Saturday 28 January 2012

Go Racing at Wolverhampton Racecourse

Wolverhampton racecourse, situated on the outskirts of the city at Dunstall Park, is an ideal venue for an afternoon or evening's all-weather horse racing.

Wolverhampton's Dunstall Park

Situated in the heart of England, Wolverhampton is now the busiest racecourse in the UK, currently staging approximately 90 race meetings every year. 

Bounded on one side by the Stafford and Worcester canal and on another by the main line railway from Shrewsbury, along with the Birmingham Canal, it may seem that Dunstall Park has little to recommend it, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The area boasts excellent transport links, being quite close to the M6 and M54 motorways. Located north of the city centre, the course is to be found just off the A449 dual carriageway, where there are numerous brown road signs giving final directions to the track.

As well as a racing venue, the site also houses a conference & exhibition centre, a panoramic restaurant and a hotel.

Racecourse History

There is a history of horse racing taking place at locations in Wolverhampton, going back as far as 1887. Dunstall Park racecourse was traditionally a mixed racing venue, providing both flat and National Hunt cards on turf, but this all changed in 1993 when the course underwent a complete redevelopment and was transformed into the first all-weather, floodlit track in Great Britain. The turf course remained in place however, but was only used sparingly with just a few jumping meetings each year.

Initially, a Fibresand track similar to that at Southwell racecourse was installed, but in 2004, this was replaced by a Polytrack surface, along with refurbishments to some of the other facilities. Since that time, the course has only staged all-weather, flat racing.

Racing Information

The course is left handed (anti-clockwise), oval shaped, approximately one mile in overall length with chutes for 6 and 7 furlong starts. It is the most similar in proportion of any of the British courses to tracks found in the United States. Nimble, handy types of horse seem to go well here and it is generally considered that there is no draw bias at Dunstall Park.

Leading UK trainers such as Sir Mark Prescott, Mark Johnston and Barry Hills often have runners here and are worth following. Top jockeys on the course are all-weather specialist Neil Callan and Jamie Spencer. It is also worth keeping an eye on Frankie Dettori whenever he visits the course as he has an impressive winner-to-runner strike ratio.

Wolverhampton Racecourse Trivia

Not only does it hold the distinction of being the first floodlit racecourse (now joined by Kempton Park), but Wolverhampton was also the first course in England to stage a Saturday evening meeting, back in 1962.

Sir Gordon Richards, often thought of as the world greatest jockey, originated from the local region and in his heyday, rarely used to miss a meeting at the track. In the period from the end of end of World War II, until his retirement in 1954, he was the leading rider at the course.

In reality, Wolverhampton Racecourse will never provide top quality, pattern racing, but if you are looking for an excellent afternoon or evenings sport, in comfortable surroundings with superb facilities, then Dunstall Park is very hard to beat.

Course Contact Details

Wolverhampton Racecourse, Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton WV6 0PE
Telephone 01902-421421

Friday 27 January 2012

Return of the Football Ground Histories

You may remember, about a year or so ago, I wrote a series of articles outlining the history of many of our English football clubs ground histories. These not only concentrated on where the clubs contest their matches today, but also the previous grounds where they played and interesting stories attached to these venues.
Aston Villa's "Villa Park" from 1907

I have recently started researching a new series of articles, covering clubs that were not featured in the previous set. Hopefully these will be published soon and please watch this space for details.
The "Nest" of Norwich City's (a predecessor to Carrow Road)
In the meantime, should you have missed them last time around, please click here for a link to the previous works (along with one or two other football related articles).
Sunderland's "Roker Park" from 1976
Should you have a suggestion for a club’s grounds history you would like to see, please feel free to drop me an email at

Thursday 26 January 2012

A First Horse Racing Experience

My friend Chris wanted to go racing. He had never been before and had been asking me if he could come along for a while, so we set off bright and early one morning, en route to Lingfield Park.
Lovely, Leafy, Lingfield Park
Upon arrival I made my way to the nearest Tote window and set about filling out my Placepot bet. Chris wondered what I was doing, so I spent the next few minutes explaining to him how the bet worked and how to fill the slip out. He then started choosing a list of horses with names he liked and entered the numbers onto a ticket of his own.

The afternoon passed by and at the end of the last race, I saw him checking his ticket. “I think I’ve won!” he said, with a hopeful look on his face.
“Let me check!” I replied, taking his ticket and going through his selections one by one. He was right. The dividend was declared and Chris made his way to the Tote booth to collect his £210. I stood on the spot in a state of shock, not believing what I had just witnessed and bemoaning what I considered to be a grand slice of beginners luck.

A week later, the phone rang, it was Chris wanting to come racing again. We again decided to go to Lingfield and unbelievably the same thing happened. It was only £80 this time, but he had decided that this was his way to wealth and fortune. I tried to bring him back down to earth by explaining how lucky he had been, but he was utterly convinced of it and wouldn’t take any notice of me.

Our next trip was to Plumpton and this time I watched over his shoulder as he made his selections, copying them onto my slip. I had decided that if he was going to win then so was I. The first race came and our horse got in the frame, and the 2nd, then the 3rd, 4th and 5th. It was beyond belief, he was doing it again!
Jumping a fence at Plumpton
Both of us were on the favourite in the last race and after jumping the penultimate fence, he was cruising about 5 lengths ahead of the field. Up to the last and by this time I was starting to dream of £ signs and planning how to spend my winnings. He took off and in what seemed liked slow-motion, promptly ploughed straight through the middle of the fence, depositing his jockey on the turf. The dream crashed to earth just as quickly as the horse had done.

Chris was crestfallen, as was I. 

He never asked to come racing again!

 Mike Godfrey - Article originally published on (February 2010).

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Growing up with The Big Match on TV

In this “teenies” decade of the 21st century, I don’t think we realise quite how lucky we are TV football wise. 

Tune into Sky Sports most nights of the week and you will find a live match being broadcast. At weekends there is generally a plethora of big games, with 2 or 3 shown live both on Saturday and the same again a day later. 

In fact, if you know where to look, it’s not difficult to find internet coverage of any Premier League game you may wish to see at any time. But back in the day, it was somewhat different to say the least.

In the sixties, seventies and eighties, live football on TV was generally confined to the FA Cup Final, the occasional Home International Match (often England v Scotland) and of course the World Cup Finals once every 4 years (whether we qualified or not). 

That is not to say there was no football at all. The BBC’s Match of the Day has broadcast Football League highlights for donkey’s years on a Saturday night, but my favourite was always Brian Moore introducing the Big Match on ITV on a Sunday afternoon. 

The Big Match Opening Titles

As I was coming towards my own teenage years, I was rarely allowed to stay up and watch the football on a Saturday night, so my footie fix had to be on the Sunday. 

This wasn’t particularly easy either, as my parents insisted that I went to Sunday school at the local church and, as the meeting ended half-way through the broadcast, it normally meant an almighty (whoops, sorry for that slip-up God!) rush to get out of the door and sprint the half mile home in record time, hopefully to catch the end of the programme. 

Eventually my parents saw sense and realised it was a total lost cause (or more to the point, I was) and let me call time on the weekly religious interlude and any dreams they had of an ecclesiastical career for me finally fell on stony ground.

Jimmy Hill
I used to love watching the Big Match, introduced every week by Brian Moore, with initially (before he defected to MOTD) Jimmy Hill’s match analysis. At that time, I was totally fascinated by JH’s beard (or more to the point his chin). “Could give Brucie a run for his money”, my Dad used to say with a grin on his face. I was certain he was right, whoever Brucie might be.

The late, great Brian Moore
I thought Brian Moore had the best job in the world. To be able to watch the top matches, tell everyone what was going on, go on the telly and get paid for it was a dream for the likes of a snotty nosed little kid like me, staring at an old black and white TV with his eyes out on stalks and his head way up in the clouds.

The only downside was that, as I lived in an area covered by London Weekend TV, the main match was nearly always a game from the capital. This meant that my beloved West Bromwich Albion hardly ever featured until very brief highlights were shown of games covered by other ITV regions. If WBA had played at home to a London club and it had been covered by ATV, then it was likely to be shown (it was never very easy supporting a club based 150 miles from your home). 

The Big Match was broadcast from 1968 until 1983, primarily on a Sunday afternoon, but in later years moved to Saturday evenings. Click here to go to a site dedicated to the programme, with listings of all featured matches over the years.
ATV's Hugh Johns

Did you grow up watching the Big Match and MOTD on TV? Which one did you prefer? 

Who was your favourite commentator? Maybe it was Kenneth Wolstenholme, John Motson, Barry Davies, Hugh Johns, David Coleman or Brian Moore?

The Big Match was one of the highlights of my week – sadly in this modern era, I can’t say the same about the numerous live matches that now adorn our screens.

Friday 20 January 2012

Biggleswade United - Crossbar Challenge

You may have seen the crossbar challenge feature on Sky Sports "Soccer AM" programme on a Saturday morning. 

You know the one - when a squad of Premier League or Football League players, including willing coaching staff and managers, are filmed, one-by-one, introducing themselves and attempting to hit the crossbar of the goal from the halfway line. 

Well here is the Crossbar Challenge to end them all, the Biggleswade United Crossbar Challenge.

Will anyone be able to manage to hit the bar?
Will they manage to stay on their feet when taking their kicks?

Click below to watch the whole sorry story.....

For more information about the Mighty Biggleswade United, please go to

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Dalziel and Pascoe Author Dies

The sad news somehow escaped me that one of my favourite authors, namely Reginald Hill, passed away last week after suffering from a brain tumour at the age of 75.

Born in West Hartlepool, County Durham in 1936,  Hill will be best remembered for being the writer of over 20 Dalziel and Pascoe novels, which were later to become household names with the popular BBC TV adaptation of that name, starring Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan. He also wrote 30 other novels including a series of 5 about a fictional Luton based private eye by the name of Joe Sixsmith.

He also wrote under the pseudonyms of Patrick Ruell, Dick Morland, and Charles Underhill and was also a winner of the Crime Writer's Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement in 1995.

Even though many of his works were serious crime novels, there was always that element of subtle humour and jokes contained within. He also had an uncanny knack to weave a plot, but not base it totally around a singular main character, both elements of which endeared me to his writing.

It is believed that a final Dalziel and Pascoe novel will be released posthumously in 2013. He and his writing will be sadly missed.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Tatty's Nags to Notice - Monday 16th January 2012

Jumping at Plumpton and all-weather racing at Wolverhampton give us our entertainment for the day.

Plumpton has never been one of my faves ever since the day, a few years back, when I had picked 5 placed horses in a placepot and my choice in the last was cruising towards the last fence, about 3 lengths clear of the field. When jumping, it promptly made a complete hash of the fence, sending its jockey sprawling on the the turf. I’ve never been overly keen on the place since.
Plumpton Racecourse back in 1985

3 trainers who have a decent record here are Alan King, Nick Gifford and Caroline Keevil. The latterly mentioned Ms Keevil trains at Motcombe, near Shaftesbury in Dorset and it is well worth having a look at the her stables website at

The stable has 2 entries on the card with Blue Lovell tackling the 3 ¼ mile h’cap chase and Bobs Present in the Novice Hurdle. Both on the face of it look out of their depth, but they are well worth watching to see if they can spring a surprise.

Alan King has a couple of runners and the one I prefer is HENRY SAN in the 1.10 This will be his 3rd run over the timber after showing previous promise on the level. He ran well at Folkestone a month ago, but was never able to keep up with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Double Ross who has since not been disgraced running at class 1 level at Newbury on New Years Eve. 

Tatty’s Nags to Notice
1.10 Henry San
3.40 Sir Winston
2.55 Dicky Mint
3.25 Warneford
4.25 Miss Astragal

Thursday 12 January 2012

Tatty's Nags to Notice - Friday 13th January 2012

For Friday, we have a meeting at my local (and possible favourite NH) course, namely Huntingdon. I previously wrote an article extolling the virtues of racing at Huntingdon, please click on the following link to read:

With my fascination for the interesting runner shall we say, I notice that trainer Jeremy Scott, based at Brompton Regis in Somerset, brings just one mare to the course and she runs in the 3.20 event. DREAMBROOK LADY has been running quite well over the last couple of months, just missing the frame at both Hereford and Taunton. Moving up into handicap company for the first time, I believe she has been allocated a fair mark of 87. The yielding ground should not cause her any problems and the stable is in decent form to boot. In my opinion, she is well worth consideration. 

  • DREAMBROOK LADY Huntingdon 3.20
 Lastly, BEWARE – today is Friday 13th – BET AT YOUR PERIL!!!

Tatty's Nags to Notice - Thursday 12th January 2012

Jumping at Catterick and Fontwell and all-weather flat fixtures at Southwell and Kempton are the order of the day.

Over the timber at Fontwell, we have an interesting runner in the 3.05 Off the track since March 2010, HONOUR HIGH has shown some decent form in far higher grade events than this and also at this track. Lady Herries doesn’t have too many runners at Fontwell, but she has a reasonably good record when coming here. I’m not saying he will win, but is well worth a look. 
Fontwell Park - Notice the figure of 8 chase course
The stable also has EASTER FAYRE running in the bumper at 4.05 I think she may need the run, but don’t discount her chances totally as she has found the frame in similar events last summer.
The Grandstand at Catterick
Brian Ellison has a decent strike rate when taking National Hunt runners to Catterick and HAKUNA MATATA has his debut run over the timber in the 1.45 When running on the level, he showed some signs of talent, especially when winning in desperate ground at Newcastle. On offer at time of writing at 8’s, it may be worth keeping an eye on the market.

                      Nags to Notice
  • HAKUNA MATATA Catterick 1.45
  • HONOUR HIGH Fontwell 3.05
  • EASTER FAYRE Fontwell 4.05

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Tatty's Racing Thoughts - Wednesday 11th January 2012

Because of going to the football last night, today's nags to notice are a little late being posted.

Have a look at these, they make give some entertainment in running.

  • 2.50 Arctic Actress
  • 3.25 Azulada Bay
Ffos Las
  • 3.35 Paradise Expected
  • 3.10 Storm Breaker
  • 6.15 Meia Noite