Recently I was lucky enough to get a discounted County Stand ticket for the Races in York. I’d never been to the Races before so was looking forward to trying something new, and having the opportunity to dress up a bit! I went with a group of friends, having decided that it would be a good alternative to the annual university summer ball, which also happens to be held at York Racecourse. Whilst I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the day, I had a great time and would thoroughly recommend it.
James and I started the day in style, going to Bettys for breakfast. However nice Bettys may be as an establishment, I felt a little overdressed in my heels and fascinator ready for the races. Despite this, I would still recommend it for a great start to the day. In fact, breakfast at Bettys is almost on a par with afternoon tea, and there is a shorter queue! I had the continental breakfast rösti (without mushrooms) and a glass of fresh orange juice (pictured below) which comes highly recommended. One thing that was particularly nice was the fact that the staff loaned me an umbrella so that my outfit wasn’t ruined as the rain started while we were eating. It was a classy start to a great day.
Getting to York Racecourse from the centre of town was really easy, with regular shuttle buses departing from the station. As soon as we joined more of the races crowd, I no longer felt quite so overdressed! One of the benefits of having a County Stand pass meant that we were allowed access to most areas of the Racecourse, including the champagne lawns. If you want to pretend at being rich, this is the way to do it, although believe me when I say that the champagne bar is unsurprisingly very pricey. If going to the races for the first time like us, I would recommend arriving early. This gives you a good opportunity to soak up the atmosphere, explore, and find a good place to sit before it gets too crowded. Whilst we waited for our friends to arrive we treated ourselves to a cocktail and enjoyed people watching.
We also had the time to get to grips with betting. Neither of us had bet before, and hadn’t realised how complicated it can appear to a newbie! However, we got to grips with it and were soon ready to bet on our first race. After a quick look at the horses in the parade ring, we placed our bets and settled down to watch the race. Incredibly, I managed to win on my first bet! This was much to my surprise, and the surprise of those with me, however given how the rest of the day went it was clearly beginner’s luck!
One of my favourite parts of the day was being able to watch the horses in the parade ring, seeing them at a fairly close proximity. The worst part of the day was when a horse was pulled up during a race, which was shortly followed by the screens being pulled round and the appearance of a horse ambulance. I found this very upsetting, and more so because nothing was reported on the horse’s wellbeing or what had happened. The rest of the day continued as though nothing had happened, with the only reference made being to “the unfortunate incident” meaning that the next race was slightly delayed. I went into the day not knowing what to expect, and with a small voice at the back of my mind telling me that horse racing is wrong. This event was a sobering reminder of why the sport is controversial, and why so many people are happy to speak out against it. My thoughts on exactly where I stand on horse racing are still unclear, it’s a topic that I don’t know enough about, but I found it devastating that a horse had to be put down and very tragic that this was completely glossed over. However, overall I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, and would recommend a day at the Races to those who haven’t previously been. It’s a great opportunity to get dressed up, and is an experience unlike anything else I have had before.