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It’s the noise that gets you.
First from the tannoy, as the commentator’s voice builds in enthusiasm and anticipation as the horses thunder their way down the home straight towards the finish line.
What follows is the excitement within the crowd, as people young and old look down at their programme to see the names of the beasts they’re backing, before looking up and shouting their support out loud and proud.
Then, the crescendo as the horses come in to view, it’s a cacophony of thuds on turf as the hooves of these animals, straining every sinew in their body, clatter by at unimaginable speed and past the post.
The winning jockey throws his hand up in the air in celebration as punters on the sidelines jump up and down, in either delight or dismay, at the final result. This is an evening out at Ripon Races, one of Yorkshire’s nine race courses, and this is the first race of the night in what promises to be a full programme of action-packed drama in Yorkshire’s smallest city.
We’re blessed with good weather on our visit, as a crisp, Yorkshire Summer’s evening is served up. A slight breeze has all the racecourse’s feather flags and banners waving back and forth and rain from the day before makes the racing conditions good to soft. Upon arrival, we’re greeted by the friendly team at Ripon Racecourse, who hand us our badges and official race programmes for the action that lies ahead.
As it’s an evening meeting, the first race sets off at 6:35pm and there are six races in store today. Throughout the evening, we’re entertained between races by the guys singing in The Bandstand. There’s also an array of bars, from the Silks and Saddles Bar through to the Theakstons Terrace Bar, and catering options to keep us fed and watered throughout the course of the race meeting too.
Before each race sets off, we head to the Parade Ring, located behind the main stand, to see the selection of fine fillies and strapping stallions ahead of the next race make their way around in front of members of the public. It’s at this point where we choose which horse we’re backing. Our selection process swings from the size of the horse through to the colour of the silks the jockey is wearing, from their current betting odds through to how calm & relaxed the horse looks.
Three races down and our scientific research doesn’t seem to be working as we’re yet to predict a winner. The next race is arguably the biggest race of the night; The Directors Cup Handicap Stakes at 8.05pm, the Class 3 trip over six furlongs which includes some more-than-handy horses who have been running well of late.
“Who do you fancy in this one?” my racing buddy asks. I study the race guide at the 14 horses taking part, look at their odds, the jockeys, their form.
“I’m not sure, but I’ve just got a feeling about Pipers Note”
We head to the finish line, watch the horses amble past us on the way to the start before making their way into the stalls. Once they’re all set, the starter waves his flag, the stalls fly open and they’re off. It’s a good start from a few horses, with both Flying Pursuit and Eccleston (the odds-on favourite) heading to the front with relative ease and swagger. With three of the six furlongs down, it’s looking like it’s going to be zero correct calls from four from me…
But wait… what’s this? A flash of yellow and green starts to make its way through the field. Those just happen to be the colours that jockey James Sullivan has on and Mr Sullivan happens to be riding a certain Pipers Note. With one furlong to go, he’s edging his nose in front of the rest.
Can he hold on?
Will he hold on?
The stampede of horses bear down on the finish line and within seconds the race is finished. We erupt with joy; he’s only gone and done it. For the first time, we head back to the Winners Enclosure having predicted the correct outcome.
Win or lose though, the final races continue to be thrilling affairs and a trip to the races with good company must be in the running for one of the very best ways to spend a Summer’s evening.
Ripon Racecourse, commonly referred to as the ‘Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse’, was named in top 11 Racecourses in England by Visit England in March 2017. They have a host of day and evening race meets both during the week and on the weekend between now and the end of September. Visit http://www.ripon-races.co.uk/ for more information.