A day at the races can be a thrilling day out for groups. We take a look at what’s on offer and what you can expect
There’s little that beats the excitement of picking a horse in the parade ring then cheering him or her on across the finish line, whether or not you have placed a bet! From the grandeur of the Derby at Surrey’s Epsom Downs to the Grand National at Aintree, Merseyside, a more informal day at Warwick or a sunny picnic at Market Rasen, there’s something to suit everyone.
Racecourses throughout the country extend a warm welcome to visitors and many offer excellent packages, including a three-course meal or afternoon tea to make the experience even more enjoyable. In the summer, some offer the chance to see a top band along with an evening of racing. It’s well worth looking for behind the scenes tours – ideal if your group has never been horse racing before. A day at the races is great for people watching, soaking up the atmosphere and sharing your companions’ excitement and hopefully good fortune.
Horse racing is staged all year round. There are 60 racecourses in the UK (five in Scotland, two in Wales). The majority are national hunt courses where horses compete over jumps, although many venues are dual purpose and have a flat course too. Five all-weather courses include Lingfield and Kempton Park. Each racecourse has its own unique character, from the historic to the highly modern, set in easily-accessible and often picturesque locations. When booking, look at the different options your group could choose for experiencing the race, from a box in the grandstand to simply standing by the rails.
For most race days and racecourses the dress code is informal, but groups often like to dress up for the occasion. Jacky Birch of the Jockey Club says: “Hats and fascinators are always welcome and every one of our racecourses holds a Ladies’ Day with fantastic competitions and prizes for the best dressed.”
Deals For Groups
The Jockey Club Groups Team are keen to work with group travel organisers to help plan days out at their 15 racecourses. They offer advice on which race day and ticket option will suit, and as well as generous group ticket discounts, they can help with upgrade options including food and drink vouchers, betting vouchers and lunch upgrades. On average there’s a fee of £10 to £15 per person for a standard race meeting, although this can vary between racecourse and event. Racecourses have plentiful (and free) parking for coaches and offer free entry, plus food and drink vouchers for drivers.
Jacky Birch at The Jockey Club says: “We have a variety of options including general admission tickets with upgrades to more exclusive areas with additional seating and viewing. At many racecourses, we offer upgrade areas for groups which include a base for the day to watch the racing, and at the Investec Derby Festival, groups can even watch the racing from the comfort of their own coach!
“We can also offer exclusive Behind the Scenes Tours for groups at several of our courses (Haydock Park, Newmarket, Exeter and Epsom) where the group will be met by a tour guide and given an introduction to the race, including a sneak peak to see the experts at work!”
Jacky says: “We offer a ‘Winners Package’ at many racecourses to give groups all they need to get started and includes: a general admission ticket, a £2 bet, a race card and £10 food/drink voucher. These packages start from £21 per person for groups.”
The group enquiry number is 03447 489207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more general information, go to www.thejockeyclubgroups.co.uk.
Cheltenham Festival – mid March
Grand National – early April
Royal Ascot – mid June
Goodwood Festival (Sussex) – late July – early August
Have A Little ‘Flutter’
Placing a bet at the races is all part of the experience. You can put as little as £2 on a horse. Pick up tips on reading the form on the race card, take advice from a regular race goer, or simply pick a horse whose name appeals or whose jockey silks you like the colour of! There are two ways to bet – either with the on-site tote or with the bookies who can be found in front of the viewing grandstands.
Ascot offers 26 days of racing each year combined with live concerts, food, wine and beer festivals, plus family fun. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, and for larger groups of more than 49. For more information, call 01344 878 536 or email email@example.com.
Live music nights are staged at Newmarket, Haydock Park, Carlisle, Market Rasen, Sandown Park and Epsom Downs Racecourses. Bryan Adams will be at Sandown Park on August 4, Tears for Fears on July 29 at Newmarket and Simply Red on August 13 at Doncaster. More acts will be announced shortly. The majority are held in the evening and prices are in the region of £30 to £45 per person depending on the act. (The price includes entry to the racing as well as the music.)
Why Not also Try…
Point to Point racing, www.pointtopoint.co.uk
Arab horse racing, www.aroracing.co.uk