First time racing

Here are Clare Balding’s ten top tips to help you make the most of your racing day out:

If you’re going to wear new shoes, make sure they aren’t too tight. You will do a lot of walking, your feet will swell up and believe me, the last thing you want to do is take your shoes off and walk around barefoot.

If you’re wearing a hat, make sure you’ve tested it in the wind. There’s no point putting together a beautiful outfit with matching hat and shoes if you then spend all day with your hand on your head trying to stop your hat blowing off. Like the shoes, also make sure it’s not too tight.

Have a quick look at the racing page of any newspaper before you leave home so that you have a rough idea of what you will be seeing. You don’t need to memorise the lot but at least you’ll arrive knowing what time the feature race goes off, what Frankie’s riding and which horse is favourite. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way and it will only enhance your day if you gen up.

Check the weather forecast and take an umbrella if showers are forecast. Make sure you’ve not dressed for Barbados because we all know the blessed UK weather can turn in an instant.

Arrange a meeting place for your friends. You will have more fun if you explore the racecourse but you don’t want to lose your gang.

Get up close to the jockeys. The layout of most racecourses means the jockeys have to walk through the crowd to get to the Paddock which means you can talk to them, ask for their autograph, even touch them! This is much closer access than you would ever get to footballers, rugby players, cricketers or tennis players. Take advantage.

Have a look at the horses in the Paddock. They are beautiful animals and up close, you can appreciate the sheen of their coat, the look in their eye and their muscle definition.

At a jumps course, walk out to a fence. There is nothing more exciting than being next to the last fence as the field thunders towards it and you will get a much more realistic sense of the speed at which the horses travel. The same is true at a flat meeting – walk down to the 1-furlong pole and you will hear the jockeys shouting at each other, feel the effort of the horses and appreciate their power.

If you’ve backed a winner, run to the Winner’s Enclosure to cheer it in. Shared pleasure is so much more fun than individual glory. The queues for the bookies will afterwards have died down and you can collect your money safe in the knowledge that you’ve said ‘thank you’ to the horse and jockey responsible.

Pace yourself. Set aside your amount for betting on each race and stick to it. You’ll have more fun if you make your money last until the last race than if you run out midway through. Don’t lose faith in your choices – it’s more annoying to watch a horse win that you fancied but didn’t back than to back one that doesn’t win.

Have a great day!

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