If you’re here to get the breakdown on what happens during a day at the races, you’re in the right place. Watching horse racing in person is an experience every fan owes to themselves. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide everything you need to know so you can walk through those racecourse gates as confident as a regular, even if it’s your first time.
What To Expect From Betting In Person at a Horse Race
If you’ve never been to a day at the races before, it's hard to know what to expect beyond what you’ve seen on television or with your favourite online bookmakers. But don’t let this intimidate you – it’s just a group of horse racing fans coming together to watch, enjoy and bet on the sport that they love. It typically goes like this:
- 01Arriving: The gates of a racecourse tend to open around two hours before the racing actually begins. This may seem like a lot of time, but you will be surprised by how fast it flies when you are checking out all that is on offer.
Most events now offer tickets online, and it is becoming less and less common to be able to pay in person, so make sure you get that sorted in advance.
The typical price for access to the racecourse, as well as most of its facilities (there will likely be some VIP areas not available to you), is generally somewhere between £20 and £80. The tickets should be sent to your email. All you need to do is show them on arrival and head through the gates, preferably with plenty of time to spare.
A tip for dress code:
Dressing smart is always a good idea for a day at the races - if nothing else, it is part of the fun. But most places are not overly formal when it comes to your outfit. Do check if the day in question has any specific dress code, as you would find some may have the theme to be Ladies Day at the races for example, which while not compulsory, typically has people wearing a bunch of big hats.
Having a look around: Now you are in, you should have a fair bit of time to get acquainted with your surroundings. Typical things to check out include bars, restaurants, and viewing areas alongside the betting ring.
Racecourses can be quite large so alongside getting some refreshments, this is the time to decide where you would like to stand. You should also get the lay of the land so you can navigate your way around with ease, as opposed to figuring it out once the races begin.
You will also likely find information for entertainment that is on offer for later in the day, it is usually prominently advertised. Walk around, enjoy the scenery, get yourself settled. Most importantly, soak in that unique atmosphere.
Preparing for the first race: We would recommend spending this time checking out your racing form, or, if you have not acquired one yet, doing so. Often these will be provided free with your ticket and should be relatively cheap and easy to find if not. Study the form in detail. It should be very similar to what you can find on the best horse racing betting sites in that it will break down the recent performances, as well as the positions, weight, age and odds of the racers.
Before the first race begins, you may also get access to the parade ring, which allows you to see the horses up close. Now, some people like to do this because they think they can sense something when watching the horses that helps them make a selection. We are not entirely sure about that, but it is a great part of the experience and something we very much recommend if it is available.
During this time, it is also a good idea to pay attention to any announcements for changes to any races.
Scheduling your day: Decide on how you would like to bet and put that into action.
Some people like to decide upon their bets in advance and sort that all out in one big go, whereas others prefer to stagger them out throughout the day. Either way is straightforward, so go with whatever you feel is best.
Your racing form should describe the schedule of the day. Most racing days begin an hour or two after mid-day and last until early evening. It is also typical to have 30-45 minutes gap between races, so it is a relaxed pace for a day out.
We do think it is a good idea to go into a day at the races with an amount of money you wish to bet in mind, and to stay in control by not exceeding that amount. Consider too, the additional costs of the day, including any food, drink and travel costs.
After the last race: For many, the fun doesn’t stop after the last race. There is often (live) entertainment after the racing has concluded, which and this can go on for a few hours. While it is a great way to end the day, you can always choose to head on home if you are all worn out from a long and exciting day.
How To Place a Bet Live
Knowing how to place a bet is vital, so with that in mind, here’s a simple five-step plan to betting live and in person.
- 01Choose your horseGo through the racing form and choose which horse you want to back. We advise you to consider this carefully and implement a sound betting strategy here. But if you want to take a shot in the dark, so long as you bet responsibly, that’s entirely up to you.
- 02Choose which bookmaker you wish to bet withNow you have decided which horse you’re backing, it’s time to select a bookmaker. These will be available at the betting ring. Naturally, you’ll want to go to the one with the best odds. You may also be able to bet on tote horse racing betting on some racecourses if you wish to go down a pool betting route.
- 03Tell them how much you want to betHead on over to your chosen bookie and tell them, just as you would at a betting shop, which horse you would like to bet on and for how much. Hand over the money, and your bet has now been placed!
- 04Keep your betting slipYou will be handed a receipt - this is the proof you made the bet, and you will need to keep this in order to receive your potential winnings.
- 05Collect your winningsIf you have won, you can collect your winnings (wait for the “weighed in” announcement before you do) from the same bookmaker where you placed your bet. Simply hand over your betting slip and receive your money.
7 Places To Enjoy a Day at the Races
You should now have a pretty good idea of what a day at the races typically looks like, but where exactly are they held? The answer to this is simple: all across the country, with 60 racecourses throughout the UK.
We’ve picked a magnificent 7, if you will, of our favourites as a sample of what’s available.
- Aintree: Where else could we start but at the home of the Grand National? Aintree provides events all across the year with everything from multi-day packages costing hundreds of pounds to your standard raceday starting at £20. It embodies everything you could want from a day at the races.
- Cheltenham: Home of course to the massive Cheltenham Festival, alongside the likes of the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Cheltenham November meeting. A hunt racing exclusive course. Tickets range from about £30 plus to hundreds for multi-day options, with food included.
- Ascot: Home of the Royal Ascot, the five-day racing extravaganza as much a social event as it is a sporting spectacular. The Ascot Gold Cup too, remains one of the most prestigious in the world. A day at the Royal Ascot costs from around £33 to £87.
- Doncaster: A fantastic racecourse offering big events like the Racing Post Trophy and St Leger Stakes, alongside year-round races, not to mention spectacular entertainment and specials such as live music and the much-loved Gin and Fizz race night, Doncaster is a true all-rounder, with many tickets costing as little as £25.
- York: Considered by many to be the best in Yorkshire is the gorgeous and historic York racecourse. The host of the Ebor Meeting - the race with the richest handicap in Europe - has been enthralling horse racing fans for centuries, and you can get involved for as little as £23, or up to £125, depending on the level of luxury you desire.
- Epson Downs: Home of the Epson Derby, the second leg of the prestigious triple crown, attracts thousands every year, and is considered by many to be one of the toughest horse racing tests due to steep climbs, sharp turns, and sudden drops. There are of course, events running throughout the year too, with tickets going for as little as a tenner for some.
- Windsor Racecourse: While there are plenty of spectacular racecourses throughout the UK, none other can boast being a mere hop, skip and jump away from Windsor Castle itself. It is also an unusual course, utilising the figure 8 and smaller than most. It is considered a more intimate way of enjoying a day at the races with fantastic food and drink options. You can get more ticket information by signing up to their newsletter.
Of course, that’s just an overview. Below is a complete list of the other major racecourses you can find and enjoy in person in the UK.
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Ladies Day at the Races
Horse racing meets high fashion at Ladies Day, an event which is held at racecourses on various dates. Almost every major racecourse has a Ladies Day, where everyone is encouraged to turn up in their finest attire.
Not only is this a fun excuse to get those dresses out the closet, but there are also prizes for what are judged the finest dresses for the event, typically including awards for best-dressed couple and best hat. Above all else, Ladies Day at the races is a bit of fun.
How In-Person Betting Compares To Online Betting: Pros & Cons
We love spending a day at the races. However, it’s not that we think that live betting is better than betting online or vice versa, we simply view them as different ways of enjoying horse racing betting. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. To illustrate these distinctions, we’ve put together a list below:
- 1It’s an experience: The key reason you choose a day at the races is that being able to see a race in person is a great experience. The sights, sounds and atmosphere of a great racing event are like no other.
- 2Choose from several top bookmakers without needing to sign up: While there is a near-limitless number of options of online bookmakers, the fact is that many people won’t sign up to more than one bookie, even though signing up to multiple bookmakers is easy and beneficial. For them, the ability to choose between the best in person will provide them with better value.
- 3Live promotions: Often the tickets to a live horse racing event comes with betting promotions, such as free bets, and there may be promotions offered from the bookmakers themselves in person.
- 4You’ll learn a lot about horse racing: Knowledge is power when it comes to sports betting. Seeing the races in person and spending the day around the sport can really improve your knowledge base and have a positive impact on your future bets.
- 5Focus on your strategy: Having this time to bask in the glory of one of the finest sports in the world has an immediate strategic benefit. Good betting strategy takes time, and here, you have that time.
- 1Inconvenience: As fun as a day at the races can be, it does utilise a great deal of time compared with betting online, so it may be inconvenient for some.
- 2Additional costs: The tickets, the drinks, the food, it’s all part of a great experience, but it all costs money. If you’re at the races with an eye on making a profit, then this needs to be considered.
- 3No online promotions: While bonuses are available, it does mean that you miss out on a bunch of online promotions, which, depending on the quality of your bookmaker, may be more generous.
- 4More operator choice online: If you are someone who takes the time to sign up to multiple top tier bookies (something we highly recommend), you will have more choice than what is available during a day at the races. This is especially important if you wish to bet on the best bitcoin betting sites, for instance.
- 5It might simply not be possible: If you can’t go, you can’t bet, which is not the case online.
Using Your Favourite Online Bookies at the Races
There’s no reason you can’t bet online while enjoying a day at the races. Simply go enjoy your live betting experience, but place your bets using your favourite mobile app.
- This means you can bet without needing to physically pay at the bookmakers.
You can also gain access to the finest online betting promotions, utilise our online horse racing betting tips, and have access to more of the best online bookies. You could even do a bit of both if you wanted to use an online bonus for one market and then bet in person for the rest. It’s entirely up to you.
The beauty of having so many online and offline options is versatility.
Day at the Races FAQs
Yes, it’s a completely different experience both practically and sensorially. Neither is better, it’s simply a matter of preference.
This entirely depends on the bookmaker you use, neither is necessarily better value than the other.
Yes, bonus offers can be available from the bookmakers available at the racecourse.
There are 60 key venues offering live racing across the UK, with thousands of events taking place throughout the year.
They will usually be provided with your ticket, and if not, are on sale throughout the venue.
Simply head on over to the betting ring and place your bet with your chosen bookmaker in person. You could also utilise an online betting app while at a live event, if you so wish.
Yes, just head over to the bookmaker you wagered with and hand over your betting slip to retrieve your winnings.
It is a racing event where everyone is encouraged to wear their finest clothes, with several prizes for best dressed being offered.
ThePuntersPage Final Say
While our focus at ThePuntersPage is typically to help you find your ideal online experience and make the most out of every one of your wagers, we also appreciate what live events like a day at the races can provide. We view it part of a wonderful sports betting tapestry.
In-person live betting and betting online should be viewed as partners, a duo of delightful options to help satisfy all kinds of horse racing betting fans. So if you’ve never been to a day at the races, it’s worth checking out what events are near you.