With the sound of hooves still echoing at the Cheltenham Festival and the world famous Grand National showpiece at Aintree just three weeks away it’s that time of year in the sporting calendar when everyone fancies a flutter – myself included.
Thankfully, if you live in London, you don’t have to make the 200-odd-mile journey up to Aintree to get your horse racing fix because to the south-west of the capital are a host of options for a day at the track.
Tickets are usually in the £15-30 range so depending on how much you win or lose on the racing itself, or spend on beer and prosecco, a trip to the races can actually work out surprisingly cheap.
So grab your friends, put on your Sunday best and check your form book – it’s time to go racing!
A personal favourite of mine, Kempton Park is really easy to get to from central London. Hop on the train and in just over an hour you are there. It’s then only five minutes from the station to the entrance gates.
One of the best spots to watch the races is the panoramic restaurant overlooking the racecourse and once you’ve got a booth, they will hold it for the rest of the day for you. This enables you to head down to the paddock to check out the horses or place your bets trackside and then head back inside should it start to rain. Of course, if you don’t want to leave the comfort of the restaurant, you can place your bets at your table too.
Sandown Park is even more accessible from central, being just three quarters of an hour by train from Waterloo. And like Kempton Park it offers a range of different events on both evenings and weekends and either flat racing or jumps, where the horses and their jockeys have to hurdle fences on their way around.
The scenically located Epsom race track is situated atop the North Downs, just to the south of London. In June it hosts what it bills as “the Greatest Flat Race in the World”, the Investec Derby, with a Ladies Day on the Friday and the main event itself on the Saturday.
Arguably the most famous horse racing venue in the UK, Ascot is famed for its history, very smart dress code and, of course, Royal Ascot – a five-day long horse racing extravaganza in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the end of June. If you want to get dressed up in hat and tails for gents or a dress and lavish fascinator for ladies, this is definitely the venue to do it at!
Another track synonymous with royalty is Royal Windsor. Horse racing has been taking place in the Windsor area since the reign of King Henry VIII so there is plenty of pedigree to the events here. Unlike Ascot, Windsor is reserved for racing on the flat, with 27 events per year.
Photo by Photolitel