What is Flapping? Rough Diamond or Hidden Gem.
Flapping consists of flat horse racing meetings run from April until September annually, meeting are held mainly in the Scottish borders in Hawick, Langholm and Selkirk with the exception of two race meetings, one held at the Mary mass festival Irvine in August and the other at Annan Dumfries and Galloway in September.
Although there seems to be some mystery as to how the name “flapping” came about the meaning of the word explained in the oxford dictionary, is slang for “unlicensed” or “unrecognised” race meetings, a term that many would relate to being unlawful or illegal meeting which is simply not the case.
The Jockey Club and its successor organisation do not recognise flapping within their rules, this does not mean there is anything unlawful with the sport. In fact, flapping is a legal, decent and honest sport with a long heritage that continues to thrive in Hawick to this day. Owners also take great pride in the welfare of their horses where week after week you will find horses turned out impeccably in the paddock.
Flapping also has, and continues to; feed professional horse racing with an endless flow of amateur, conditional and professional jockeys as well as a long list of individuals securing a lifetime career in professional racing. Currently, the top two trainers in Scotland Keith Dalgleish and Ian Jardine are both from Hawick, rode flapping before turning professional jockeys which led them on to very successful careers both in and out the saddle.
Each meeting is run by a number of individual committees and although not recognised by the British Horse Racing Association who is the current successor organisation to the Jockey Club, the rules and guidelines are very similar. They are completely non profit making where all proceeds made are re-invested back into the sport. Horses and Jockeys must also be registered prior to their first run.
Early records indicate that racing took place as far back as 1723 in Hawick, the common haugh was the venue and this meeting ran annually on the Common Riding until 1854, racing also took place on the Vertish during this time before moving in 1822 just outside Hawick to Pilmuir Rig. Meetings carried on there until 1853 before moving again to the current course St Leonards Park on Hawick moor only a stone’s throw away. At that time all racing moved there and the first meeting to take place was on the morning of the Common Riding 1854 and carries on still to this day where seven meetings in total, nearly half the racing calendar takes place.
At that time all racing in Britain was governed by The Jockey Club, founded in 1750 by a group of influential gentlemen that shared the same passion for horse racing. The club’s first meetings were held at the Star & Garter pub in Pall Mall in London and St James’s Street in Hyde Park before moving to Newmarket, they established rules to ensure races run at Newmarket heath were run fairly. These rules proved so successful that it was not long before other racecourses adopted them and the Jockey Club developed into becoming the main racing body in Britain.
It was twenty-two years until the last meeting to take place under jockey club rules was run in Hawick, this was on the 9th and 10th of June 1876, where it was stated that “there were three £50 flat races with the remainder of events were steeplechases for hunters”. After this day a rule was passed by the Jockey Club “not less than £300 must be given in stake money” thus subsequent racing there took the form of unlicensed “flapping” race meetings.
“Flaps” originally took place at the local common riding festivals and country fairs where pony racing took place around the perimeter of the fairs. It is also said that it was not uncommon for horses to hack over from as far afield as Selkirk to compete at these meetings.
Race distances are between six and twelve furlongs, all start by flag and there are four or five races each meeting, “pony racing” which is often the term used in Ireland for flapping is also a feature of the meetings where a number of young up and coming jockeys gain valuable experience before moving up and onwards to flapping and then bigger and better things.
Although all must be registered, you will find young and old, male and female, inexperienced and experienced jockeys competing at flapping events some in the twilight years of their careers and others just starting out. The earliest records of a female jockey winning at Hawick moor was in June 1927 wherein an article from The Newcastle Journal it was said, “basked in sunshine Miss Marjorie Haddon won The Medway Challenge Cup on Rufus who came back to the paddock to the rapturous applause from a large crowd”.
Prize money ranges from around £700 – £2000 per race with a number of £1000 win pots though out the season. All horses are thoroughbred bought either privately from yards or at any of the sales that take place annually, must have a valid passport and microchip number, and will be scanned by the on-course vet prior to running. As flapping is not a recognised association, once a horse runs flapping it is unable to return “under rules”. Professional Jockeys are to serve one year and one day on the sidelines before returning back “under rules” if they are found to be racing on the circuit. Again these rules have been implemented by the main racing body in Britain.
Flapping meetings also co-inside with the local Common Riding festivals that take place throughout the summer where it is not uncommon to see Welsh and Irish raiding party’s turning up to make already competitive meetings that little more interesting, so for a fantastic family day outcome along to whichever meeting you can to experience a well run great day at the races.