Video feature: Bets and bubbly - it’s a day out at Newmarket races
If you fancy spoling yourself while also watching some sport horse racing is a real banker - and the odds are you’ll have fun.
Hats, gambling and sipping Pimms in the sun. These are the things that spring to mind when you imagine a day at the races.
However, with the wind blowing a gale I concede two out of three isn’t bad.
I’ve come to Newmarket Racecourse to discover how decadent a Saturday spent watching the sport of kings can be.
And right now, it looks like it’s about to bucket down.
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Heavy clouds have blocked out early morning sunshine and many ladies, myself included, are cursing the decision to forfeit warmth for style.
However, the show must go on and beautifully glossy horses are being paraded before shrewd punters and trainers alike, before racing begins at 2pm.
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Frankie Dettori is outside the weighing room surveying the weather and chatting on his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, trilby-wearing renowned trainer Henry Candy is quietly contemplating the horses on show while racegoers loudly debate their options.
Chatter about odds, favourites and tips is constant in every part of the racecourse.
And while compiling a glamorous outfit has been no problem for me, placing a bet is distinctly intimidating.
Thankfully I have George Primarolo – a pundit for bookmaker Totes – on hand to guide me through gambling and the lingo that comes with it.
“The golden rule is don’t spend more than you can afford,” he says. “Most people don’t come with pockets of cash and have fun betting �2 and �5 on horses they like.”
Although many of the 6,000-strong crowd will have examined the Racing Post ahead of placing a bet, Mr Primarolo says there’s no shame in putting money on gut instinct.
“A lot of people just go with a name they like,” he says. “If you are a novice, betting on a horse you have a good feeling about can be great fun.”
He adds: “Some people can get incredibly excited about winning and others will be remarkably cool about it. Weirdly, it is usually the people who have won about �30 who will be jumping up and down.”
Armed with his suggestions, I realise there is only one thing still missing – champagne. This may be a tad premature but I decide confidence is the route to success and make my way to the Champions’ Gallery.
Overlooking the racecourse, I imagine this restaurant is how a gambler might describe heaven.
Smartly-clad waiting staff elegantly attend to customers’ every need while serving sumptuous three-course meals.
Pink bubbly? Yes, top me up. Delicate salmon fishcakes? Okay, my arm is twisted. An elaborate strawberry dessert? Don’t mind if I do.
On top of this decadence, there is the luxury of gambling without even leaving your seat.
Tote staff scurry around the room taking bets, congratulating winners and giving them their newly- acquired cash.
A few floors below, the crowd is a merrier one and bursts of laughter pepper the general din of chatter.
In the Millennium Bar, girls have replaced heels with flats or bare soles and more than a few hats are askew as orders are made for more rounds of pints and Pimms.
The anticipation and excitement ahead of earlier races has mellowed as people get down to the extremely exciting business of spending their winnings at the bar.
Lizzie Hodgson, a graphic designer from Bury St Edmunds, is here with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday.
The 30-year-old says: “I haven’t won anything but it has been a great day. We’ve had some drinks, gambled a bit and generally had a good time.
She adds: “I’ve never been to the races before and I’m not a gambler so I wasn’t expecting to win a huge amount of cash.”
Michelle Townsend has brought seven friends to Newmarket as part of her day-long hen party.
“I just thought it would be something different and something to do for all of us rather than just sitting in bars,” she says.
“We’re all having a good time because this isn’t something we’d usually do.”
Punters then pile outside for the final race – an eight-horse dash.
Already at the barrier is Peter Thackston, 81, who travelled from London to spend the day at Newmarket.
“I’m having a marvellous time – a day at the races is always wonderful,” he says. “People have complained about the weather but surely that doesn’t matter to us? We’re British and we’ll get out and about in the rain, hail and snow. It’s nice to watch the horses and have a chat.”
For Bramford resident Josh Mann – also trackside – this is his last opportunity to save face after a day of poorly-placed bets.
Along with the rest of Bramford Athletic Football Club, the 18-year-old is enjoying the end-of-season day out.
“My luck will come in for the last race,” he says. “That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. I keep having to go back to the cash machine for more money. I’m going to end up spending it all.
“The problem is, I’m betting on horses just because I think they have a funny name,” he explains. “Next time I’m going to read the odds.”
I put �5 each way on Suffolk Punch, an earlier recommendation by Mr Primarolo. This is my last tenner and I clutch my ticket tightly and hoping optimistically – like Mr Mann – I will dramatically make my fortune at the final hour.
The railing is four people deep as horses come thudding up the track and the shouts of fellow racegoers are at once piercing and dense.
In a mere moment they are upon us and beyond us.
Suffolk Punch has come third and I head to cash in my ticket – a measly but appreciated win of �15. I’m still �35 down but a win is a win in my book.
Leaving Rowley Mile, I concede gambling is in fact not my forte. I don’t understand the odds, the racecard or why one horse is superior to another.
But I really like the trackside frenzy. And spending the day dolled up to the nines drinking champagne is incredibly agreeable.