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Ascot: A Day At The Races

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Published 15 May 2010

Arriving at the famous Ascot racecourse, just outside Windsor, I felt like a kid in wonderland. The vast place, the impressive buildings, and the excitement of the crowd was fascinating. With ladies and gentlemen dressing and behaving accordingly, Ascot is something left behind from another era.

If you are new to horseracing, as I was that day, I strongly advice you to purchase the official programme of the day after arriving from one of the blue kiosks situated next to the entrance. This will help you to organize your day and to find your way around. It is a good idea to arrive early to discover the place before the crowds start to arrive; treat yourself to a leisurely lunch in one of their first rate restaurants before the races start. But I would in no way recommend the fish and chips next to the Bandstand Lawn. And if you have any question about the races, betting, or just need an advice on how to get the most from your day, there are experts to help on the Concourse Level of the Grandstand.

There were 7 races on the day I visited Ascot, and during each race you can follow the horses all the way from their boxes to the starting line and finally watch the trophy presentation to the horse owner in the Winners’ Enclosure. Before the race, the horses are paraded around the Pre-Parade Ring by one of the trainers, still without their saddle put on, giving racegoers a chance to make their betting selections for the upcoming race. I have never seen so beautiful and powerful beasts ever before, it was evidently not an easy task for the lads or ladettes to control the horses’ explosive energy while walking them round the ring.

After this, the horses are saddled and led to the Parade Ring to warm up, where you can get the best sight of them. Once the jockeys mount aboard the saddle, you can take your position for the race. The organizers recommend you head down to the rails ‘to experience the sound of the horses’ hooves as they thunder past’. I did that, and it is really exciting. It lasts only for seconds, but the adrenaline coming from the horses and the people around you fills the air and does not leave you untouched either.

The sound of the buzzer signals that the race result has been finalised, so you can go back to the Winners’ Enclosure within the Parade Ring to watch the trophy presentation and hopefully to celebrate your successful bet. The easiest way to place a bet is betting with the Tote, who have outlets all over the racecourse. The betting terms such as each-way, place odds, odds-on, SP or form might be confusing, but do not panic, as either the experts at the racecourse will be glad to help you out or you can find the explanations in the guidebook as well.

The upcoming annual Royal Ascot – Tuesday 15th to Saturday 19th June 2010 – is promised to be ‘The Greatest Race Meeting in the World’. This is the one race each year in which the Queen herself attends, and the BBC provides live coverage. Often, the highlights from the Royal Ascot are not the horse races themselves, but the elegant dresses & extravagant hats that Ascot ladies wear and the men’s fancy tailsuits that are worn specially for the occasion. Dressing up is not an option – a black tie dress code is the bare minimum, at least for entrance into the Grandstand. If you are able to make it, do not miss the experience. Grandstand admission tickets start from £56, but more affordable Silver Ring tickets start from only £17.

How to get there: There are regular trains from London Waterloo to Ascot station, which is just a short 10 minute walk to the racecourse itself. Take the trains heading towards Reading, and the train journey should only take around 40 minutes.

Royal Ascot Dates: Tuesday 15th June till Saturday 19th June 2010 (known as Ascot “week”)
Official Ascot Website: www.ascot.co.uk/
Ticket bookings & information: www.ascotkiosk.co.uk/
List of upcoming race days at Ascot racecourse: www.ascot.co.uk/index/index_racing.php
Address: Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7JX (Google Map)

Picture gallery of a day out at Ascot Racecourse:

Article written by Adrienn Gecse. Pictures by Rabea Khan.