GOING THE EXTRA FURLONG at Newbury Races.
Guest Post by Sarah Laycock:
Anyone looking for a sensational day out satisfying the requirements of prestigious sport, gourmet dining and keeping the children happy, look no further! A day out at Newbury Races surpasses all expectations fitting the bill for all age groups and managing to host a wide gamut of attractions that will be appreciated by families.
Our day started impressively with the most beautiful bucolic vista of the whole course revealed as we crossed the new bridge leading directly onto the course. Parking instructions and attendants were meticulously organised with good organisational skills apparent from the outset. All car parks were well sign posted and marshals were without exception friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. We parked in Car Park 1 which incurred no additional charge and were delighted to be offered a ‘golf buggy’ short trip to the admission area – hugely welcome and thoughtful particularly as my guest was my spritely 85-year-old father! Every member of staff encountered as we made our way to the Berkshire stand wished us a pleasant day and the whole ambience was a warm friendly family feel.
Food and drink as provided by the Fred Winter Suite must have the merit it rightly deserves. This is high-end dining which is served very cleverly by waitresses offering guests different courses at ongoing intervals throughout the afternoon. I would deem it informal professionalism as the standard of food is high, yet guests are not forced to sit down in traditional menu style, simply because the racing and other attractions (placing a bet, going to the parade ring or the Winner’s Enclosure etc) can interrupt a formal dining style. This type of meal ensures that you don’t miss a race or any of the preamble surrounding it yet you still get to try out every course and can eat as your needs dictate. I use the term ‘try out every course’ extremely loosely as the variety and volume of offerings would have satisfied the heartiest appetite. The sideboards present on arrival stocked a plentiful and delicious supply of Charcuterie – Salami & Parma Ham, Roasted Salt & Paprika Almonds (A new dish for me that I really would go ‘nuts’ for!) plus Mixed olives with fresh crumbly Feta Cheese and Bread Sticks. That was just the opening of a never ending supply of waiter served delectable delights such as Pan Fried Foie Gras served with Brioche toast and Balsamic Cherries, Tandori Chicken, pitta bread crisp, mango and red onion sambal, Pickled Golden and Candy Beetroot with balsamic baby onions, feta molasses not to leave out another of my personal favourites Dorset Crab & Crayfish bonbons. The Chef’s table serving thin slices of duck breast hoi sin glaze with salad was mouthwateringly welcomed. Further bowl food of beef fillet with Bearnaise sauce and Seabass with beurre blanc sauce confirmed the diversity and depth of options on offer. It would be remiss of me to omit the mention of those decadent words PUDDING/DESSERT. Somehow my stomach always finds a vacant pocket ready to accommodate something sweet and sinful – in this particular instance it was Blackberry and Summer Berries Mess followed by a crisp creamy perfectly prepared Creme Brulee. Cheese boards duly followed and afternoon tea of sandwiches and Mini cup-cakes were to magically appear mid afternoon. Champagne flowed in an endless stream and for tee totallers, there was a wide range of thirst quenching summer cordials including my personal favourite – an apple and elderflower concoction with nettle notes providing a crisp full flavour.
If you can tear yourself away from the table – no designated tables, you come and go at your whim, venturing onto the balcony provided a bird’s eye view of the racecourse with the winning post directly opposite our location. The screen coverage, the intimate viewpoint, the pennants flying on the course and the silks of expert jockeys coaxing their beautiful thoroughbred charges over the final furlong was a privilege to witness and very exciting as could be confirmed by the clamour of rousing voices edging their horses on. You could indeed wander down to the Bookies’ Stalls however we had our own Tote Operator in the Suite and a further Tote Station situated less than 50 yards from the suite. My only minor niggle about the whole day is that it would have been great to have race cards on the table or indeed close at hand to purchase – we had to go out of the Berkshire stand to find a stall providing these. I would heartily recommend a visit to the immaculate Parade Ring and Winners Enclosure where you can get up close to these exquisitely beautiful creatures turned out to perfection and led around the Ring prior to their race. You can also spot the trainers whose names you may only have read or seen on TV, watch the jockeys nimbly legged up on their mounts and inhale the majesty of the whole occasion. The Course was immaculately maintained with the going good to soft on the day of our visit and swathes of lush green extended as far as the eye could see. A couple of helicopters perched in the middle of the course and the whole ambience underlines that this is indeed the Sport of Kings. However what is so evident in every aspect of this event is that the Sport of Kings easily transfers into a day out that satisfies all tastes and can be appreciated by all generations. We walked around the venue and noticed the diversity of dining options (Fish and Chips, Ale and Pies, Champagne Hall, Hot Bacon Rolls) prevalent across the Premier and Grandstand areas. All inclusive and group parties are well catered for, Disabled Access is good with several designated viewing areas and the fun doesn’t stop at the last race. The Live Music After party will have you toe tapping all the way home, on this occasion live music presented by the Black Kat Boopers and Steve Carroll and Megan Rhodes. Newbury Racecourse has its own well maintained social streams via Twitter and Facebook where you can see the comments of racegoers thoroughly immersed in the racing experience. Their own website has comprehensive information about future dates and admission prices and is very easy to navigate for those who may not have been to the races before and are unfamiliar with the terminology. There are frequent generous concessions for children and a creche providing 2 hours free child care was available on the day of our visit.
Newbury Racecourse really does go that extra furlong when it comes to enticing new racegoers who may be slightly daunted at the prospect of attending a sports event with which they are not overly familiar. The Inside Track campaign is insightful, comprehensive and hugely welcoming to the new contingent of racegoers. Behind the Scene Tours and Trips to the race start held at certain meetings give a fantastic insight rarely seen by punters and even better are free of charge. Tips on how to bet, learning the terminology frequently used in the sport and expectations for dress codes in different ticket priced areas are all fully explained leaving the most novice newcomer confident about their forthcoming trip.
What really made the whole day superb for both myself and my guest was the customer service. Without exception staff exuded a welcoming and friendly persona which extended through the whole day and really made racegoers feel valued. There is the feel of ‘going the extra mile’ where staff are concerned and the ample volume of staff ensures that someone is always close at hand to guide and advise accordingly. Staff were professional to the hilt yet displayed an amicable charm that was commented on by several people I spoke with on the day. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of attending one of Newbury Racecourse’s fixtures, my firm advice is to take the plunge, ‘saddle on up’ and peruse the forthcoming meetings. This really is an exceptionally exciting and satisfying day out for all members of the family. For those who plan to bet, I wish you luck and prosperity.
London-Unattached was a guest at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day at Newbury. For more racing events at Newbury, check their site