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Windsor Races To-day: Windsor Race-course

Whilst equestrian sports are usually associated with the upper classes, you don’t have to be a horse racing expert armed with all the latest horse racing tips to simply enjoy watching a group of jockeys hoof it to the finish line.

Whether you prefer to tune in to horse racing at home on the TV, kick back and study your race card from a fancy a corporate box or be at the heart of the racing events action at ground level, there’s nothing quite like serendipitously putting your money on the winning race horse and seeing some hefty returns.

Intrigued by this sporting life in racing, and to find out more about one of the best racecourses in the South, we headed to Royal Windsor Racecourse on their Irish night to see if watching horse racing is all it’s (whip)cracked up to be.

Whilst it hasn't enjoyed racing fame for as long as Ascot, horse racing events began at Rays Meadow, the current site of Royal Windsor Racecourse in 1886. Their website states that “Windsor races did not attempt to compete with Ascot, but gave opportunities to owners of lesser horses in a pleasant setting not far from London” and this sentiment can still be felt today, with Windsor’s friendly, accessible atmosphere.

Whilst there is a smart dress code for attending Windsor Races, you don’t have to go the whole hog with a hat and fancy dress, you are even allowed to wear jeans (without rips or tears). There’s also many quirky features that make a day at the races in Windsor unique.  One being, it is one of the only racecourses to be surrounded by water, meaning you have to catch a boat up the River Thames, in the shadow of Windsor Castle (the location of the recent Royal Wedding) to arrive at the jetty.

Image Credit: Emily May

A few neigh-sayers may be sceptical about visiting a race course, due to disagreeing with equestrian sports on an ethical level, especially the fact that jockeys use whips to gee their horses past the winning posts. However, when we were speaking to professional jumps jockey David Crosse at Windsor races, he emphasised that horse whips (which are now all air cushioned by law) are used only for encouragement, and even demonstrated a hard whip crack on a gentleman’s hand to prove that they weren’t painful to horses!

Image Credit: Emily May

With this ethical reassurance in place, you’re free to place your bets with unbridled enthusiasm, and without being saddled with the worry of bad karma. At Royal Windsor Races, betting starts from as little as £2, so you can enjoy a bit of harmless gambling without breaking the bank. Horse racing rookies may end up choosing race horses to back based on the colour of the jockey’s jacket, or a hilarious horse name, but if you’re in need of a bit of help, you can always buy a £10 “lucky dip” packet which places readymade bets for you, or seek some advice. David Crosse informed us that jockeys themselves are the worst tipsters. However, he was somehow on the money for every horse race he advised us about on Irish Night, which you’d be thankful for if you need a bit of a return after splashing out on a corporate box. Windsor races hospitality packages start from £99 per head and features can include a box with a clear view of the finish line, wine, food and even special privileges – we were taken to view the race horses being loaded into the starting boxes for one race. If you get the chance to see the latter, we advise taking a slow motion video so you can watch back the horse’s rapid take offs in half time when you get home.

Image Credit: Emily May

Whilst some may enjoy the glamour of a corporate box, you can also get in the thick of the action by milling around the racecourse at ground level, where there’s bites and booze a plenty, and arguably a better, close-up view of the racecourse. When we visited Windsor, there were flame grills and Guinness huts (obviously in homage to the Emerald Isle for Windsor’s Irish Night), and smoky barbecue smells combined with cheering fans to create a buzzing, excitable yet relaxed atmosphere. Windsor also host a variety of musical acts to add to the occasion, with previous and upcoming performers including the Dublin Legends (formerly known as The Dubliners), Sophie Ellis Bextor, A Freddie Mercury Tribute Band and even the Kaiser Chiefs! Don’t miss seeing the beautiful horses trotting proudly in the nearby parade ring and winner’s enclosure, or the victorious jockeys on their way to the weighing and changing rooms for what Irish Jockey David Cross described to us as a bit of “banter” and “great craic”. But don’t expect to chat for long, when we were at Windsor races, we caught a fleeting glimpse of recent Derby winner William Buick before he shot off out of sight.

Jumps jockey David Crosse (left) and Derby winner William Buick (right). Image Credit: Emily May

A day spent at Windsor Races is not only one of the best days out in Windsor, but Windsor Racecourse is also home to many great family events, including the spectacular annual bonfire night fun and fireworks and hosts some of the best evenings in live music by some of the UKs hottest artists, all set within the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

Royal Windsor Racecourse is located on Maidenhead Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 5JJ

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