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The Charm of Cartmel

Jan Green recommends a day’s racing at one of Britain’s most delightful courses

Searching for a ‘wow’ factor to accompany your summer racing comes to a full-stop with the addition of an emphatic exclamation mark when Cartmel racecourse is considered.

Opportunities to visit the picturesque location are limited to the months of May, July and August each year enabling racing to take place when the English Lake District is clothed in summery finery – presenting a green and pleasant backdrop to the action on course.

Charming and convivial Cartmel welcomes visitors to join in the long-established social tradition of ‘car-booting’ as an ideal accompaniment to an afternoon of sport. Bring your picnic and set out your deckchairs to enjoy a sociable and leisurely afternoon in this unique location. During the long summer evenings racegoers linger over late afternoon tea or fire up the barbeque and watch the sun sink over the mountains to enjoy the spectacular setting before reluctantly departing as twilight gathers.

Adding to the buzz of racing atmosphere are the fairground rides and stands selling all manner of goods. Buy a Westmoreland Gazette and watch the world go by as you enjoy complimentary refreshments, courtesy of the local newspaper and soak up the convivial setting during a break between races.

Arrive early and wander into the delightful village of Cartmel where racegoers stroll through the narrow streets, feed the resident ducks swimming in the brook that flows through the heart of Cartmel.

The local hostelries serve an outdoor barbeque and the streets are filled with the atmosphere of anticipation prior to the off! Browsing through the individual shops is a delight with unexpected items to tempt. Meandering back to the course a visit to the Village Shop to purchase Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding is on the short-list and creates a mouth watering souvenir to enjoy as a reminder of your visit and will beckon you to make a repeat journey.

For those with a penchant for quiz questions, Cartmel has the longest run-in amongst UK racecourses at four-furlongs and is officially described as a 1m 1f oval course, almost flat with some undulations.

There has been racing at Carmel since 1856 though archives show that the monks living at the nearby priory organised mule racing as a form of entertainment since the mid-fifteenth century.

Despite its idyllic setting Cartmel has had its share of sticky moments. One of the most famous racing coups was set up at Cartmel on August Bank Holiday Monday in 1974. The horse in question, Gay Future, was declared by his permit trainer Anthony Collins to run in a novice hurdle. Two other horses from the same stable, Opera Cloak and Ankerwyke were also entered in races at other courses on the same day. The three horses were backed in doubles; featuring Gay Future before the other two horses were withdrawn leaving all the bets riding on Gay Future.

Soap suds were rubbed into Gay Future to give the appearance of sweating and to create a negative impression for on-course punters. Ridden by Tim Jones the partnership duly hacked up by 15-lengths at a generous price of 10-1. An investigation followed and connections were convicted of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.

Create your own coup this summer to take part in the social gathering that is generated at every Cartmel race meeting!

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