A day at the races. Horse racing in the UK

Most courses have a dress code for the Members’ Enclosure which, for example, may require a man to wear a jacket and tie. Indeed, for some people dressing up is all part of the fun of going racing. If in doubt, do not hesitate to telephone the course for guidance. The key to dressing for the races is not so much style as comfort: there’s no point in looking terribly fashionable if you’re freezing cold as the sun goes down. To enjoy a day at the races you may require a good deal of walking around. Give particular thought to your footwear.

What to take to the races

You will probably want to take with you a newspaper for a list of the runners or the Racing Post which provides in-depth information.

Take enough money to get you through the day! A few courses have banks that will cash you a cheque, and you can purchase Tote betting vouchers at any course by cheque or credit card. Don’t forget if you take a camera you must disarm the flash, as flash photography can upset the horses. Food and drink (including alcohol) will not be allowed into the enclosures (unless picnicking in a Course Enclosure), but you will find a wide selection of refreshments on sale inside.

What enclosure do you pick?

The best enclosure is the Members or Club Enclosure, for the use of annual members of that course (like season ticket holders at a soccer ground) but usually available to non-members for a daily charge. The cost varies depending on the horse racing course and the nature of the occasion – the average is around £15 to £30, but perhaps double that on the day of a very big race such as The Grand National. For big meetings such as The Cheltenham Gold Cup, you can often book in advance.

The Members Enclosure – admittance to which is by a small cardboard badge which you should keep displayed – has the best viewing and the best facilities, and your badge allows you to take advantage of all the facilities in the next enclosure down, usually called Tattersalls or Grandstand and Paddock (popularly known as ‘Tatts’). Here, for an entrance charge in the region of £10 to £15 (higher at major meetings) such as The Grand National, you will have access to the parade ring and winner’s enclosure (where the horses can be seen at close quarters) as well as a good view of the track and extensive eating, drinking and betting facilities. The presence of the bookies gives Tatts – usually the largest enclosure on the course – its characteristic hubbub and atmosphere. On the rail which divides Tatts from Members are to be found the ‘rails bookmakers’, who bet – mostly on credit and without displaying their odds on boards – some of the heavy hitters among the punting fraternity.

The Silver Ring or Course Enclosure is the cheapest (around £3 to £5), at most courses without access to the parade ring and winner’s enclosure, but with betting and catering facilities. Some racecourse allows cars in the Course Enclosure and picnicking is a very popular pastime.

Some racecourse also allow children up to the age of sixteen are admitted free to all racecourses if accompanied by an adult.