Perth is final piece in UK racecourse jigsaw for Racegoers Club’s Paul Walker
An enthusiastic supporter of UK horse racing will complete the full set of all 59 British racecourses visited this Sunday when he calls in at Perth – where he will toast a victory from 25 years ago.
Paul Walker is a member of The Racegoers Club, British Horse Racing’s official supporters club, and by Sunday will be one of a very select few people to have ticked off every single UK racecourse. Even more remarkably, Paul has had a runner at each and will be hoping to replicate his success at Perth from 1996 when his mare Howcleuch won at the UK’s most northerly track.
Paul takes up the story: “I have no background in horse racing but my maternal grandmother and I would watch all the sport on TV. So just like cricket, rugby and golf, we learnt together as we went along. I played the other sports that I saw but horse racing was different- we realised that we had to own a horse but as Grandma and I realised she would have to win the pools and she never did.
“When my mother passed her driving test, we would go to Hurst Park and watch one of the races on the straight course parked up on the road – I recall even now the colour, the noise and the ragged start from the barrier. Eventually, my parents agreed that we should all walk to our local racecourse at Kempton Park on Easter Saturday 1972. I was too young to have a bet then, and I rarely bet now, but just being there inside the racecourse gave me such a buzz.
“Just over 10 years later, I joined the Racegoers Club and with my wife’s permission bought a share in a horse called Bannow Burn trained by Ken & Rhona Oliver at Denholm. The drive then was some 4 hours from where we lived in Worcestershire but the welcome alone was worth the journey and I learnt so much from our near misses and setbacks.
“In 1996, a big strapping mare called Howcleuch had recovered from two tendon strains and came to Perth the winner of her last 2 steeplechases both of which I had seen. Unfortunately, I was in an important legal meeting in Reading. The meeting finished 10 minutes before her race was off and 2 of us raced into the nearest betting shop just as the race began. Under an inspired ride by Brian Storey, Howcleuch got up in the last stride to win.
“A few years ago, I started to become more involved with horse ownership over the jumps and on the flat; I had some luck with the partnership horses that I chose and enjoyed some great racedays with like-minded people. Quickly, the racecourses visited added up until there was one left.
“So that is why I will be at Perth on Sunday. I will bring with me the unopened bottle that Howcleuch won that day in April 1996 and after the last race, the toast will be “Absent Friends”.”
Tickets are now on sale for all four September fixtures at Perth, including Sunday, with capacities across the racecourse again increased significantly following the latest relaxing of restrictions.