Although I’ve been to the races, I can honestly say I’ve never considered taking the children until I was offered the opportunity to review the family race day at Beverley Racecourse.
As part of Great British Racing’s ‘Under 18s Race Free’ initiative, there are 60 racecourses throughout Great Britain where under 18s are admitted free of charge to the vast majority of fixtures throughout the year, when accompanied by a paying adult. So, always open to new experiences, we packed up and headed north, joining an astounding number of families for the Paw Patrol event held at Beverley Racecourse.
We arrived early and located the Cleverleys bistro and bar, getting the day off to a strong start with fish finger butties for my little ones and warm beef and horseradish for me. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and although the beef was more well done than I’d choose, the food was good; Emilie’s butty was almost as big as her head. They chose from the main menu at a cost of £8.95 each, but other than an ice lolly later on they were more than satisfied for the whole time we were there.
There were also sharing options on the menu which the staff did indicate were good value too and a wide range of options from ‘Sumptuous fine dining’ to fish and chips, which meant that if you hadn’t brought your picnic you were more than catered for.
The loud speaker outside alerted us to the ‘Bark de Triomphe’ so a quick trip to the (mercifully clean and plentiful) toilets and we were out and on the hunt for trainers and jockeys dogs, who were to run in the charity race. Charlie immediately requested a pug and wasn’t disappointed, although my firm favourite was, I think, Bailey? Who leaped, full bodied, into the water used to help cool and rehydrate animals – (well he was certainly cool!)
The charity race itself was as much fun as it sounds, with pets pitched against each other and in the vast majority far more intent on playing, running the wrong way and another favourite of mine, being carried to the finish line.
Next we made our way over to the family event; Showing passes to cross the track meant that at safe times during the day we seemed to constantly travel back and forth without issue. I realised we’d just missed the Paw Patrol meet and greet so instead went to get all important glitter tattoos. Local companies provided a mixture of activities and events including a bouncy slide and castle, face painting, fair type swings and a small fairground ride. All very family friendly and as one lady commented to me ‘so much to do.’
The organisation was actually such, that many of the children we saw, largely seemed to stay in this central area, picnicking, playing and generally enjoying themselves; surrounded by the racing and simultaneously enjoying story time with Sky and Chase, telling their own adventurous tales, as well as meeting and taking photos with the duo.
We stuck around for some of the story time then hot footed it back over the track to watch the first race. There was genuinely no pressure to place a bet other than the usual visual opportunities and we chose 1 horse for each race to place a small wager on. Obviously, you have to be 18 to place a bet so that was my job!
As it turned out this, for us, was an excellent education in how to lose on each one but we loved spending the time together, looking over the Raceday programme and carefully selecting based on hat, jacket colour, number and name! We did quickly realise that being trackside meant that the children actually could see very little and we moved to where I have traditionally sat with a glass of something sparkling, much higher in the stands. Here they became more excited as they saw the action, felt the shared excitement of the crowd and enjoyed walking up to see their horse before each race before cheering him for, as Emilie pointed out, ‘taking part’ (roughly translated to ‘not winning!’)
Over the summer holidays there are more than 200 fixtures up and down the country, including 50 special family days with additional activities put on for families and young people and I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised by it as an event, we literally didn’t stop all day and by the end of the day I had two, exhausted but happy children.
To find out more about ‘Under 18s Race Free’ and find a family race day near you, go to www.under18sracefree.com
We were gifted tickets to the raceday at Beverley but all opinions are our own.
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