Windsor Horse Races
June 25, 2012
Who would have imagined that we’d end up going to two horse races within three days? Not us but the opportunity arose and last night we went to Windsor Racetrack for the races. A bit different than Ascot, no wait, a whole lot different than Ascot. Ascot is for seeing the people and dressing up and partying and maybe watching the horses. Windsor races are for partying (OK, that’s practically anywhere a bunch of people gather), casual dress, and actually watching the horse races and betting on them.
Windsor is smaller as far as the people area. There were lots of casual dining places, more places to sit, and many more people bringing their own chairs and coolers and such. The track seemed quite large though as it had a bend and was almost in a figure 8 configuration. I never actually got close enough to see the race track at Ascot so I can’t compare sizes from observation. For each race, the horses would start at a different location on the track depending on how long the race was to be. That means the starting gate moved up and down the track as needed.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to a hospitality suite through someone my hubby knew through work. Yea! I figured it meant a seat whenever I wanted it and also meant a 3 course dinner too plus free drinks. Oh yea, this is way different than Ascot. Still, I did dress up a little bit and wore a hat. Not so many women wore hats but there were a few of us that looked like we might have missed Ascot by 2 days.
When we arrived, we parked in the free parking lot not realizing there was a pay lot much closer to the entrance. As my hip has been giving me grief, the pay lot would have been worth any price to get closer but I did manage without too much grimacing (cleverly disguised as a cryptic smile or maybe an evil wizard smile). We got to the entrance and hubby had to call our host who came to meet us and give us our tickets to get into the racetrack and also our tickets to get into the hospitality suite. We walked over to the clubhouse and I promptly lost my ticket. Luckily, I just lost it on the stairs or I would have been forced to stay in the room the entire night because without the ticket, I had no way to get back into the suite if I left it.
The suite was crowded but we did find seats and got a drink and got a plate of appetizers and then realized that the first race was already being run! Well, missed that one totally. There was a closed circuit television in our suite as well as a balcony that was fairly close to the finish line (the starting gate moved, the finish line was always the same place). So we could watch the TV monitor or we could go out on the balcony.
The second race was about to start but my hubby ran down to the betting window and bet on a couple of different horses to win (we never bet anything except to win and because we are so bad at it, we never bet more than the minimum – in this case 2 pounds). We chose these two horses because it so happened that we actually knew the owner of one of the horses! Wow, that was a surprise to find out that tidbit. Although the owner said he didn’t expect his horse to do much yet. Still, you feel kind of obligated to bet on a horse where you have a connection to it, albeit however slim those connections might be. We bet on the other horse because we had a “tipster” in the suite with us. He was a man who supposedly knew a lot about betting and horses and how to pick winners. I don’t think he picked a single winner that whole night but I’ll bet the company that hired the suite also hired him to come and “coach” us. Doesn’t matter. He was fun to listen to and very enthusiastic about all the races and horses and betting.
Second race horses are on the track and moving towards the starting gate. We went out on the balcony to watch. Oh My Gosh. The gate seems barely visible at the far end of the track and when the horses are off, they go straight which means they run around the curve at the far end and are out of sight for a bit before they come back into view and run down towards us and the finish line. Can you guess what happened? Neither of our horses won. But we had a good appetizer and I was sitting down and off my hurting hip.
Third race we actually walked down to the parade ring and watched them bring in the horses. We had chosen some horses to place down our 2 pound “to win” bet and I didn’t change my mind but thought I should have changed to the only gray horse in the lot as he was quite lovely. We chose our horses on this race based on our birthdays. Why not? For us, we have no other way as studying the racing form doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. I stumped back up to the hospitality suite and we watched the monitor as they put the horses in the starting gate.
The starting gate and loading the horses was one of the funniest things I ever saw! If the horse didn’t want to go into the gate, first one man would get on the left rear side and throw an arm over the tail and rear of the horse and start pushing. He’s pushing between 800 to 1700 pounds of horseflesh that isn’t cooperating and doesn’t want to go. Talk about pushing a wet noodle up a steep hill!! When one man can’t do it, he’s joined by another man and they push. The jockey is on top encouraging I am sure. Finally, they get a strap and it goes across the hind end of the horse and with the strap and pulling on it, they always manage to get the horse into the gate. It is so funny to watch these men pushing these horses. After I saw this the first time, I made sure I watched each race for loading the gates because there were always a few horses that needed the push technique.
The horses are off and this may have been the race where there was a false start. Not sure but one of the races last night needed to call back the horses and load them again and start again. Guess one of the gates didn’t open properly which is the only reason I can think of to stop the race and start again OR it opened too soon. Loading and pushing the horses again but finally they are off. Remember we chose our “winners” from our birthdays and I thought I should have chosen the gray because he was so lovely. Yep, the gray won. OK, two races now and 3 different choices for winners and we haven’t gotten a thing. Good thing we only bet the minimum.
By now, we also have the main course in our suite. This is the way to watch a race, in comfort, out of the weather – although it didn’t rain – with a television, drinks and food. Hmmmm. Who do we know that can get us into a suite for Ascot? No one. Poo. That must be my job for next year is to find someone!
I never went back downstairs as stairs are very painful on my hip but enjoyed watching the races from the suite. Usually we would pick some “winners” based now on the name of the horse and whether we thought it was a cool name or not. Although the second race had a horse named Red Adair who was a very famous oil fire fighter from Houston. We thought that was a sign and bet on Red Adair to win. He didn’t even show which them reminded me that the man, Red Adair, is retired so obviously I didn’t read that sign correctly.
Fourth race, we are now betting on 3-5 horses to win. If it is a favorite and it wins, we’ll be lucky to cover our loses. If it’s a long shot, well, they aren’t called long shots for no reason. They don’t win very often. So fourth race, they load the horses and we are watching the monitor. The announcer says, “Uh oh, there’s trouble at the gate.” One of the jockeys had to dismount and he dismounted into the gate next door so that jockey had to dismount too. In the end, both of those horses were led out of the gate and did not run the race and were “dismissed due to unruly behavior at the gate”. Sounds like someone getting thrown out of a night club. One of the dismissed horses was one that we had placed a 2 pound bet to win so we got our two pounds back. That also changed the odds for the rest of the horses and the bookmakers had to re-cipher the odds but we still didn’t have a winner.
Fifth race and we are still picking by whether we like the name or not. The “tipster” is taking people to the paddock on every other race and then comes back and tells people which horses he thinks are good. As I said before, don’t think he picked a winner all evening. We listened to him this race and bet on his horse to win and a couple or three of the ones with good names. Pushing and shoving horses into the gate, horses away, around the back of the track where we can’t see them, down the straightaway where we can see them and we can’t even hear the announcer mentioning our horses. So no winners again. Oh well, we didn’t come to make a fortune. We came to watch and have a bit of fun.
Our dessert has arrived and I am getting a plate for my dessert when my hubby says they are loading the horses for the sixth and final race and the gate has moved close to out balcony. This will either be the longest race if they go around the bend where we can’t see them OR the shortest race if they just run around the track where we can see them. I look at the race card and pick 5 names that I like. Might as well go all out for this last race! We watch them load and then the horses are away. This is going to be the longest race as they went straight at the far end which meant they were doing the figure 8 bend and would be out of sight for a-while. I catch the name of one of our 5 picks.
The horses come back into view and I hear the name of one of our picks again and she is in the lead! Wow, that’s exciting but they are still at the far end of the track and I don’t think she will last that long. Halfway down the straightaway and she’s still in the lead. Now I am getting excited but I hear the announcer state that some other horses are gaining on her. Can I dare to hope that she will survive in the lead and take the race! OMG! She does!!! WHOOPPEE! Six races and we have a winner at last and we only bet on 17 horses to win over 5 races. I went back to sit at my seat and the tipster comes in and asks if anyone had Scarlet Whispers to win. I raised my hand. My hubby had already gone to collect our winnings. The tipster is very congratulatory because no one else had Scarlet Whispers and she was a long shot! Of course, he thinks it is because we know something about betting. It was with a big grin that I told him we picked her because I liked her name. So for that long shot, we won almost 150 quid! That made up for our 16 loses at 2 pounds each. What a fun night.
We stayed around for a while and talked with our newly made friends and they told us different places we should visit while living in England. Our list of must see places keeps growing and yet we’re busy all the time! We finally take our leave and I stump back to the car with a very sore hip. You’d think I’d been jumping up and down, I was so sore. It was a fun evening with some good entertainment, good food, good racing and good company.