Bottoms down at Windsor for the Secret Racegoer
One of the attractions of going racing in Britain and Ireland is the variety of racecourses. That said, for the second time in a fortnight the Secret Racegoer has visited a figure-of-eight track.
Last time it was Fontwell and now it’s Windsor, on their opening day of the new Flat season.
If Fontwell and Windsor both have figure of eight circuits, at that point much of the similarity ends. For example, down in West Sussex you get a bus from the nearest station. For Windsor, you get the boat.
French Brothers’ pier is near the bridge across the Thames which links Windsor and Eton.
There they run pleasure boats up and down the river, but on race days they provide a relaxed shuttle service to and from the racecourse, with the added amenity of a saloon bar.
“Going to the races?”, asked a young lady alongside a pleasure craft. “That’s your boat there, the white one. We’ll be off in about 10 minutes once your bottom has chosen which seat it wants”.
And with the bottom having made its mind up, and with around fifty more racegoers doing likewise, off we set for the amble along the Thames for nearly 15 minutes, past Eton where you need to be the sole winner of a Jackpot to have you child educated for a term, and past riverside homes which require a Scoop 6 win plus bonus to afford the deposit.
What also seemed a tad pricey was the £29 asking price for a premier enclosure badge, or the Heidsieck Club Enclosure as Windsor likes to call it, or Royal Windsor Racecourse as it likes to call itself. The royal standard was flying above the castle, but HM didn’t pop along the river to watch the races.
Now reference to sampling a pint of Guinness is going to take longer for the Windsor visit compared to other venues. Not because the black stuff was of poor quality, but because the course has introduced sturdy plastic containers for which you pay a £1 deposit – a commendable effort to reduce the use of plastic. The deposit is refunded on return of the container.
But the deposit is not refunded at the bar where you buy your pint (unless you decide to have another one, which means you end up with another empty glass), but at a counter in the paddock. I didn’t want another pint and didn’t have time to head back to the paddock, so had to carry the empty glass around until after the first race.
Back in the paddock, there was an open-air bar which appeared to serve draught Guinness and my earlier resolve quickly faded. I proffered my empty glass and asked for a pint.
The member of the bar team went to the fridge and got out a can. No, I said, a pint of Guinness. “This is a Guinness” I was told. It’s not a pint of Guinness I replied, saying I wanted a pint. “We don’t do pints” he said, still holding out the can. “Do you want it?”. I declined.
The second race was getting ever closer and I was still carrying an empty glass around.
The first race had been won by a 20/1 shot, Ever Rock, admirably ridden by 7lb claimer Laura Coughlan. She’d walked the idiosyncratic course beforehand as it was her first Windsor ride and she’s one to keep an eye on.
The second race went to a 25/1 shot. Spirits needed to be raised, so I went to one of the three outdoor food counters.
A pizza didn’t appeal, nor did Indian street food, but a gourmet burger did. The good news was that it was consumed without any ketchup going down my shirt. That was as good as it was going to get.
Windsor’s annual members used to have a sizeable pavilion bar alongside the track but last year it was turned into a champagne bar. Rather neatly, the seats are giant champagne corks and the tables upturned champagne bottle tops. And Guinness is served too, in a proper glass. So the bottom chose a champagne cork to sit on.
Meanwhile it seems annual members are still coming to terms with being evicted from their bright, airy pavilion. They now have exclusive use of a windowless room under the grandstand. There weren’t many there, their bottoms having chosen to sit elsewhere.
Others who were a little disgruntled were in the owners and trainers pavilion, where the big-screen across the track was faulty all afternoon. It probably didn’t matter too much for Richard Hannon as he trained a double, with Ryan Moore in the saddle on both occasions.
And with the “getting-out stakes” won by the second winning favourite of the afternoon, its chances of finishing first eluding me, as had all the day’s winners, it was back to the return boat, too late to realise that I had an empty plastic glass in my rucksack.