If you visit the UK, there are certain places to go and things to do that are quintessentially British. Once you’ve tried warm beer in a country pub, eaten fish and chips by the seaside and explored the mysteries of cricket on the village green, there’s one more thing to do. Horse racing isn’t unique to the UK by any means – the Kentucky Derby and Melbourne Cup both stand testament to that. But a day at the races in England is nevertheless an experience unlike any other.
There are numerous race meetings throughout the year. Cheltenham has already taken place for 2022, but there’s always Royal Ascot, the Grand National and the Epsom Derby to name just a few.
Place your bets
First things first, even if you’re not usually into betting on sports, you can’t go to Royal Ascot or the Grand National without having a little flutter. After all, if it’s good enough for The Queen of England, what more can anyone say?
Picking a winner takes some knowledge and expertise. That can’t be acquired in a day, but there are some hacks that will help you out. Odds at an English race are expressed as a fraction, for example 3-1 (three to one) or 15-2 (fifteen to two). Think of it this way, the first number is the prize yielded by the second if your horse wins.
So shorter odds horses are the ones that are more likely to win but that pay out less than a long shot. Occasionally, if a horse is much better than the rest, it might be “odds on.” That means the reward is smaller than the wager. So bet £10 on a horse that’s 1-2 on, and you’ll get £5 winnings if it comes in first. Put the same money on a 100-1 long shot, and in the extremely unlikely even that it wins, you’ll get £1000. In both cases you also get your £10 stake back.
There are lots of different types of bets, and we won’t go into them all here. Keep in mind the each way bet, however, which pays out if your horse comes in first, second or third. Another great bet for newcomers is the swinger bet. Here, you simply back two horses that you think will finish in the top three.
What to wear
This very much depends on which racecourse you are visiting. If you’re attending Ladies Day at a festival like Cheltenham or Royal Ascot, then you can push the boat out a little, especially when it comes to extravagant headgear. However, you need to think practically when it comes to footwear. Heels are definitely a bad idea.
If you’re simply attending the main spectator areas and don’t plan to mix it with royalty, dress for the weather. If there’s a threat of rain in the air, the areas trackside can soon get muddy. Don’t worry, you won’t look out of place in Hunter boots and a wax jacket!