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Race meetings in Berkshire 2015 - Ascot, Newbury and Windsor

PUBLISHED: 10:29 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:29 29 April 2015

Summer racing at Windsor, photo Maureen McLean

Summer racing at Windsor, photo Maureen McLean

MAUREEN MCLEAN

As the flat season gets underway - and we build up to Royal Ascot - Sue Bromley studies the formbook for what's coming up at our local courses

Ascot

As soon as one Royal Ascot finishes, they are planning the next, but there’s plenty for us to enjoy before the June extravaganza. The first day of the flat season, Wednesday 29 April, is Discover Ascot Raceday. This is a great choice for those who have never been racing before, or those who will be attending the big event in June for the first time.

Ascot’s Bowler Hat Stewards will happily take you on a tour of the course, including parts not normally available to the public, such as the Weighing Room. These people know everything, and love to be tested by your questions about Ascot and racing.

Entry to the grandstand is free, while Premier Admission is just £11 in advance. For those who know their way around Ascot (and probably a few other courses!) this curtain raiser to the season is a chance to check out early form and perhaps pick out a potential winner for the big festival’s Gold Cup as the £60,000 Group 3 Longines Sagaro Stakes is a trial race for it.

The May meeting begins with Friday night racing, Ascot’s only evening meeting of the year, on 8 May. It’s a superb atmosphere, perfect for gathering after work or with family for a fun evening out. The following day features The Totepool Victoria Cup, another marker for the Royal Festival. A street food market will run on both days.

And so we come to the big event, when all eyes are on Ascot from 16 to 20 June. It’s the most valuable race meeting in the world, attracting entries from owners of the planet’s top horses. We’ve still not recovered from the amazing scenes in 2013 when HM The Queen’s runner, Estimate, won The Gold Cup.

Win, lose, rain or shine, the Queen has not missed a Royal Meeting during her reign. The racing is serious, but this is also a grand social event. So even if you pick your horse simply because you like the name there is still much to enjoy with the Royal Procession each day adding to the excitement.

The Gold Cup takes place on the Thursday, Ladies Day, when the fashion stakes also peak with millinery creations, but whichever day you choose to go prepare to enjoy a feast of sights and sounds. And talking of feasts, dining at Ascot during the festival is a delight, whether you want to push the boat out or simply enjoy a good lunch.

Can’t make Royal Ascot? Then there are meetings on 10 and 11 July prior to the King George Weekend of 24 and 25 July and the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and Concert on 8 August.

It’s time to book those tickets, see www.ascot.co.uk.

Newbury

We love the way this course caters for all: the fine diners in stylish restaurants, those pushing buggies on a family day out, the fans who know their stuff and high quality racing when they see it. What’s more, Newbury right beside a train station, so no need to drive, although if you do choose to do so there is plenty of parking.

For the perfect day out we have to recommend the award-winning Hennessy restaurant overlooking the winning post. Head chef Darren Fairminer and his team always come up with winners on the tables here, it’s up to you to find yours on the turf. Newbury’s other restaurants also merit a visit and you will find lots of choices across the course.

Newbury stages the Starlight Charity Raceday on Friday, 15 May, and the next day sees the prestigious Al Shaqab Lockinge Day, the richest raceday in Newbury’s 110-year history when some of Europe’s finest thoroughbreds will be in action. On 11 June there’s afternoon racing, and evening meetings on 25 June and 2 and 9 July.

Then it’s back to afternoon racing on 17 July, prior to the Weatherbys Super Sprint and Party in the Paddock meeting on 18 July. There’s an NSPCC Charity race evening on 23 July, while 26 July sees the Dubai International Arabian Raceday.

Afternoon racing returns on 14 August, the day before the Betfred Ladies Day, with more evening racing on 25 August.

We said there was something for everyone – book your tickets at www.newburyracecourse.co.uk.

Windsor

There’s something very special about summer Monday evening racing at Windsor, you won’t find an atmosphere like it at any other course. For a start, you can even travel there by bookable boat! But this, too, is a course that offers something for everyone, and we have to start with the family must-do of the appearance of Peppa Pig and George on Monday, 4 May. There will be face painting, pony rides and fun fair… and racing for those of us a little older.

That Monday night racing includes a Real Ale meeting on 27 April, live music on 11 and 18 May, and then it’s back to family fun for the Bank Holiday on 25 May with appearances by the Octonauts (gates open 10.30am).

One not to miss is 1 June when celebrity DJ Fearne Cotton will get you moving alongside the racing, and there are more Monday night meetings on 8, 15 and 22 of June. The Best of British Festival on 27 June is also Gentlemen’s Day, and the next day it’s back to family fun, this time with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Another musical feast is offered on 29 June with Ronnie Scott’s Live, followed by more lively Monday night racing on 6, 13, 20, 27 July. August opens with night racing on the 3rd, and the Monday specials continue on 10 and 17 August. The Moshi Monsters appear for family fun on 9 August, while Ladies Day, featuring Jo Whiley live after the racing, is on 29 August.

Find out more and book at www.windsor-racecourse.co.uk.

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Having a flutter: make your pick

There’s little more exhilarating than watching a horse you’ve bet on powering through to the front of the pack, but betting can be a baffling business. Victoria Spicer gives her top tips.

When the first Thoroughbred crosses the finish line at this year’s Royal Ascot, there’ll be two groups of people cheering the loudest. The first will the horse’s connections – you know, everyone from the trainer, the owners, the stable lad or lass who led him up, and practically everyone else who has ever come within patting distance. The second group will be all the racegoers who predicted the horse would win, and put money on it doing just that.

You can’t go to Royal Ascot and not place a bet. It’s the law. Okay, not exactly the law, but it should be. Of course, there is much to love about racing without any sort of gambling. There’s the pomp, the history, the elegant fashion, the bright silks, gleaming horses, the sweep of immaculate green turf. But there’s something about putting money at stake that makes it all that little bit more visceral. The endless pre-race speculation. The thrill of the betting ring. Your heart rate quickening as the horse you selected cuts through the field. The soaring euphoria when it wins, the sheer joy and elation.

But if you’re a total newcomer to betting it can be seem quite a daunting and complicated task. Follow this guide to betting etiquette and you might just finish the week quids in...

DO buy yourself a racecard, or a newspaper that lists all the day’s runners. The racecard is a veritable feast of information, giving all the essential details like the horse’s name, its trainer and jockey, its age, its previous race form and usually some notes on its performance to date and chances that day. It also tells you things like the distance, class and of course how many horses are in each race. It’s a bit embarrassing to ask for ‘a tenner on number 12’ when there are only eight horses entered.

DON’T just look at lots of 1s on the left hand side of the horse’s previous form and decide it’s unbeatable. Yes it might have won lots of races in the past, but today it could be tackling a different distance, better rivals, be running on unfavourable ground or – in the case of handicap races – be carrying more weight.

DO spend some time studying the form. Or if that seems like too much work, ask someone who claims to be in the know, scour the racing press for hot tips or employ the age-old technique of choosing the horse whose name you like/the jockey you recognise off the telly/the prettiest coloured silks.

DON’T forget to consider the odds. Here’s a simple guide – if a horse is at big odds (say 100/1) that means it’s incredibly unlikely to win but if it does, you’ll win a lot more money. If a horse is a short-price favourite (eg 4/6) there’s a much greater likelihood of it romping home but you’ll get a lot less returns for your stake.

DO remember that all these complicated numbers are created by bookmakers or odds-compilers, whose job it is to study past races, analyse stats and generally bore everyone at parties with their extensive knowledge of horseracing. However, it’s all just a (educated) guessing game, so just because they think a horse has a 10% chance of winning - that’s 9/1, if you’re wondering - doesn’t mean that’s necessarily true. In racing, anything can happen, and it regularly does.

DON’T go crazy – pick a budget that suits you. Some people will bet thousands of pounds on a race, but bookmakers are quite happy to relieve you of your £5 as well. You’ve got three options when it comes to putting on your bet: go to the Tote, the on-course betting shops or the betting ring. The minimum bet at Tote is £2, or £1 each way, and the bookmakers will have a sign on their board stating their minimum bet amount.

DO consider whether you want to bet to win or ‘each-way’. The former is exactly as it says on the tin – the horse wins, and you’ll get paid out according to the odds. So if the horse was a 10/1 chance, and you put £10 on, you’ll get £110 in returns, because you get your stake back too if you win (bookies are nice like that). If you backed the favourite, and it went off at 1/2, you’d get back £15 for your tenner, and so on. Backing each-way is a bit of a security blanket, if you like, and it means that you’ll get some returns whether the horse wins or gets placed. In most races, depending on race type and field size, this is usually the first three but it can be the first two or four.

DON’T back short-priced horses each-way. If the horse comes second or third, you’ll probably get less back than you put on. As a generally rule if you’re backing a horse at 5/1 or less and you’re only putting on a small amount, go for win only.

DO know the maths of each-way betting. Listen carefully, class. If you bet a horse £5 each way, you pay the bookmaker £10 in total (£5 for the win, £5 for the place). If it places, you’ll get paid out at around ¼ of the winning odds. If it wins, you’ll get your winnings plus your place money returns as well. And you get your original stake back too. Result!

DON’T be daunted when it comes to putting on a bet. Approach the bookmaker, give them the horse’s number, your betting amount and whether you want a win or each way bet, and they’ll give you a printed ticket. So that’s “I’d like £5 to win on number 12, please,” and so on. Simple!

DO soak up the atmosphere in the betting ring. Times have changed a bit, but it’s still a raucous, noisy, exciting place to visit. If you’re lucky, you might see someone doing tic-tac, which is how bookmakers keep tabs on their rivals, and looks a bit like dancing at a silent disco.

DON’T mistake your betting slip for a drinks receipt and throw it away just before your horse surges to the front of the field.

DO go and collect your winnings, but not until the result has been declared – listen out for the tannoy announcement before joining the queues of equally jubilant/smug punters.

DON’T be afraid to ask bookmakers a question, but pick your time wisely – the two minutes just before a race goes off probably isn’t the best time to discuss the options for a race in three hours’ time.

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