A weekend watching sport in the company of friends is heaven – a splendid Saturday at Ascot and Sunday at the Surveyors sevens at Richmond. The sun wasn’t out and the sports not at their finest, yet spirits were not dampened. West London was full of sport this weekend, including the International sevens at Twickenham – we encountered the fans, mainly Antipodeans in fancy dress, on the train to Ascot.
Cadging an invite through a journalist chum to the races, we spent the day at the largesse of RacingUK. We sipped champagne in their lovely box with a stunning view over the Queen’s course. This was the first day of flat racing at Ascot this year, the Victoria cup being the showpiece. It was the quietest I have seen the course – being a regular visitor of the busy royal meet and the spectacular King George in July. Though still well attended, one could breath and stroll the grounds without being clattered into by a staggering heavily-imbibed chap.
Lunch, always the most important meal of the day, was a spread of cold cuts and usual supplementary buffet sides. A tender poached salmon was a particular highlight. I again noticed the modern trend of no wine glass plate clips – these used to be an integral part of many buffets! There was dessert of spring pudding, which was a take on the regular summer pud. Again much approved of.
Though yearning the mass of morning suits and toppers, I noticed that most race goers were dressed smartly in lounge suits and ties. Excluding the few chaps sans socks or the men dressed as jockeys (a worrying new trend) the smartness added a pleasant sense of occasion. It is possible that Ascot’s ‘orange sticker’ dress-code blitz in 2012 did work. An air of sartorial smartness will always enhance anyone’s day.
As my knowledge of flat racing doesn’t extend much beyond the Classics I was pleased there was a tipster in the box with us. As he marked our cards before lunch, I followed his every word. Unfortunately for my dusty wallet, our benevolent tipster was having an off day. I didn’t back any winners (nothing new there) but had a chance in all six races.
The races were all a ‘handicapper’s dream’ with big fields all arriving in flat lines with a furlong to go. None more so than the 25 horse cavalry charge of the Victoria Cup, which Gabriel’s Lad won at 12/1. A fine day watching the pulsating pace of flat racing and real treat to see a resplendent Ascot in all its glory, but not having to dodge the swaying singers and flying bottles!
I retired for an evening at the White Horse and came across many more enthusiastic fancy dressed rugby fans.
I transformed myself, thankfully not in fancy dress, to being a rugby fan for Sunday. The Surveyors sevens at Richmond rugby club is day perhaps enjoyed more by the supporters than the players. Though the rugby is of a decent level, one suspects the players were eagerly waiting for their first pints. Spending most of my time in the well stocked tents, I can’t honestly judge the player’s skill levels. I couldn’t even praise the winner….
Being lucky enough to go with people who work in the industry at different companies, we found more doors open to us than we probably deserved. The white tents flanking the pitch offer food and drink, some with a smile. We even managed to sneak into our own estate agent’s tent to refresh ourselves with a cold lager- finally taking something from them! The atmosphere at this event was one of excess and very good natured conviviality.
Definitely an event to pop in the diary and find yourself an invite! However one would be advised to advised to keep away from work on the Monday, or try to buy a house due to the fragile state of most the estate agents in London.