Seriously, just go for it. It’s an amazing day out. I’ve just about recovered from one of the best days that I’ve had this year and can’t wait to tell you all about it. In fact, I can do better than that; I can take you through my whole day in photos and you can see for yourself. Honestly, book tickets for your nearest racecourse now, you won’t regret it! So, where did I go? The Jockey Club’s very own July Course at Newmarket. What did I do? Spent an entire day horsing around (argh, the puns have started already). Who did I go with? My husband, but next year I’ll be taking a whole group of friends too, I don’t want anyone to miss out on the fun! What did I see? One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen – and that’s saying something after watching Noel Gallagher at Latitude earlier this year. I know that I’m quite late to the race-going party; lots of my friends have been going to Ladies’ Day for years, but I never really understood the appeal. Surely, it’s just lots of posh folk drinking over-priced champagne, isn’t it? Well, that depends. If you own one of the racehorses, then probably the answer is yes. But if you’ve booked tickets just because your favourite band from childhood has been announced, then probably not. You can enjoy the bubbly if you like but, as I discovered, a day at the races is a lot less about snobbery and much more about fun! I travelled to Newmarket to enjoy a summer race day exactly a week ago and this time last week I was preening myself and deciding what dress to wear. I’d looked up the dress-code and was satisfied that I’d chosen something suitable for ‘a smart wedding’ as the racecourse suggests. In fact, what you wear isn’t particularly important as long as you’re smart enough to enter the enclosure that you’ve booked for and all the guidelines are on the Jockey Club website.
In the Family Enclosure even fancy dress is permitted and I saw a few hen party groups wearing sashes throughout the day. I didn’t wear a hat, nor did lots of the other women I saw there but, on the flipside, there were plenty of men and women dressed up to the nines in their finest dresses and tailored suits for the event. My one suggestion is sensible height shoes (or a pair of flats to change into!) because you’ll be on your feet for most of the day and I saw a lot of shoe-less women on the way out! I’m not particularly interested in betting and I can count the number of times that I’ve gone into a bookmakers to place a bet on one hand but, when you’re at the races, it’s all part of the fun. Clutching my £2 stake I approached the betting stands and picked a horse at random for the first race. Later in the day I started thinking about odds and performance but for that first bet I was just pleased to hold a betting slip in my hand during the race and be a part of the event. You won’t believe me when I tell you just how exciting it is to watch a horserace. Especially when you’ve invested your pocket-money on a bet! Whether you’re up in the grandstand or standing at the finishing post, the thunder of the horses’ hooves enters your body as they pound the ground at lightening speed. It’s over in seconds but the moment is magical. When it looked like the horse I’d bet on might actually win, something funny happened. As someone who is usually a rather reserved person who wouldn’t dream of shouting in public – I’m even a bit quiet at football matches – I surprised myself as I yelled along with the crowd like Eliza Doolittle at her first Ladies’ Day. That’s the odd thing about the races, you get totally drawn in. You never intended to get that excited but you just couldn’t help it; your horse was in the lead! I actually won once during the day and another of my horses came in ‘each way’ so I’d earned a bit of my stake back by the time the 8 races were over. Smiling ear-to-ear, I skipped round to the winners’ enclosure to see my horse and I loved seeing how well-looked after the horses were; treats and water galore! As a massive animal-lover it was great to see these gorgeous creatures up close and admire them. In fact, I just wanted to brush them – I think that’s a throw-back to my days of playing with My Little Pony.
After the race schedule concluded and I’d collected my winnings, it was time for the highlight of the Summer Saturday event; a McBusted concert! Judging by the number of people waiting at the front of the stage throughout most of the day, a lot of visitors had come to the races just for McBusted so I was prepared to be further back in the crowd. Thankfully, it was easy enough to move around the enclosure so I had was able to watch the show from in the stands and, later, in the middle of the crowd.
I remember liking Busted as a teenager, and McFly are great performers too but when you put them together it’s like watching the ultimate band. I’d forgotten just how ‘rock’ the songs are, and they were playing their guitars while throwing themselves around the stage and larking about – now that’s talent! The first few songs were ones I’d never heard of; new stuff, I think. But as the concert progressed, I realised that I knew more of the songs than I care to remember and the lyrics came floating back into my head. By the time McBusted were playing their ‘Year 3000’ encore I was singing along loudly and joined the jumping crowd.
By the time the concert ended, the sun was setting and a beautiful red sky illuminated the crowd as we left the enclosure. Everyone looked the way I felt; tired and happy. I loved my adventurous day at the races and I would definitely recommend it to you. Even though the concert series has finished for this year, there’s an Open Weekend at Newmarket coming up on the 19th and 20th September and tickets start at £13 for one day so it’s a low-cost way to try out a fun day at the races.