A trip to York Races is one of the great summer days out. Whether you’re a racing buff or someone who doesn’t know one end of a horse from another (in which case we suggest you steer well clear of the stables), a day at the races provides pure entertainment.
To make the most of the experience though, you need to make like a bookie and get a few insider tips.
Stationed only a champagne cork pop away from York Racecourse, the team at the Holiday Inn, on Tadcaster Road, York, regularly advise their guests on how to enjoy a perfect day’s racing.
Seasoned racegoers all, here they share their lowdown on making every race day a surefire winner.
“Some racegoers go for a blow-out breakfast – French champagne and a full English!” says head chef Andy Hunt. “And why not: it’s a day of decadence after all.
“But bear in mind that it’s also a long day. I would go with a breakfast that serves up a taste of luxury with some slow-burn energy release: smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
“You’ll get off to a perfect start, even if your horses don’t…”
There are all sorts of dining options at the racecourse, from a three-course meal in the Gimcrack Room restaurant to a jacket potato in the course enclosure food court.
“Alternatively it can be a lot of fun to take a picnic to the course enclosure,” said Andy. “A group of you can agree to bring different items and share them: perfect for families.
“Keep it simple. The French and Italians know how to do it – crusty bread, salami, tomatoes, cheese, stawberries. And a nice cake for later.”
Timing is everything, says operations manager Nick Henderson. “The key is to match your drink to the moment.
“In the morning, a glass of good champagne, or a Bucks Fizz with freshly-squeezed orange juice, will put a spring in your step.
“But even the best bubbly can get boring if you drink it all day, not to mention expensive. So consider a bottle of prosecco or rosé as the perfect picnic accompaniment.
“Pace yourself with a long drink in the afternoon sunshine (if there is any): the classic Pimms and lemonade, or a gin with plenty of chilled tonic and a fresh slice of lime.
“After the races – well it depends if your celebrating or drowning your sorrows!”
Want to relax in shorts and a T-shirt? Go to the paddock and course enclosure.
“But half the fun of going to the races is dressing up,” says Louisa Green, Holiday Inn general manager.
Bear in mind that there is a dress code of jacket, collar and tie for men in the County Stand. There’s no set code for women but “dress like you are going to a smart wedding – remember, it’s one of life’s rare opportunities to wear a hat,” suggests Louisa.
Her top tips? “Remember your umbrella: the weather is not always kind.
“And slip a pair of flip-flops in your handbag. After a day in high heels, they are footwear heaven for the journey home.”
If you’re coming to York by train take a taxi. They’ll whisk you the two miles to the course in no time and have a special right of way on John Smith’s Day in July and at the Ebor Festival in August.
Parking is free and plentiful at the racecourse. But if you want to avoid the post-races traffic jam and are prepared to pay, consider parking at Nunthorpe Road car park which is less than ten minutes’ walk away
“Simplest still, stay at the Holiday Inn and you’ll be minutes away from your home from home!” said Louisa
York’s thriving night scene means it is easy to extend the fun long after the last race has finished.
“If it’s a lovely summer evening, a nice idea is to cross the wonderful Millennium Bridge and walk back into town along the river bank. Then you can join one of the evening cruises that depart from King’s Staith,” said general manager Louisa.
“It’s a great way to chill out, whether you win or lose.”