This week is my introduction to Newmarket in the U.K. Every Englishman I meet immediately apologizes for the "poor weather" and hopes that I don't get chilled. Ha! It's mid-40s here and was in the low teens when I left Lexington... this is an opportunity to warm up!
The flight out of Lexington's Bluegrass Airport is always fun, watching the many horse pastures multiply with initial altitude, and then slowly start to shrink with distance. This time was even more fun because I happened to be sitting next to an out-of-town visitor who was unfamiliar with horses and breeding. He was surprised by the number of Thoroughbred foals born every year -- in the 30,000s -- and by the concentration of such a large percentage of the breeding industry in a small geographic area.
It got me to thinking about the role of geography in the Thoroughbred industry. Comparisons of Newmarket to Lexington or Ocala are natural. The business of breeding, and the Thoroughbred industry itself, are regionally centered in these cities.
But In Newmarket, horses have a presence unlike anywhere I've seen Stateside. Every road has warning signs to watch for horses crossing. Downtown, training stables are tucked between homes and businesses. Large brick and stone walls lining the sidewalks are often the only indication that what lies beyond a nearby gate is a series of 20 or 40 or more wall boxes -- home to a trainer's string -- rather than a small residential estate. Acre after acre in and around town square is devoted to training gallops and smaller training yards.
My accommodations for the next few nights are a nice treat -- a flat at The Jockey Club, filled with wonderful historic Turf paintings and fascinating books. I think I could get used to this.