It was a foggy, chilly day in February when a group of us headed to Ascot for the Betfair Ascot Chase Day. Located just 6 miles from Windsor Castle, it is owned by the Crown Estate.
Spending time with good friends enhanced all the fun we had that day. Queen Anne originally selected the area and set it aside for horse racing with the first race on August 11, 1711.
Three centuries later, however, the racecourse was closed for 2 years between 2006-8, when renovations took over and the ultra modern grandstand was constructed that is used today. Twenty five days of thoroughbred horse-racing take place here each year.
The races include flat racing, hurdle racing and steeplechase racing.
We were fortunate to be the guests of friends who had arranged for a private box, which meant we had some great food, room to walk around, and our own private betting grid to make watching the races a little more fun.
On our particular race day, there were jumping races: both hurdle and steeplechase races as a lead-up to the championship Cheltenham Races following a few weeks later.
This is a close-up of a plain steeplechase fence. At a height of 4'7", there are 8 of these fences made from the branches of birch trees, as well as 2 open ditches for the horses to jump. Depending on the individual race, the course is between 2 and 3 miles.
In the other type of jumping race, there are 7 flights of hurdles, each at a smaller height of 3"6." Typically, a horse would start his career jumping these before moving on to the more difficult steeplechase races.
The girls decided to go on a little exploring trip of our own between races.
We checked to see if we could get into the Royal Enclosure where the queen would sit on days she was attending, but we had no luck entering.
So we headed to the Parade Ring where the horses parade prior to their race, and we checked out the jockeys,
and the horses,
and then the jockeys again.... Cute little fellows!
We also got a peek at the award presentations to some of the winners.
And now, we're anticipating Royal Ascot to come in the month of June, when the attire and the behavior becomes "very proper."
Which reminds me of this song from "My Fair Lady" called Ascot Gavotte. One interesting tidbit for you as you enjoy this clip--there's a little movie blooper here: the horses are running the wrong way!
♫♫ "What a smashing, positively dashing spectacle, the Ascot Opening Day." ♫♫