A day at the races
Renowned for its colourful flowerbeds and well-kept lawns, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ripon Racecourse was one of Yorkshire’s stunning gardens.
However, although fondly known as the county’s ‘Garden Racecourse’, this is a coliseum of sporting excellence where top class sport meets top class hospitality; promising fun for all the family – and it delivers.
As soon as you enter this racecourse, that has history stretching over 300 years, you are hit with a certain feeling. It is not excitement, or the worry of the losses you stand to make if your uncle’s tip of the day doesn’t come in, it’s a feeling of… belonging.
It’s as though you have returned home, from the very first interaction with a member of staff you are treated like the prodigal son and, no matter how far or wide you may have travelled, you’ll always be welcomed back with open arms.
Some would say this is just the way of Yorkshire folk, but Ripon racecourse is a magnificent microcosm of this trait.
It may be Yorkshire’s smallest city but Ripon, and it's unassuming little racecourse, attracts racegoers from far and wide and they are always treated to some of the best entertainment in the county.
The course is perfect for fans of all levels, whether you know the exact measurement of Frankel in hands or you just pick out a Grand National horse in the office sweepstake once a year, you’ll find Ripon appealing.
The day that our particular group visited was one of the many, warm, beautiful summer afternoons we have become so accustomed to and what a fitting backdrop it created. The sun beamed down on the paddock and the animals, nay, athletes basked in the golden rays as they prepared themselves for the exertion of energy they were about to omit; each to rapturous applause.
After seeing the first parade, we decided that to understand the full experience of this course, we must watch each race from a different vantage point. Firstly, we stood by the winning post to watch as the thunderous rapture of hooves hitting the turf rifled past us. There's not many sights in sport better than watching a top class racehorse fend off their rivals to poke their nose in front whilst being stood next to the little red circled post of which jockeys and horses alike so gratefully race by.
From there we moved into the stand, notice how we didn't need to collect any winnings on the way, and from that moment on we would not find a better spot.
The stand gives you unrivalled views across the course, the stunning vistas that it creates and a view of all the action as they round the bed and thunder past the finish line. It also gives a real feeling of a stadium atmosphere as the noise is amplified and echoed back and at Ripon, there is noise. Just looking at the punters in their droves jumping up and down, cheering and whooping is worth the admission fee alone - so much joy in such a wonderful little haven.
The next race was the Slingsby Gin handicap and, knowing a few people in the wonderfully positioned gin tent at the course we headed over to see if they had any tips that would be just the tonic, as it turns out their tip was a horse named Braemar, which is a Scottish town and brand of whiskey and the trainer Sir Michael Stoute - it seemed they were sticking with the alcohol theme.
It was almost pitcher perfect, that was until a 20/1 shot by the name of Snax decided that although she was in a four horse race with a heavy favourite, she was going to cause more than a few hangovers.
The day could have ended without a win for me, however if, like this particular racegoer you’ve grown up with a granddad who tells you to look out for certain trainers at certain racecourses, you’ll finally have take-off as Tim Easterby's Airplane wins the last at 33/1; much to the delight and disdain of my fellow punters.
The cheering as I watched Airplane jet down the final straight didn't need amplifying by the stands, a bet of mine had finally landed and as it was confirmed on the stunning boards opposite the winning post I cheered again.
I may have left Ripon a little hoarse, but I left with fantastic memories and the plans to come back again and again and again.
For more information about this great racecourse, head to www.ripon-races.co.uk
Also,the Go Racing in Yorkshire Festival gets underway this weekend and it all begins at Ripon, for more fixtures visit www.goracing.co.uk