First-timers guide to racing at Stratford

Stratford Racecourse is a prominent fixture among the UK’s racing circuits. Situated in picturesque Warwickshire, it specialises in thoroughbred jump racing, offering more than a dozen meetings annually from March through to November. Renowned for its relaxed ambience compared to the grandeur of Ascot or Epsom, Stratford is an appealing venue for first-timers seeking a day at the races. There’s no pretension here, and you needn’t be shy about asking questions about what’s going on.

What to expect on raceday

The left-handed course, which has sharp bends within its triangular shape, features eight fences per circuit. It is notable for its speed. It boasts three distinct enclosures: the Centre course, Tattersalls Enclosure, and the Club enclosure from where you can watch the day’s action take place.

Visitors to Stratford can enhance their racing experience with a racecard, available for purchase throughout the venue, offering insights into each race such as tips, racecourse details, current performance of trainers and jockeys, longest-distance travellers, and essential form information. Additionally, it serves as a guide to navigate the course and highlights entertainment options available between races.

Sine Nomine and John Dawson are last over the water jump before winning the Point-to-Point Champion Novices’ Hunters Chase at Stratford. 2/6/2023 Pic Steve Davies

You can also upgrade between enclosures effortlessly by paying the price differential. Typically, you’ll have the chance to enjoy around seven races but variations may occur with occasional pony races held after the final official event. Gates open two hours before the first race, allowing ample time to get to know your surroundings. If you’re in the two higher-priced enclosures, the riders walk through the crowd to reach the parade ring. You don’t get that close to the players at old Trafford or Anfield.

The Spring has been wet as we are all too aware, but the public enclosures offer hard surfaces, so you won’t be needing wellington boots. But inevitably, the early season fixture list has been marred by a few cancellations when the adjacent River Avon took an unwelcome part in proceedings.

Time to place your bet

When it comes to the all-important betting, there are two ways to wager on races. You can physically place your bet at the venue or do it online. If you’d prefer to wager in person, decide on the amount and type of bet, then choose where to place it: either at the Tote or in the betting ring. Approach the betting operator, stating the horse’s number, your bet amount, and the type of bet (e.g., “Number 3, £5 to win”). Receive your ticket and keep it safe until after the race. If you’re betting direct with a bookmaker in the ring, then state the horse’s name instead of number.

If you want the ease and convenience of betting online then it’s important to choose a reputable operator. Check out independent review sites and read other customers’ experiences. The growth of online gambling, incorporating sports betting, slot games, and live casinos featuring popular games like poker and roulette, has created a very competitive market. Just as guides around the best roulette sites UK detail a platform’s strengths, bonus offers, and reputation for those keen on betting on traditional casino games, you must ensure you choose a regulated sports betting operator with a good track record.

Get the most from your day

Before each race, we recommend taking a moment to observe the horses in the parade ring. It’s a unique opportunity to appreciate these magnificent animals up close before they compete. Depending on your ticket privileges, make use of the various viewing areas available. Watching each race from different vantage points, especially from high up in the Grandstands or close up to an obstacle, offers a fresh perspective on the excitement.

Personally, I love being at the start to hear the starter’s instructions, and jockey chit-chat as they circle before the scheduled off time. “Who’s making it? My horse jumps left, don’t come up my inner” mixes with “I’ve tickets to Coldplay this weekend, do you want to come?”, emphasizing that for the riders, this is an ordinary day at the office.

Owner Stephen Walker, Trainer Gary Hanmer and Jockey Tabitha Worsley after Steel Wave had won at Stratford. 21/5/2023

In addition, after each race, head to the Winners’ Enclosure. Witness the victorious and placed horses return alongside their delighted owners and trainers, and enjoy the presentations to the winning connections. Embracing everything that Stratford Racecourse has to offer, from watching the race build up to the action itself and the betting that goes along with it, will ensure you get the most out of your day.

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