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Cornelius Lysaght: My encyclopedia on world racing

Updated: Nov 19



Why I wrote the book


Harper Collins, my publishers, wanted to have something in a similar vein to their book on motor racing. But they hadn't realised that there are almost as many racecourses in Yorkshire as there are F1 circuits in the world! They certainly weren't providing me with first class travel around the globe, but through various means we were able to put together an encyclopedia of a hundred racecourses. We also managed to gather photographs of the locations, and it was important not to make them too generic. I wanted to dig into the heritage of each racecourse. This sport has such a rich heritage, and I think we shouldn't be frightened of that, but celebrate it. There are some things in racing that may seem a bit archaic (measuring in furlongs and guineas, for example). But these aren't things to deride.



A selection of my favourite courses


If I could wave a magic wand and be transported each week to another corner of the world, I'd choose Sha Tin and Happy Valley. The quality of racing is fantastic there, but what really sets Hong Kong apart is its frenetic energy... the bubbling cauldron of anticipation. Other people would choose Santa Anita, and I've got media colleagues to whom you only need to say those two words for excitement to build. Santa Anita has, undoubtedly, got something about it... so has Del Mar, and, closer to home, Longchamp does too. But Hong Kong is special. That said, if I could only go to one festival for the rest of my life, I'd go to the the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown. I think the racing there is marvellous, and when Ireland play at home in the Six Nations, it complements the action so well.



Racing in extraordinary locations


People can't quite believe that racing takes place on the beach at Laytown. St. Moritz is another unique event, racing on ice. But Australia can be added to that list. Most people know about the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, but few have heard of Birdsville: a clay-pan track sarrounded by sand dunes, where weathering a storm is part of a day out. Sometimes bad weather means people can't even leave after the day's racing. South America has a very good racing scene, on another note, with very good facilities, and that's somewhere I've been inspired to visit. But everywhere has a story!



My memories from around the world


I don't think you can fault Arc day at Longchamp. Unquestionably one of the human stars of that race has been Frankie Dettori, and if you talk about Dettori and the Arc, you've got several options. Plenty would go for Enable. But, personally, I'm a Golden Horn fan. I was told by Sir Mark Prescott recently that a French trainer had informed him, along with Luke Morris' victory in 2022, Dettori's win in 2015 was one of the best performances they'd seen, and a feat of using a bad draw to his advantage. The Arc is the pinnacle of the season, and that year saw a great story (for the horse) and a great revival (for Frankie Dettori, who so many had written off).

 

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