Buying gifts for my parents has become increasingly difficult as the years have passed - they presumably now have everything that they want, and have never wanted that much anyway, so when Ros suggested that I take them to a race meeting at Newmarket, my problem was solved (at least for one year).
So, having agreed a date, I booked a VIP package for the four of us and kept my fingers crossed for the weather.
Three days out, I was not optimistic, as the forecast predicted a series of vicious thunderstorms over west Suffolk but, as Saturday drew closer, things looked more hopeful.
|The July Course at Newmarket|
That hope was somewhat dampened by the heavy rain that fell as Ros and I drove along the A14 towards Newmarket but, as we arrived at the July Course, the rain had stopped. Driving across the grass as directed by the car park stewards, Ros said, "Isn't that your mother?". It was, and by amazing good fortune, we had arrived within seconds of each other and were parked with just one vehicle between us.
It did begin to rain lightly as we waited for the gates to open but, at 11.50 sharp, we were invited to enter and the rain stopped.
The VIP package is not cheap, but it includes car parking, close to the Premier Enclosure, racecards for each person, entry to the premier enclosure, a table in the Summer House Restaurant all day, champagne and canapes on arrival, a four course dinner, afternoon tea, a hostess to look after you and a nice lady from the Tote to take your bets at your table (and pay out if you win), so we sat down and caught up with each other.
Meanwhile, the sun had come out, and the predicted thunderstorms were holding off. It was time to give some thought to picking horses...
My mother has a tendency to pick horses whose jockeys have green in their colours. As a theory, it apparently works because most of the serious Arab owners include green in their colours, and they can afford good horses. It certainly worked in the first race, as the 16/1 outsider, Balty Boys, came in to win handily. My father, on the other hand, likes to look at the available data. In the second race, he picked Noble Protector, who promptly won at 12/1.
That meant that they would be taking home a profit, regardless of their success or otherwise during the rest of the day. Ros and I weren't being as successful, sadly. I'm like my father - I like to look at the data, even though I understand that it is only guidance - but it wasn't working for me until the fourth, when Athenian won at 5/1. Ros's choice, Lady Horatia, came third, and as we were placing 'each way' bets - half our stake to win, the other half to place - we had now all won something.
It was at this point that I departed from usual practice. In the sixth race, the horse I had initially chosen was scratched, leaving me to pick a replacement at short notice. So, I picked a horse with a liberal theme. And, lo and behold, Liberty Jack romped home at 7/1, before Gold Trail came second in the final race at 4/1, leaving me some £40 up on the day.
My only regret is that I didn't find my theme earlier - What A Party came third at a starting price of 100/1...
Winning always makes a day a little better, but even had our luck not been so good, it was huge fun to spend the day with my parents, and to have the time to chat about a whole range of topics in a relaxed environment.We're going to have to do this again, some time...