Folkestone: The Slow, Agonising Death of a Racecourse

Folkestone: The Slow, Agonising Death of a Racecourse Folkestone Racecourse, in the village of Westenhanger, about eight miles west of Folkestone town centre, closed on Tuesday, December 18, 2012, just three days after Hereford Racecourse – also operated by Arena Racing Company (ARC) – suffered the same fate. Notwithstanding the debacle of Great Leighs Racecourse, which had its licence revoked less than a year after opening, in 2009, they were the first racecourses to close since Stockton Racecourse, a.k.a. Teesside Park, in 1981.

At the time, the closure of Hereford was billed as ‘permanent’ and that of Folkestone ‘temporary’, subject to negotiations with Folkestone and Hythe District Council, formerly Shepway District Council, regarding planning permission for houses which would, a spokesman for ARC said, fund the redevelopment of the track and facilities. However, four years after closing its doors, supposedly for the last time, Hereford fully reopened, much to the delight of local trainers and permit holders.

Folkestone, though, remains closed; a dilapidated, unkempt shadow of its former self. A draft plan for 820 houses, submitted to the planning inspectorate in 2013, was withdrawn after initial public hearings, leading Shepway District Council to abandon any provisions for the racecourse. That was, of course, until the Council purchased nearby Otterpool Manor Farm in nearby Sellinge, for a reported £5.2 million, and subsequently announced plans for ‘Otterpool Park’, a ‘garden town’ covering 700 hectares, including the land occupied by Folkestone Racecourse, with up to 12,000 new houses.

That’s life, you might say, with some justification. After all, Teesside Park is now a shopping centre. What is harder to swallow, though, is the fact that Otterpool Manor Farm was bought as designated agricultural land and Shepway District Council said, in as many words, that it would ‘not be developed’. Nevertheless, the Council has already compulsory purchased hundreds of acres of arable land to make way for a secondary school, so what was the only racecourse in Kent looks gone forever.

Emotional Mastery: Don’t Let Your Heart Rule Your Head

Emotional Mastery: Don’t Let Your Heart Rule Your Head Acclaimed Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, ‘A real gentleman, even if he loses everything he owns, must show no emotion.’ A ‘real’ horse racing punter, on the other hand, should never be in a position to lose everything he owns and is free to show any emotion he feels, provided that emotion doesn’t interfere with his betting activity.


Let’s start with never being in a position to lose everything you own. If you’re thinking about betting seriously on horse racing, you must acknowledge that losing runs are inevitable. You must also acknowledge that you are ultimately responsible for your own actions. No-one is forcing you to bet, so it’s up to you to set aside an adequate sum of money, known as a betting bank or betting tank, which you can lose without compromising your quality of life in any way.


Even if you experience a sequence of unfavourable results, the worst that can happen is that you lose your entire betting bank and have to start all over again.


Now let’s consider emotion and how it affects your betting decisions. Another important function of a betting bank is to detach you, emotionally, from the money you bet on horse racing. If you bet with money that you’ve borrowed, or that’s earmarked for paying bills, losing takes on a great deal more significance, emotionally, than if you bet with money set aside exclusively for the purpose. This emotional attachment can lead to feelings of anger, disappointment and resentment, none of which are conducive to your psychological and physical well-being.


Furthermore, such negative feelings are likely to affect your ability to think clearly when it comes to placing your next bet. If your judgement is clouded by desperation, or fear, you’re much more likely to make rash decisions than if you think of every bet you place as a cold, calculated business transaction. Logic has been described as the language of the conscious mind and emotion as the language of the subconscious mind; consistently profitable betting on horse racing relies on the former, not the latter.


It has been suggested that the best way of avoiding emotional attachment to the money you bet on horse racing is to avoid watching the race(s) on which you bet altogether. As a serious punter, who’s spent thousands of hours watching horse racing, on and off course, I can see how this might work to avoid feelings of betrayal or frustration over ‘unlucky’ losers but, if you’re still emotionally attached to the money with which you bet, I frankly don’t see what difference it makes.


In fact, one of the most satisfying aspects of betting on horse racing, apart from financial gain, is seeing opinions formed on paper translated into events in the real world. If you don’t watch the races of which you bet, you’re denying yourself this satisfaction, not to mention the opportunity to draw your own conclusions from watching a race first-hand.

The important point is that, as far as any future betting activity is concerned, you remain indifferent to any individual result, favourable or unfavourable. A degree of emotional attachment to horses and horse racing is what elevates champion thoroughbreds to more than just numbers on a race card and, along with the ‘glorious uncertainty’ of the racing game, makes the sport as enjoyable and exciting as it is.


However, euphoria after a win can be just as dangerous as despair after a loss. If you back a winner, you’ll naturally be happier than if you back a loser but, either way, you shouldn’t attribute any individual result to your astuteness or lack of it. Try to think of all results as neutral, rather than positive or negative, as far as your skill, judgement and self-worth are concerned. In other words, if no individual result censures or endorses these qualities you’ll find it easy to focus on your next bet, rather than your last one, and bet consistently, however things are going.

Too Much, Too Young: How to Profit from Two-year-old Races

Too Much, Too Young: How to Profit from Two-year-old Races Two-year-old or juvenile races, especially those staged early in the season, tend to feature unraced or lightly-raced horses, about which the betting public knows very little. Typically, the only useful information available is the pedigree of the horse in question, its purchase price, the weight it is due to carry, its trainer, its jockey, its current or likely odds and, if the horse has raced, limited form.

However, the pedigree of a young horse can be informative with regard to distance and going preferences and precocity, or otherwise, while its purchase price, although hardly definitive, is usually a fairly reliable guide to its potential. Some sires are well-known as sources of precocious, speedy youngsters and it’s also worth remembering that, logically, a two-year-old foaled in the early months of the year will be more mature, physically, than one born later.

Similarly, some trainers, including Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston, are renowned for their strong record with juveniles, early-season or otherwise, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their runners, especially if the subject of market support. Indeed, if you’re considering an unraced two-year-old, unless you’re privy to ‘inside’ information, which isn’t in the public domain, the betting market may be your only guide to its chances.

If a two-year-old has already raced, speed ratings, such as Topspeed ratings in the Racing Post, can help you to identify a potentially smart youngster before the level of its ability becomes public knowledge. If an inexpensive juvenile with unfashionable connections records a persuasive speed rating, don’t be afraid to back it against newcomers from major yards, who’ll need to be above-average ability, and forward enough, to beat it. Likewise, an expensive juvenile, with powerful connections, may win by a wide margin on its racecourse debut, in a slow time, but still be ‘hyped’ out of all proportion on its next start.