Well – what would you do if you had a big birthday coming up? Mmm….Well of course the answer is obvious – A Day At The Races !
The thought of such a day out seemed like a Bright Idea – but Where? How? When?
I wanted to invite all my close family and have the day as near as possible to my birthdate, and this led me to thinking of Ripon Racecourse, a delightful venue, which would be convenient for travel and had a meeting scheduled for July 22nd. I reckoned the cost would be about the price of a holiday or two. Several phone calls to Ripon later, and planning really began to take shape.
A hospitality box would give us a base and would cover us in case of bad weather. I also wanted to sponsor a race, to be named after my late sister, and this was agreed – “The Ruth Gibbons’ Family Handicap”. I didn’t want it to be a memorial race, because I wanted our day to celebrate our family, past and present.
All set – and the day began with a very wet start. Thirty adult guests and twelve children arrived from north, south, west and New Zealand! The sun came out as we gathered in our room and we never stopped talking all afternoon. Most people had never been to a race meeting before but it was amazing how quickly they found out how to bet! Cousins returned with the news that they had won £40, nephews were £32 up, son-in-law had £25….. I think the highlight for most of us was the sight of my 95-year-old uncle, getting out of his wheelchair to see each race, with obvious delight. He recalled how in his youth, he was sent to put on bets for his older workmates – not realising what it was all about, and what’s more, illegal! Another great moment was when my daughter came in with a wonderful cake, specially made with a racing scene on the top, with two jockeys, one even wearing Elite Racing Club colours, and the other the old Laurel Racing Club’s yellow and black (my current and former clubs).
Ripon is such a nice racecourse, compact and friendly, with excellent facilities, and our party enjoyed exploring – the children found the play area, and my one-year-old grandson loved the band. Everyone was thrilled to see the horses and learn more about the sport. In the past, I think some had wondered what it was we found so enjoyable in our “hobby” – now they know.
We had such a great day – the catering for our buffet was superb and very efficiently staffed, and the Management at Ripon Racecourse were brilliant, so attentive and helpful. When it came to the time of “our” race, we were made to feel very special, with a select group of us being taken to the parade ring to pick the ”best turned out” runner. The race was won by “Indy”, trained by John Quinn at Malton, and ridden by Jason Hart It stayed on well to win easily by three lengths, and was 5/1 at the off. Did any of us back it? Sadly, no.
After the race there was a memorable moment when my sister’s eldest grandson Joe, aged 13, presented the prize to the winning owners, and then we were invited to share a celebratory drink with the successful connections.
And just to get back to betting – we had heard in the past that the system to follow at Ripon is to back horses with the fifth letter R in their name. It may sound silly – but on Saturday there were three horses that fitted the bill. One came 8th, one came 7th, but the other one won at 10/1, so if you’d placed a bet on all three …………… do the maths !