The Secret Raceger is overwhelmed by everyone at York wanting to help
The welcome you get at York Racecourse is almost overwhelming.
You approach a member of the security team to have your bagged searched and he asks if you need to carry it around with you all day. If not, he said, you can leave it at the left luggage facility.
At the left luggage facility the lady tells you they close an hour after the last race, but it might be a good idea to collect your bag before the last so you can get a return bus or taxi quickly.
“If you need something you can come in and out whenever you like flower.”
Back at the main entrance there are desks for purchasing daily badges, three-day badges, junior badges and for picking up reciprocal badges for Ascot, Chester, Curragh and Haydock annual members.
The lady at one of the desks asked if there was anybody from Haydock or Ireland. No one was forthcoming. “So I can’t help anyone” she said, somewhat crestfallen.
The gentleman who punches a hole in your badge said “Good luck out there”, as if you are about to enter bandit territory. Which, if you are heading towards the betting ring, has an ring of truth about it.
The smiles and greetings continue wherever you go. And the racecard plays its part. Everything is included, from details of meeting points to cash machine locations and from wheelchair access to seeking out a chaplain if you want a quiet chat with someone who is prepared to listen.
One racegoer from down south, making a return visit to York after 40 years, was beaming at the customer service, saying that a few of the southern tracks could learn a lot by coming to York. And he was somewhat rueful that it had taken him so long to return, but was already planning a speedy visit back to the Knavesmire.
The first race on the card was the Sky Bet Race to the Ebor Jorvik Stakes, the winner of which received automatic entry to the £1m Ebor Handicap in August. The one-million pound tag was repeated a few times just in case people weren’t listening.
Whilst it seems to please York that £1m is on offer, it’s debateable if this is what racing wants or needs. Distribution of a few thousand around the lower ranks of the sport would be far more beneficial.
York is at its finest on a sunny day, and day one of the Dante meeting delivered sunshine in spades. “Sun or shade?” asked a gentleman racegoer of his lady companion. “I don’t mind” she said, “I just want a cup of tea.”
The Secret Racegoer wanted a pint of Guinness, and for the first time found the price, at £5.60, inching towards the cost down south but still some way short of Epsom’s extortionate £6.
Once the racing is over, the racecard still offers help on a page headed “Safe journey ‘ome”, suggesting that those who are making the journey back to the city on foot might best “answer a call of nature before you leave the premises so as to enjoy a more relaxed walk.”
There is also the plea “Please be safe on your trip to York and be aware that in places the river bank will not be fenced.” It sounds like their talking from experience.
The Secret Racegoer also did his bit to be of assistance when a TV racing presenter asked him if he had a spare pound for the bus fare back to York.
On the return train, the guard sounded like a head teacher at school assembly. “I know some of you have been to the races and will have had a few drinks, but please listen carefully. This train is now fast to London Kings Cross.”
And, out of the blue, an announcement on the train says “We’d like to advise passengers to please take care when handling hot drinks”. An announcement made ten minutes after the buffet had closed.
Everyone is trying to help and even the Racing Hub got in on the act with 14/1 Musidora winner Nausha in its Horses to Follow list, and the Secret Racegoer mentioned it to anyone who was prepared to listen.
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