My rules for racing dictate that I wear a suit for summer flat meetings – linen at Goodwood, of course – while a more rural ensemble is more appropriate for the chilly winter days of National Hunt.
Needless to say, the Autumn flat season is the hardest to dress for. The summer throws up the question of blue suit, grey suit or double-breasted; but the tricky late season often flummoxes the ordinarily on-point dress of a racegoer.
However, picking an outfit for this transitional period of the racing calendar pales in comparison to the task of finding the winner of the Cambridgeshire.
This race, first run in 1839, is a one mile, one furlong mile handicap. As if plotting the various machinations of the weights were not hard enough, it is contested by 35 able equines.
The Cambridgeshire meeting, as a whole, is a delightful cherry of an afternoon: a relaxed day which, nevertheless, has a two Group One races and that impossibly fun handicap. This is particularly so when the day is compared with the more serious Autumn race weekends of the Arc and British Champions day.
Despite suffering from a bout of man flu, the salubrious winds and gentle sun revived me and kept my mind sharp.
The fast running ground was throwing up unexpected winners; the exception being the strong running Hugo Palmer-trained Best of Days, the 6-4 race favourite and backed by this old cove. A name to remember for next year’s Derby, perhaps.
The other Group One, the Chevely Park, was billed as a race for the ages: the undefeated Lady Aurelia verses the daughter of the imperishable Frankel, Queen Kindly. But never forget, dear reader, that a horse race is not a boxing match, for it involves more than two combatants. A shimmering example of this was played out on the Rowley Mile, where two wider-prices fillies battled away, while the aristocratic favourites limped lamely home.
The losers rattled in but I was satisfied. I had decided to wear a grey ‘club’ suite, a pink shirt with matching socks and finished it with my new tie. The Ferangarmo number is navy blue with the Italian designers trademark repetition of pattern, in this case prancing horses. And, as I sipped my Pimms, I felt I had hit my sartorial brief. Could I hit my betting brief and find another winner, of course I could!
Finding myself in the parade ring I met top-jockey Ryan Moore. I shook his hand, looked him in eye and reached into his soul.
“Is GM Hopkins going to win?” I telepathically asked him.
His soul returned a negative answer. I decided to back the Irish Raider Spark Plug, at 14-1. The five-year old romped home, leaving – as suspected – Mr Moore in his wake. A delicious pot was picked up from the ever-obliging bookie and I headed to the bar.
That was my final winner but not the last excitement of the day.
Again, I skulked in the parade ring and found myself shaking hands with an Italian jockey. It was, of course, Lanfranco Dettori. It was almost 20-years to the day that Dettori ran through the card at Ascot; alas the legend was not enjoying such a fruitful day.
“I’m having a terrible day. No winners. I can’t train, and now I can’t ride! I might as well walk home,” said the jovial rider whilst sucking some sort of boiled sweet.
I laughed but on the inside I cursed the bet I had just placed on Dettori’s steed, the John Gosden-trained Von Blucher. Dettori’s luckless day coupled with my notoriously poor punting would make the horse a dead cert loss.
In the event, Von Blucher, the race favourite, was produced expertly by Dettori at the furlong pole but was ultimately beaten into third by a rip-roaring drive by the Phillip Makin ridden Salateen.
I meandered towards Newmarket Town, contemplating on a marvellous day at one of the country’s premier sporting venues. The real joy came from the number who attended the event – it was full enough for a great atmosphere but, unlike the 2,000 Guineas, one could stroll freely.