Richard Hoiles: Magic memories of one of racing's most momentous days

By Richard Hoiles@RichardHoiles
Tue 4 Sep 2018

A donated job lot of old race cards provided me with a trip down memory lane this week.

I always find my best intentions of sorting through them quickly, side tracked by the appearance of a name from the past that would probably mean little to all bar a few, or the discovery of a gem such as the day at Windsor when Niche and Lyric Fantasy made their debuts in different races.

As well as the specific cards there are also a few trends which are easily forgotten. Firstly, the number of tracks that used to hold trials for the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas.

I would have remembered Salisbury because it used to have TV coverage, but I would have been hard pressed to include Thirsk on the list and certainly not Ascot.

The trials at Ascot were held as part of what it also now a far rarer phenomenon, a mixed card of Flat and Jumping.

Only Haydock in the UK still stage a mixed card after the Sandown jumps season finale was changed to an all jumping card a few years ago.

So the gem in this batch was a psychedelic pink and yellow offering from 1977 featuring the Heinz Steeplechase, an appropriate sponsor of a card full of variety, which featured a future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in Midnight Court in the novices’ handicap chase, followed 35 minutes later by that season’s dual Derby and King George winner The Minstrel in the 2,000 Guineas trial.

 The colourful Ascot racecard from April 2, 1977. It cost just 10p
The colourful Ascot racecard from April 2, 1977. It cost just 10p

The ground was so soft that day that starting stalls could not be used, which put paid to the chances of Cloonlara in the 1,000 Guineas trial later that afternoon and caused a much publicised disagreement between Lester Piggott and the starter.

She had been the previous season’s highest rated juvenile filly but did not go on at three, being beaten favourite in the Guineas itself next start.

Ascot’s card alone would have been enough to etch the date in racing history yet it was completely overshadowed by the small matter that it was the day that Red Rum won his third Grand National at Aintree!

Saturday April 2nd, 1977: surely one of the most momentous race days in history.

After that build up the selections will probably prove something of an anti climax but here goes:

4.55 Leicester: Invincible Peace

These colours have long been associated with horses that improve going handicapping, especially for Harry Dunlop’s late father John, so it will be interesting to see if Invincible Peace who has seemingly been brought along with handicaps in mind can oblige. He will stay further but a mark of just 58 looks a workable starting point.

5.45 Kempton: Rajman

Shaped much better on his handicap debut over 7f here last time. He showed pace in maidens without having the ability to figure at the business end but clearly things look like being different in Nurseries.

7.15 Kempton: Exeat

Good to see the old Reference Point colours of the Cliveden Stud also still making the odd appearance and Exeat looks to have a decent chance of carrying them to victory here. Fourth over course and distance last time, she is well drawn for her prominent racing style.

8.15 Kempton: Kasbah

Hasn’t rocked for a while but the yard is in good form and Jason Watson’s very handy 3lb allowance could see him come out on top in this 6f clash.

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