A trip to the horses conjures up images of Ascot to me, women in incredible hats, scarily high heels and beautiful dresses drinking champagne. Now don't get me wrong, I can totally get on board with that, I would love to think I could fit in that world but unfortunately my budget doesn't very often stretch to that. I am however a big fan of a trip to the races.
I went to university in Nottingham which is where I had my first experience of a dog track. It was great fun, the anticipation of what your £2 bet might get you, watching the old-men regulars, and discovering chips and gravy (couldn't get much further away from my dream of Ascot!). It's a really cheap night out and there are races throughout the year. If you get a group of your friends together you can do something called the 6Pack, which costs £12 and gets you admission, a race card (so you can pick which dogs to back - I normally go with the one with the funniest name), a free tote bet, a drink and dinner (think chicken and chips in a basket). It's not a glam night but it's a cheap, fun night that people of any age can get involved in.
Horse racing can also be a fun and inexpensive night out. I was lucky enough to get invited to a night at Sandown Park in a hospitality box through work but I've been before as a regular punter and it's just as fun. Most of the racecourses do events throughout the year and this week Kaiser Chiefs were performing after the races on an average Thursday night. For about £30, you could watch all the races and get to see a music gig after - brilliant!
The other benefit of a trip to the horses is that you can take your own picnic and alcohol so you really can limit how much you spend. If it's not a special event with a band (or Peppa Pig even!), they don't often sell-out so you can decide last-minute if you fancy it.
The betting side still remains a mystery to me, I can stare at a race card for 15 minutes and still be no better off knowing what to bet on. Pure luck is the game I play, set yourself a limit and be prepared to lose it all. Amazingly, the last time I went, I won one race and ended up only £3.70 down on my night and nowadays that's the same cost as a drink so I consider myself a winner.
Sandown Park where I went is in Esher and is one of the Jockey Club group of racecourses, they have 14 other ones so there is bound to be one near you:
Epsom Downs Racecourse
Haydock Park Racecourse
Kempton Park Racecourse
Market Rasen Racecourse
Newmarket July Course
Newmarket Rowley Mile
Sandown Park Racecourse
Dogs or horses, for me, a night at the races is great fun whatever the weather (although there is no denying that everything is always better in the sun!).