Changes on parade at Epsom

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Racing Correspondent

For someone in Chad or Somalia who has to walk miles for a drink it must seem like madness. For two weeks now Epsom racecourse has been sprayed daily with up to 200,000 gallons of water, a process that will continue up to Derby day if natural measures do not intervene.

It is 25 days since rain last fell on the Surrey track, but officials have been quickly out of the stalls to ensure the terrain is classified as good on 10 June.

There are few who doubt the reason for this diligence is a horse called Celtic Swing, who may not be the flying machine the dreamers wanted him to be but is still the biggest draw for many seasons. The colt's connections have said their horse will not run if the ground is firm, and heed has been taken of the warning.

"We are trying to produce the best possible ground for all the runners," Edward Gillespie, the managing director of Epsom's owners, United Racecourses, said yesterday. "It would be easier for us to to promote the horse race if Celtic Swing was in the pack.''

The man who controls the deluge is Nigel Thornton, the head groundsman who explained his motives yesterday as a Trevi fountain of water cascaded on to the course behind him.

"We must get grass cover because that helps keep the moisture in," he said. "Mother Nature drops rain consistently over an area and with artificial watering you can't quite get the same effect. But we started quite early and we're well ahead of the game.''

By Derby day the course's new parade ring, behind the main grandstand, will have been completed at a cost close to £200,000. This will eliminate the walk to the old paddock which involved a round journey of half a mile and meant that dedicated spectators were being asked to cover more ground than some horses.

On the debit side, the new area puts an end to the quaint Epsom tradition of the jockeys piling into a minibus to get to their mounts, squabbling for seats like fifth-formers setting out on a school trip.

Gillespie is attempting to promote the Derby as the people's race, with the entertainment designed to capture the meeting of the East End and West End.

The show will include such as the Brotherhood of the Bow, which is not a Masonic chapter from Docklands, but rather a mediaeval pageant.

Gillespie does not know how many people will turn out for the first weekend Derby, especially now that one of sport's most widely appreciated facts - that the Derby is held on the first Wednesday in June - is redundant. It's Saturday now, the second Saturday of the month. "We must be sure that people know when and where we are here," he said.

Advance booking for coaches does not deliver an encouraging signal. About 160 have signed up thus far, compared with 200 at the same time last year.

There will be money going around, however. In the great gourmet statistics table Gillespie expects 7,000 bottles of champagne, 600 lobsters and 180 dozen oysters to slip down the collective throat. But avoid the broth, as 50 chefs have been hired to prepare the victuals.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?