Last weekend we helped our friend Ita celebrate her 30th birthday, and as part of the celebrations a big group of us went down to Newbury for the horse races. Neither Chelsea nor I had ever been to a track to watch horses run, and we were pretty excited about the experience.
There were eight races on the day, each spaced out by about 30-40 minutes. The venue was set up with plenty of space to watch races outside, including right next to the track (pictured above) and further back in the grandstand where I took the picture from. We tended to watch from above because it was closer to the building that was nice and warm. The signs above are individual bookies, and there were probably about 20 of them, as well as the larger betting service Totesport.
It was really exciting to watch the races, especially if you had a horse in the race (ha!). Last Saturday was a steeplechase event, meaning the horses had a series of hurdles to jump depending on the length of the race. Sometimes the horses ran into one another, and the jockeys got booted off. Then the poor horses would just run around for a while until they got tired, which sometimes meant running against traffic (above) and scaring half of the crowd into thinking something horrible was going to happen. Thankfully all of the jockeys and horses were unharmed during our visit.
This video is of the signature race for the day. I only managed to record the end of the race hoping to capture the excitement of the crowd. Two of the previous races were really really close at the end, and basically the entire place was screaming for their horse to win.
Newbury race track had plenty of bookies, booze, and people which can sometimes spell trouble. Because Chelsea and I had never been to an event like this, we also were unfamiliar with the betting system. You can bet if your horse is going to win, or just place in the top two or three, and the odds and payouts are scaled appropriately. You take more risk betting to win outright than place, so you get more money if your horse actually wins. Well, we had a great day at the track. Of the eight races, we managed to pick the winning horse 4 times! We didn’t win very much money though, because we only bet £2 per race. Still, we did better than breaking even on the day, and I can see how addicting this sort of gambling can be. It is quite a rush when the horse you picked comes from behind to win, and you know you will be getting five or more times what you put down back in return. I can only imagine what it feels like to win hundreds of pounds.
Well, we had a great time with friends at our first time at the races, though it might not be something we do again for a while. Happy Birthday Ita!