Sound like torture doesn’t it? But it was the thought of such an event that persuaded us to go to Huntingdon Races last Bank Holiday Monday. A day of family fun was promised, with the following record-breaking attempts taking place during the day:
- How many jockeys can you get in a Mini?
- The UK’s longest conga
- The biggest group of John McCririck look-a-likes
- The most children’s faces painted in an hour
- The world’s youngest racing radio presenter
All this, plus a full afternoon of pretending to be flash betting a heady two quid a time on the gee-gees.
The entry to the grandstand enclosure was steep at £15 but children (including my 14 year old and his mate) were free. We also cleverly booked our tickets online the night before so got in for £10 each plus a free ice-cream for the boys (even sulky teenagers don’t turn their noses up at Mr Whippy).
The compere for the day was James McQuillan, latterly a contestant on The Apprentice. He was dressed in a deerstalker hat with pretend ginger John McCririck-style sideburns. Despite looking a bit of a chump, he tried his very best to jolly everyone along with the, unfortunately, woeful record attempts.
Jockeys in a mini – we missed this as it occurred before most people had arrived but I think they managed 12. Not sure if this was a record.
UK’s longest conga – the record is somewhere in the thousands. The organisers, however, made a number of fundamental mistakes.
1. They believed this could be completed between races when most race-goers are hoofing it from paddock to Tote.
2. Only people in the Grandstand could take part so the poor people beyond the wire fencing in the cheap end could only watch as their children berated them for being stingy and only buying six quid tickets.
3. To take part in the conga each person had to pay £2 in aid of Racing Welfare. An honourable charity indeed but when people had paid a whack to get in and were saving their dosh for the dead cert in the 4.15, that extra £2 was never going to be easily torn from their grip. Why didn’t they just ask for donations and let everyone join in regardless?
4. Many bystanders, including us, wanted to see how many people were joining in before we decided to part with our money. Rory did not want to ‘look an arse’ so kept his money and bought a hot dog instead.
In the end, even Hugo the Hound, the racecourse mascot, couldn’t help Apprentice James rustle up a decent conga line. How many did they manage to get in the line? 180. All of whom had paid two quid to be part of a failed record attempt as they wiggled and hi-kicked miserably on the lawn.
The Biggest Group of John McCririck Look-a-likes Now maybe I was being naive but I somehow expected a group of proper John McCririck lookalikes to have been specially invited to come along to the racecourse for the day. Apparently not. This was, in essence, a fancy dress competition. So anyone in tweed was cajoled to meet up in the paddock for an embarrassing contest. The line-up consisted of a couple of blokes in country-style attire and cigars, some blonde posh totty in riding gear, a few kids with stuck-on sideburns and a heavily-pregnant woman in a checked jacket and hat. We voted by cheering, rather quietly I thought, and James, having flirted with the blonde and accidently stood on the teeniest Mr McC, gave the prize to a five year old girl who will no doubt be mentally scarred for life.
The Most Children’s Faces painted in an hour – I have no idea whether this was a success as the tannoy announcements regarding the world record attempts seemed to go mysteriously quiet by this stage. I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a ‘painted face’: is it a blob on the nose with a splash of poster paint or is the face painter required to produce full make-up for a West End production of Cats? All I can say is that I did see a few little girls with tiny horse-shoes on their cheeks. Whether they were painted on or branded to quicken things up a bit, I shall never know.
The World’s Youngest Racing Radio Presenter – Did I miss it? Maybe the pregnant John McCririck gave birth before the 5.25 and gamely introduced the newest Peter O’Sullivan to the waiting crowds.
We returned home with a lighter wallet but there was just enough for a KFC en route. And Rory’s friend has now been initiated into the art of gambling: I’m sure his mother is delighted.