Carlisle Bell day: things you never knew about the track

Miami Gator Carlisle 22/06/2011

We know about its racing but what about Carlisle’s biscuit output?

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

MANY racing fans would know the Carlisle Bell is reckoned to be the oldest sporting trophy in the world – but what else about the Cumbrian venue might have passed you by?

The Bell, which has been contested since 1599, takes centre stage once again at 3.35 on Wednesday afternoon and while this is what will be occupying the minds of participants and punters, some may also be interested to know the course played its part during the Second World War, for the Lonsdale building on the site was used to store munitions during the conflict, which ran from 1939 to 1945.

Go back a little further, to July 2, 1929, and it was on this day that Carlisle, along with Newmarket, staged the first major meetings with Tote betting, the Racehorse Betting Control Board having been established a year earlier by Winston Churchill with the intention of providing a secure, state-controlled alternative to illegal off-course bookmakers, and ensuring some gambling revenue at least filtered back into the sport.

Tony Wootten was not around for that fixture but the former head groundsman at Carlisle saw plenty during 20 years of employment at the course. Since his retirement three years ago, he has spent time taking care of the parade ring and is to be found making sure it looks its best before every meeting. The Wootten tradition continues on a permanent basis at Carlisle, however, with son Thomas having taken on head groundsman duties.

Elsewhere on the staff, Carlisle, unusually, boasts not one but two clerks of the course, with Kirkland Tellwright and Andrew Tulloch, also of Haydock and Aintree respectively, sharing the duties.

Away from the racecourse and of greater significance to biscuit lovers is the city’s tremendous contribution to that particular trade. How many Custard Creams are made here every 24 hours? Have a guess. It’s 6.5 million. Perhaps enjoy just one or two with a cup of tea as you study the form in the Racing Post for the track’s biggest day of the year.

 

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