If you are planning to go to a race night, the Derby, or to Gold Cup day of the Royal Ascot meeting, I wish you luck. These are great party-days of the racing season when people are far thicker on the ground, food and drinks harder to scrum for, and your chances of seeing the horses more remote than at any other race night event. Personally, I hate bumping and boring, and would cheerfully exchange them for any ordinary day’s racing at Newbury, Goodwood or York – three picturesque and well-run racecourses.
York, the Ascot of the North, is my favourite race night for atmosphere and pampered comfort. There are always masses of colourful flowers surrounding the criss-cross mown paddock, everyone is terribly friendly, and the walkway around the back of the stands enables you to move about and avoid the crowds. From here, too, you can see the horses being led into the winners’ enclosure and get an aerial view of the paddock. The food is better than any other race night I know (after all, we don’t all go racing to see whose horses are running the fastest!) Some of us regard it as a pleasant day’s outing away from the chores. The crab and salmon sandwiches have more filling than those served at any other race night venue. If you want a three-course lunch, I highly recommend the prawns & celery salad, cold turkey & ham sandwich, and green figs. Should you lose your friends in the ring, where the bookies generate all the excitement over fluctuating betting prices, you can always wander to the Museum of Racing at the top of the stand. Here, among old weighing scales, saddles, jockey silks, race night tickets, farriery and veterinary implements, you find a leaded waistcoat once worn under a jacket by a trial jockey to mislead touts, early photographs, and mementos of the match between Mrs Thornton and Captain Flinton Brown.