Not A Ghost Train

Readers of Cheltfest may know I'm a regular visitor at Great Yarmouth racecourse. For the first time, I've purchased annual membership - so there isn't an excuse to get a breath of sea air. 

Anyway, that's the theory. Already I've been to the first meeting of the season back in April. I went with my brother Gareth. It was a very enjoyable day.  

In the good, old days, we used to travel with our parents along the coastal road in my Dad's 1953 Humber Super Snipe. A scenic tour which built up the anticipation of a holiday we couldn't wait to start. 

We stayed at Caister-on-sea, a stone's throw from Great Yarmouth which coincided with their September Eastern Festival. Three days of horse racing, candy floss and screeching seagulls.

Such wonderful, childhood memories.  

These days, we travel by train. Luckily, our home town of March in Cambridgeshire has a train station, which is a main line, so plenty of trains to destinations far and near. 

So getting to the Norfolk coast is pretty straightforward. It has got to be better than driving, which can be a pain in the arse and it means we can have a pint of beer if we wish. If it sounds like I'm a raving alcoholic, I rarely drink to excess. I'm sure with my chat about gambling it sets a scene for some bizarre subculture.  

So we travel by train from March to Great Yarmouth. Depending on how many changes we make it takes about two and a half hours. We change at Ely station, which is a beautiful little city with a huge cathedral known as the Ship of the Fens. You can see the cathedral from the train if you are on the move. I would recommend a visit to Ely as it has a lot to offer.  

Next stop, about an hours journey to Norwich. We travelled past Thetford Forest to name one of many stops. There's lots to see on the Bittern Line.  

Finally, the last stretch of the journey from Norwich to Great Yarmouth. You never quite know what type of train will be awaiting. Oh yes, apart from knowing it won't be anything new. One occasion, we sat in an old carriage pulled by a big diesel train. Strangely, I enjoyed the journey as the seats were soft blue suede, bigger and more legroom.  

Anyway, let's get the story. It's funny who you meet on the Norwich to Great Yarmouth train. It doesn't take much working out the populous. It is either commutors, holidaymakers or punters heading for a day at the races. 

The train rarely has more than two carriages so you get a good view of whose on board. Obviously, you see the great and the good waiting on the platform. 

So who have we seen? 

One regular is Eddie Fremantle, Racing UK's pundit and all-round decent bloke. I have always been a fan of Eddie. He used to be a professional gambler. I'm not sure if he still plies his trade. Considering he is on course most days, it would seem an ideal opporutnity to bet as he wishes.  

I remember last year bumping into a couple of gentlemen connected with Richard Spencer's stable, based in Newmarket. They were part of Rebel Racing, who have owned some decent horses in their time. I'm not sure how many people are involved in the syndicate, so the two blokes we chatted were no doubt associated.  

It caught my attention as they had a two-year-old debutante running in one of the maidens. A filly named Club Tropicana. She cost £25,000 at the yearling sales. However, I was more interested because this chestnut filly held a significant entry for one of the better two-year-old races later in the year. This gave the impression it had some ability. We chatted for the journey of 40 minutes or so and then departed with fond farewells.

We saw the couple in the paddock so they must have been representing Rebel Racing. At odds of 16/1, I thought Club Tropicana was worth a small each-way bet at 16/1. The horse finished sixth but didn't really get involved.  

I had called my two cousins Danny and Paul about the conversation we had with the Club Tropicana guys and they had a tenner each on the beast.  

All in all, I enjoyed the conversation with the Rebel Racing duo but the result of the race didn't fill me with joy. I rarely bet on other people's opinions and this was another reason why I really shouldn't have put my hand in my pocket.  

Club Tropicana has raced twelve times at the time of writing and managed a couple of third places. She run the Shadwell Rockfell Stakes (Group 2) where she finished unplaced at odds of 100/1. By her fourth race she had an official rating on 87, which didn't help her cause. At present, she hasn't won a race.  

I wonder how many famous people have travelled on the train from Norwich to Great Yarmouth?  

If you've seen someone – give us a bell.