Enjoy a day at the races in the North East

PUBLISHED: 01:16 12 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:21 20 February 2013

Large crowds gather for the Northumberland Plate meeting at Newcastle

Large crowds gather for the Northumberland Plate meeting at Newcastle

The North East has some stunning race courses and there's nothing better than to spend an afternoon or evening on the turf. We offer advice on how to be a winner at 'the off'

Horse racing may be the sport of kings but you dont necessarily have to be of royal descent to thoroughly enjoy a day at the races. The colour, the style, the glamour, the hospitality, the sociability and the excitement that goes with an afternoon or evening on the turf cant be equalled at any other regular get-together.

And thats not to mention that, if youre lucky, you might come away with more in your pocket than you had when you arrived.

Racing provides the one occasion at which people from all walks of life can meet to share a common interest at different levels. The very well-heeled are likely to be owners - there to see their mounts perform and hopefully pick up some silverware in the winners enclosure. At the other end of the social spectrum, the gentry will be rubbing shoulders with working folk and the unemployed.

Its a sport that can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you choose. In fact, some northern courses have been offering free admission during April to attract people who might not normally go to the races but when charges do apply its often possible to gain access for under 10 and thats for the best part of three or four hours entertainment.

So theres no excuse - racing can be cheap and cheerful.

To do it in style, however, requires more thoughtful planning although, not necessarily, a big financial outlay.

An afternoon or evening race meeting should be quite a leisurely affair, rather akin to watching a game of cricket. There are usually about six races, with roughly half an hour between each race, giving plenty of time to socialise, enjoy a meal and a drink or two, visit the parade ring to choose the horse you are going to back, either because of its form and demeanour, or simply because you like the look of it, and then to place your bet before taking your place in the stand or along the rails to enjoy the thrill of the race.

Theres none of the sustained frenetic action associated with more combative and intense sports such as football - racing is about enjoying the experience as much as the contest.

Dress code is mostly smart casual, unless youre attending the invitation marquees or lounges for one of the race courses major meetings, such as the Northumberland Plate at Gosforth Park, when nothing but the best will do. Nevertheless, a summers afternoon or evening racing still offers the ideal opportunity to don the glad rags and join the parade.

If youre not taking a meal in the course suites or restaurant and the weathers glorious, pack a sumptuous picnic and cooler for the wine and enjoy meeting friends for a get-together in the car park, which is frequently on well-tended grassed areas.

Youll also find that hotels and restaurants in the vicinity of the course often offer race day menus and facilities for racegoers.

Plan your race-day wardrobe in advance, especially if you are going to one of the popular Ladies Days at our North East courses. For a fine summers day, light linens and cottons are ideal and consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat - it will help to keep you cool and stop the glare of the sun from spoiling your view.

Ladies especially should wear shoes that fit the occasion - youre probably going to be on your feet for quite a lot of the time and may have to walk on gravel, cinders and grass.

And even on the warmest of days, it can be chilly and draughty in the shadow of large stands so take something warm to throw over your shoulders and preferably pack away a small brolly, just in case.

Finally, dont forget the binoculars and your float for a flutter. If money doesnt grow on your particular tree, give yourself a budget to gamble of, say 30, which is roughly a fiver a race, and hedge your bets by backing a couple of horses per race. Win or lose, youll have an interest in every race and youd be extremely unlucky not to pick up some winnings.

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