THOUSANDS of race enthusiasts poured through the gates at Cartmel racecourse over the bank holiday weekend after ground staff pulled out all the stops to ensure the race meeting went ahead.

The course saw more than 50mm of rainfall during the week leading up to Cartmel’s final meeting of the year. However, after pumping more than 35,000 litres of water away and using ten 60-metre long silage sheets, the racing went ahead on Saturday.

Monday’s meeting was almost called off after the course saw a further 24mm of rain, but ground staff worked tirelessly to pump away thousands more litres of water.

“It was a mammoth triumph,” said racecourse manager Shaun Hodgson. “Without a doubt it saved the meeting.

“Had that water got into the ground, we would have had to abandon.

“But the weather didn’t dampen spirits. It went really well,” he added.

People travelled from across the country for the races, which pulled in 15,500 people on Saturday, and Monday saw a further 10,000 visitors through the gates.

Barbecues and picnic hampers were rolled out and race-goers took time out to enjoy trade stands and fairground rides on the course grounds. The course scooped one of British racing’s most prestigious awards by being named Small Racecourse of the Year in the North for 2008.

One visitor Andrea Blott, of Blackburn, said she and her family had been going to Cartmel races for more than 20 years and were never put off by the rain because there was a ‘good atmosphere’.

Stephen Legge, of Manchester, also praised the course for not being ‘as commercialised’ as others in the North West.

The meeting saw a first-ever Cartmel winner for jockey Alistar Findlay who took the Chas Kendall Handicap Chase with Reel Charmer, and Saturday’s new race, the Cartmel Cup, was won by Diane Sawyer with Front Rank.

Graham Lee – a former Grand National winner – scooped the champion title in the Cartmel Jockeys’ Championship, which was sponsored by the Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge.