Sunday, May 01, 2011

Newmarket Races

As I get older, it's difficult to think of anything I might need or want as a present, so I've started to think about doing something interesting rather than getting yet more socks.

Last year I had a flight in an antique biplane for Duxford.

This year, we decided to have a day out at Newmarket Races.

We've lived near to Newmarket, the home of racing, for about two decades and, while we've visited the town a few times (and even stayed overnight at a lovely boutique hotel, Garrads) we've never been to a race. So, time to change that!

They do a variety of Party Packs. We went for the Ultimate Party Pack, which includes a proper meal at the Bistro. We got there early, had a little look round to get our bearings, and then went off to the Bistro to have some lunch. We both went for the steak, and it, like the meal as a whole, was excellent. One thing to note: the place can get busy, and they will put small groups together to fill up the tables. (I think this is an excellent idea, by the way - it keeps the queues short, the restaurant buzzing, and you might get some interesting people to talk to.)

We then went off to place a few bets, and did the circuit. Check the horses out at the Pre-Parade Ring; move across to the Parade Ring; and then find somewhere to watch the race (we sat up in the millennium grandstand, stood in the premier enclosure, and watched one from the rails right next to the finishing post). Then (hopefully!) back to the Winners' Enclosure before collecting your winnings.

There were 7 races. We got two winners and 4 places, only drawing a blank in the 1000 Guineas itself. It's just luck, but we managed to get almost all our money back. We went for the Tote, which seemed to be simple enough.

The weather was fine - dry and sunny, a bit breezy in exposed places - and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. And we will definitely go again.

It wasn't as busy as I expected. Sure, there were lots of people, but it never felt crowded, and the place itself was quite a bit smaller than I thought it would be.

There are a few comments, largely about organization. It's not clear to me that the £20 difference between the Premier and Ultimate Party Packs on the Premier race days is worth it. Basically, you get either the starter or dessert in the restaurant, so it's actually worth less than £10. Go for the Premier instead of the Ultimate, and put the money you save towards something else. (And actually check whether the pack will save you money.) Transport is a bit tricky, especially if you're going to have a drink or two and don't want to drive - there wasn't anything viable via public transport on the Sunday, so we took a taxi both ways. You would think that they would take more effort to organize transport, especially given the traffic jams on race days. And the website could do with just a bit of work to take it from average to good - it has all the content you need, but it can be tricky to find stuff and navigate around it.

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