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Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:34 pm


Edition number nine is a hybrid of thoroughbred and thorough sporting history! After a few weeks rest/rehabilitation, the blinkers are back on though I’m not entirely sure they’re worked because this article is a little off track....It’s football related and yet it’s not! Four days in Ayrshire and a visit to Hampden Park amongst other venues, opened my sporting horizons. From the antiquated Somerset Park, the home of Ayr United to quick glimpses of St Mirren & Rangers then on to Hampden Park as workers prepared for the Scottish FA Cup semifinals weekend. Ironically, both The Honest Men & The Buddies look set to win their respective divisions while Rangers go yet another season without a major trophy. Last time I was in Glasgow, Rangers were top dogs as Celtic fans protested outside Parkhead, berating the owners because the club sat in mid table mediocrity. After a brief spell at Hampden, while Celtic Park went under a face lift, the Bhoys slowly regained the initiative and judged on Sunday’s one sided derby, their supremacy doesn’t look like ending anytime soon! Back to the coast, past the opulent looking mansions and hotels, one will find the British Open golf course in Royal Troon, the tournament last held there in 2016 and won by Swede Henrik Stensson. And for good measure, we ended the day at Ayr racecourse, the home of the Scottish Grand National. The race used to be staged in the nearby town of Irvine - the name of the course unambiguous in terms of its location - Bogside! The racecourse had a chequered history where it was common for jockeys to lose their lives in an era where health & safety for the riders and the horses was nowhere near to the high standards of today. Bogside was unique... while the Glaswegian punters cheered and jeered, next door, the Nobel company produced ammunition for the armed forces. On one occasion, a horse got marooned for two days on an island that belonged to the munitions company. Having bolted, swam across two different rivers and spent the weekend in splendid isolation, the horse was picked up on the following Monday, safe and sound having passed the necessary security measures! Bogside closed in 1965 without much fanfare. Back to the future, Vicente goes for a three timer this Saturday - if he wins he will become the Scottish version of Red Rum. Parochial backers will no doubt give the rum a miss, preferring Scotland’s finest... no, not the whiskey but a pint of Bellhaven. And that leads me to a surprising sporting quiz question........

What does Billingham have in common with Northallerton, Thornaby and Durham apart from teams currently playing in division two?

Answer: They all had their own racecourse!

Now Billingham had me baffled! Where on earth did the Town have a racecourse? Thornaby was easy: Stockton - closed in 1981 - now the site of Teesside Park and home to the odd winner for a taciturn Lester Piggott (if you could understand him),but Billingham? Well it’s true - the site of the course was situated somewhere in the vicinity of Portrack and old Billingham. A century after the course closure (when Peter Martin & Steve Palmieri were wee boys), ICI works built over the land: ICI would also go on to own Bogside. The location of Northallerton’s course is a bit of a giveaway. If like me, you get the train to Northallerton and walk to Ainderby Road, the first street you come across is Racecourse Road. The lay tourist, expecting to see a course akin to Thirsk or Ripon will be wasting their time - Northallerton closed in 1880!!! Durham’s racecourse was situated alongside the river Wear and is now part of Durham Cities cricket ground & rowing club; The course closed in 1883. Other town’s that host non league clubs and extinct courses include Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland, Seaham, Sunderland and Darlington - even Hartlepool had one! People may say that most Northern League pitches are more suited to racehorses than humans these days. Then again, the majority of us have never had the pleasure of visiting Bogside. If one got stuck there like our intrepid galloper, at least one could have watched explosive entertainment... fights in the grandstand or mine production! Though neither sound particularly safe options! Northern League pitches it is then! Crook Town on Thursday night anybody?? Expect heavy going and the odd flash in the pan!! A win wouldn’t go amiss either! And back to Saturdays big race: if you fancy Vicente to win and reach the record books then 10/1 seems a fair price. Spaniard bandana wearing Fernando Vicente used to be a willy clay courter though he never won Roland Garros.... his namesake is unlikely to require headgear though as he ploughs through 4 1/2 miles on decent ground.

Sent from my iPad
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