We had no ideas, or expectations about yesterdays "Good Friday" open day due to the cancellation of the traditional "Middleham Open Day" so our preparations for the day were therefore watered down, and included little more than an extra early start and finish for riding out, all boxes were mucked out by 9am, stable door shutters were put up on stable doors keeping horses in view but out of touch. Write ups on every horse were stuck on stable doors and the usual invitation only, pre-season owners party which has always taken place straight after the open day, was missed out altogether in favour of warm bread and cheese, wine and a few nibbles in the kitchen for the owners who happened to come along to the day anyway.
Certainly the open day in its usual format was sorely missed and the messages from those who came to Sun Hill was one of great disappointment, and while we appreciated all the kind and positive comments about remaining open, for the sake of horse racing, I would far rather the job was done well, by all the yards for the benefit of everyone. I am sure the powers that be realise that closing was an error of judgement, and doing so on the grounds that an early Easter is sure to bring terrible weather and racing in the North at Musselburgh will create staffing issues, turned out to be entirely wrong. This is England after all, and we can never guarantee the weather at any time of year, yesterday was one of the most glorious days we have had this year, with bright blue skies and sunshine. While Musselburgh's card was cancelled weeks ago.
Racing on Good Friday is here to stay so we have to work with it. Of course, 'if' more race meetings are put on then that will stop all open days because there are simply not the staff to be able to cope with runners and open days. But, until that day comes, open days are an essential PR excercise for racing and every effort should be made to maintain and promote them.
At Sun Hill the cars flowed from 10.00am through till close of play, at one point we counted over 200 cars in the field, the usual crowds heaving in and out from the Middleham busses were not there - obviously, and we didn't expect them to be but, we did get a healthy amount of visitors who gave generously for Macmillan cancer research raising £1037.00 alone for hot drinks, bacon rolls and cakes. The water treadmill was a big attraction and everyone was fascinated watching horse after horse being put on it. In fact, early in the day we even managed to raise £75.00 for the chaity by kitting out work rider Stevie Parkin in waders, locking him in it and filling it with water!
Reports from our syndicates were very encouraging with lots of interest and enquiries while three more potential owners are due to return to the yard for more information about ownership. Hopefully next year, Middleham will be back in action and the traditional Good Friday open day will contiune.