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Day out at the races - Ascot

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well.


On Friday the 18th of November I went to Ascot racehorse grounds as part of an event by UCFB (my university) hosted by the careers team, and attended one of 23 races in a calendar year. On arrival at reception we were greeted by Sean from careers in racing who I managed to have a brief chat with before the day started. He shared how before his current role he worked at Ladbrokes and experienced a different side to racing, although he is not able to use his expertise in betting due to a new rule last March, he was happy to advise people who were new to the sport.


The day started with a private tour given by two stewards with bowler hats, they shared that they wore these hats after a request from Queen Elizabeth as she wanted them to be more recognizable. The first stop of the tour led us to a statue of Frankie Dettorie who was captured in a seated position based off of his post win celebration, the statue is made to honour his achievement of 7 consecutive wins in day. Due to the amount of stairs around the venue we were separated from the group on multiple occasions for an accessible route, but this allowed us to see more behind the scene action such as the stables and some jockeys. Whilst on the tour we learnt some interesting facts such as the first race was in 1711 and the infrastructure cost £200 million to build. Ascot is owned by the crown so we were shown they royals designated entrance gate as well as their box, this is the only one that can view both the course and the viewing gallery. Another interesting and surprising fact they shared was that jockeys only earn £165 per race but they also get additional fees such as 10% of each win. Part of the parade ring includes a tribute of all the winners of the big races at Ascot. We got to view the parade ring where I left my mark in the grass 😬, before being lucky enough to be let into the weighing room. This is where all jockeys have to go before and after each race to make sure they’re at the correct weight required, if they were too heavy they were sent to the steam room and if they were too light weights were put into the horses saddles.


We were then given the opportunity to hear talks from Sky Sports Racing / ITV racing presenter Mick Fitzgerald and Ascot commentator Ian Bartlett who shared some insight into their roles. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of a racing presenters and how they would prepare before going live. They both shared the same piece of advice being work hard and prepare for everything even if you don’t end using the information, as a journalism student this was very useful.


Next we were taken to our box for the day, we were given the full VIP treatment served drinks throughout and even given vouchers for our lunch. Whilst in the box we had two guest speakers, the first being Jacqui Greet who works at Ascot as the Charity and CSR (corporate social responsibility) manager. They are in charge of ensuring that Ascot has a positive impact on society, the 8 key areas they focus on are - local community, engaging with schools/colleges, customer relations, charity giving programme, engaging with staff, sponsors, industry support and sustainability. To meet some of these points Jacqui shared some of the things Ascot has previously done including doing a lot for local schools such as; an art competition with art work representing Royal Ascot shown in a tunnel connecting to the course, and a design competition for Royal Ascot with the winning design made for the student to wear on the day, Jacqui shared this was her most rewarding event so far. They also hosted and sponsored bake off competition, the platinum jubilee tray bake featured was later presented at the Ascot. Each race day see’s money being raised for different charities including buckets dotted around the venue to collect money, a pretty obvious fact was that the Royal Ascot is the most famous meeting and brings in the most money. Although it is only used for horse racing Ascot is linked to local football, cricket and rugby clubs. Finally Jacqui shared how they protect the environment, each day plastic cups are collects, taken to be washed, before being brought back to use again; they also collect rain water which provides 70% of water used on the grounds. The talk ended with us being shown an infographic of all the ways the Charity and CSR (corporate social responsibility) team have helped in the past year, this links perfectly into my course as I had to create an infographic recently for a module!


Our final talk of the day came from UCFB alumni Cameron Brown. Cameron was just like a lot of current UCFB students unsure where he wanted to go with his career after university, he was very football focused being apart of a football family but recognised this sport was very competitive to work in, he felt this would limit his opportunities in horse racing. At a UCFB career fair he met people from Careers In Racing and managed to get onto a British Horseracing authority graduation scheme that was a residential that lasted 2 weeks, he then got a 8 week placement with Star Betting where he was able to learn all different areas of horse racing including social media. Cameron now works for a marketing agency – Square In The Air, as the Senior Social Media Executive, this company works across multiple sports with horse racing and formula one being mentioned. He finished his talk by saying ‘I get paid to watch sport’, which I found very motivating!


After this the races began, we were in jump season and there were 7 races over the day. I personally find the jumps nerve wrecking to watch as there is so much risk, there was only one bad looking fall but multiple jockeys fell off over the races. Everyone at ascot was so nice, knowledgeable and made us feel very welcome. I managed to come away with 3 wins, but only left with £8 profit after splashing out on the final race (bad mistake!). I managed to sit in multiple different wheelchair designated areas to see all the different views; while the box was great and you could see the whole court it was a slightly restricted view for me as my chair was lower then the people standing in front, I preferred to be on the lower levels in the action, paying at the totes and had a great view of the finishing line!

Finally, I’d like to finish by thanking UCFB and Ash in particular for giving myself and the other students the opportunity to attend the event in a once in a lifetime way. Ash was very helpful at helping make accessible arrangements for me to attend, which I am extremely grateful for! I really enjoyed attending a different sporting event and hopefully more opportunities present themselves in the future.


Thank you for reading

Ellie

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