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Tuesday, 18 February 2020
ASCOT may be over for another year, but what about Newbury?
It is less than 18 months since I last visited Newbury racecourse and as I drove in over the small hill, the vast and pristine course is impressively laid out in front of you. First impressions do count don’t they?
As you sweep around to the immense car park, you realise it is right next door to the station. A racecourse with its own train station? Oh yes!
It is a mere 30-minute trip from Reading and must surely be worth a visit — if not by train or car then helicopter perhaps? They cater for that too.
The new “Owners’ Club” is where I meet Harriet Collins, who is only too happy to show me around.
Harriet, is herself of racing pedigree, the daughter of a bloodstock agent from Newmarket, and carries with her a vast amount of racing experience, including having worked for The Racing Post.
She happily explains the vast £24 million refurbishment that has been taking place.
Firstly, Newbury Racecourse is rare in so much as it is one of the few racecourses that runs both National Hunt racing (jump) and flat racing. This in turn enables it to offer up to 30 race days a year.
It also now boasts outstanding capacity due to selling part of its land for development.
This has not only led to some rather smart flats overlooking the course, but also Julian Thick, the chief executive and previous managing director of Aintree, has played a major part in the new layout and design.
So why visit?
Well, it’s all very new, for starters — the layout has been carefully thought through. Owners have their own vast new area, which incidentally can be used for corporate events, as was the case when I visited.
As mentioned, there has been approximately £24 million spent on the redevelopment of the site.
The viewing around the parade ring and winners’ enclosure has seen truly significant improvements — the benefits of which are already being enjoyed by racegoers as well as owners, trainers and jockeys.
The “Steppings” enable racegoers to get closer to the action, whilst safety inside the paddock has been improved.
Newbury has also installed a new wash-down area outside the parade ring for horses that finish outside the top four, which is also a big and noticeable improvement.
The redevelopment in my opinion definitely considers each customer, whether it be it the horse, owner, trainer, stable staff member or valued racegoer.
Harriet says: “There is a core staff here of around 100 on any given day and that expands on high days. We have three gin days coming up on July 4, 11 and 25. The starting price for this is a mere £15 and if one has a little too much gin, then there is always our on-site hotel to put you up.”
See, I told you they’ve thought of everything. A double room starts at £125 with breakfast included.
“We can cater for one or we can cater for parties of a thousand or so,” adds Harriet.
“We are very popular at the moment for very large weddings as we have the capacity to cater for very large numbers to a high standard.
“Equally, we have our own high level of private suites — 32 private boxes — that can be individual and bespoke to the client, even down to the choice of furniture. Some clients like to organise their conferences in the morning and then enjoy the racing in the afternoon.
“We enjoy working with the clients to get their packages right. We also offer various tours to everyone, including a visit to the commentators’ box, the starter area, where you can really feel the tension, through to a ‘jump’ in season.
“We can and do supply tipsters and our main aim here is to ensure that the visitor, whoever they may be, enjoys their day out.
“We even ensure that train times are handed out and we organise friendly staff on the gates to help with any questions as our guests leave.”
Newbury Racecourse was perhaps best known for the Hennessy Gold Cup — now of course called the Ladbrokes Trophy — and also the Lockinge Ladies’ Day held last month.
But such is its top-end capacity that it is hosting concerts by Tom Jones next month and Madness in August.
Harriet has moved out of London for this role of Marcomms and Sponsorship Director, and I am certain she has a package for everyone’s taste and budget. Speaking of which, under-18s can attend the racing for free.
I urge a visit. Do check out Newbury Racecourse’s comprehensive website at www.newburyracecourse.co.uk or call 01635 40015.
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