For 9 months now I’ve watched racing from the comfort of my own living room or office. Some days I look out the window and I’m quite content to be sitting in a warm room watching racing and drinking tea, other days I long to be jumping into my car and heading to the races. After spending 10 years of doing nothing but going racing, talking about racing, thinking about racing and revolving my life around racing to all of a sudden simply watching racing on the TV every day it came as a shock. It has given me time to reflect and see racing through the eyes of a fan who solely follows the sport on TV rather than attending live.

10 benefits to a day at the races are:

  1. Atmosphere – The atmosphere of a race meeting especially the big days are special. It can’t be replicated from home.
  2. The professionals. How many sports can you walk in the gate alongside the main participants such as Willie Mullins. I don’t think you would stand beside Jose Murinho in the stand while he is watching his team play. It’s a special trait racing has.
  3. The people. Racing fans go to find a winner, they get to know each other and it evolves into a social outing. Everyone has a common interest. A day at the races is ‘food for the soul’. Going home with a few quid more than you went with is always nice too.
  4. Seeing the horses up close. There are no words to describe a fully fit racehorse in all its glory. Majestic doesn’t do them justice.
  5. Whispers. You do hear them and some may be true. This is Willies Cheltenham bumper horse, this is Aidan’s Derby horse, JP is here himself today – something good must be running. It’s part of the mystery and fun of it all. There’s a serious side to it all too. There’s a reason a lot of professional punters still attend an awful lot of live race meetings. It’s their edge. They see horses in the preliminaries, they bet in the ring without commission or as many restrictions as can be placed on them by multinational firms. They aren’t there for a day out. It pays them to do the mileage.
  6. Vision. You see so much more live, sometimes even subconsciously.  You can see a horse that may have got a quiet run or one that got an interesting ride. The new side angle camera shots are driving me mad at the minute on TV focusing on the front 2 in a race when it’s the other 20 I am trying to keep an eye on! They may be good for the social viewer but they distort the race as a whole and in my opinion they are a major backward step for race reading and viewing. Fine for replays, anything but fine for live footage!
  7. Betting. There’s a million ways to bet now and of course I am biased but I like the personal touch of betting with a bookmaker I know. It’s a mutual respect between a punter and his or her bookmaker that no app can give you. Don’t be shy, let a bookmaker know it’s a bigger price with a competitor or there is an extra place term elsewhere, they’ll often match it for you. A winning ticket clinched in your fist. Mind it like your life depends on it! There is no better feeling than a wad of cash in your hand or pocket.
  8. Dressing up! Getting the good shirt, tie and slacks on is a something I am looking forward too again… I hope all still fits!!!
  9. Emotions. Highs and lows and everything in between. Owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff, punters, bookmakers and everyone else involved. Winners and losers. Tears of joy and heart break. A day at the races is like Disneyland for adults.
  10. Stopping on the way home. A good meal en route home after a day’s racing puts the cherry on top of a great day. ‘Were ye racing today lads?’ the waitress asks, ‘any luck?’ ‘got out on the last’ is often the reply!

I know I can’t wait to go racing again. Like many things we did take it all for granted. I know a day at the races can be expensive, I know many feel like racing authorities haven’t done anything to reward loyal racegoers and they certainly haven’t done much to try and get them back over the last few months but there is light at the end of the tunnel. At some stage in the not too distant future the turn stile will start ticking again, the buzz will be back, the bookmakers will be shouting the odds and the colour and vibrancy will return.

Racing is nothing without its fans.