilities of Scotland's racecourses in those times (70s, 80s, 90s) was, quite frankly, spartan. But then so were 'the bookies', tucked away in former village billiard rooms, and off-high street premises in towns. Which made a day at the races a joy to behold - horses, jockeys, paddocks, reduced betting tax, choice of odds. Who cared about quality of food, the lack of any wine selection, ramshackle grandstands.....not us as we travelled far and wide throughout Scotland and across the border to Newcastle and Carlisle. It was racing, horses, betting, opinions.......

Ladies Days? That's the preserve of the second day of Royal Ascot isn't it? There was hardly a woman racegoer in sight at the racetrack, bar Hamilton's Saints and Sinners night.

Fast forward several decades and the comparison between then and now at all, well 80% anyway, of the Scottish Racecourses is astonishing.
The facilities on offer at not just the flagship track of Ayr but also at Perth, Musselburgh and Hamilton are of a very high standard and regularly cater for near capacity crowds on a regular basis. I've often been struck by such thoughts of 'then' and 'now' in recent seasons at Musselburgh's New Year meeting where the course executive use the expanse of the racecourse to ensure comfortable viewing, and access to bars and eateries is optimised for a large crowd. I can even forgive them having 'Thommo' act as an unnecessary MC.........

And all this has opened up racegoing as an avenue of pleasure to be enjoyed by all sexes - male, female, etc.

And Ladies Days!!!
Every racecourse throughout the UK has at least one, and Scotland does not lag behind one bit. In recent years, Musselburgh's mid June Ladies Day fixture has been a sell-out (circa 10,000) months in advance, with Scotland's Jumps-only venues planning such events to coincide with new late Spring or Summer fixtures.
Of course, to an old fogey such as I, Ladies Day events are to be avoided at all's just not horse racing, is it? Except.......

A week past Saturday, I had the most wonderful day and evening at Hamilton Park racecourse. With a group of fellow owners from Dodlands, a hospitality table was booked, lunch in the afternoon, champagne on ice, trackside marquee, evening racing, short walk to beautiful tree-lined paddock, excellent viewing from gently sloping terrace. It was bliss.
And the facilities.......lots of marquees, choices of excellent food, well stocked bars, efficient and very friendly staff.
Ladies Day entertainment provided, all this included in the admission price, with pre-racing live music, fashion parades, shopping area, after-racing music, dancing and lots, lots more!

What made the whole day was the gentlemen and ladies who made up the huge crowd. 95% of whom were 'wedding-day' attired - suits and ties for men & top quality finery for women. It was a real pleasure to be there, and so what if the paddock was sparsely populated by comparison......suited me!

So, whether there is a themed day put on at the track, or a standard mid-week fixture, Scottish Racing has aimed high to ensure win, lose or draw that A Day At The Races is first class entertainment, held in a top quality environment, where the management care about what's on offer.
A recent survey is quoted as stating that Racing has added over £300 million to the Scottish Economy (three times that of the Scottish Fishing Industry), and with such hard work, good management and investment over the last couple of decades, that level of success is richly deserved.

There is no better time to go racing in Scotland - come Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

The revellers
The Revelers - a few owners from Dodlands Steading enjoying Ladies Day

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