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I Tried Horse Racing and Loved It

Greg Devine


Horse racing

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Before you jump to conclusions, I didn’t ride any horses; I appreciate that title might be slightly misleading. No, I went to a student race day at Newcastle Racecourse. It’s something we’ve always spoken about doing between me and my mates from home, but we never got round to it. So, whilst at university, it felt like a trip not to be missed.

I understand that there’s some controversy surrounding horse racing in the 21st Century. It’s not the most humane practice when you consider what happens to horses when they can no longer race, but I went for the experience, not to be a political activist. I’m also someone who’ll jump at any opportunity to wear a suit!

Going to the races is now right up there on my list of ‘good days out’. Drinking with your mates in a suit is never not fun. I went to a student boxing night a couple of months ago and this was just as enjoyable; the races just had more people in attendance and horses running instead of students trying to knock each other out.

Drinks were expensive at the racecourse, but not as expensive as I thought they’d be. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a pint was around £7, so £5 seemed quite reasonable, considering the venue and the occasion. It was also the first time I’d ever properly betted in my life. I had a go on the Grand National as a child, but that was just the practice of picking out a horse from the list of silly names and throwing a pound on it. I knew gambling would add to the excitement of the day, provided I was smart about it. I decided to withdraw an amount of cash that I could stomach losing; in my mind, if I only betted with that cash, I would be fine. 

Betting isn’t something that has ever bothered me before—and even though I enjoyed my day at the races, it still doesn’t. I actually won £75, which felt a little scary. I realised how easy it would be to become addicted. The high of winning was a feeling I’ve rarely felt before—to the point where I knew I wouldn’t ever want to download a betting app. I watched other people and my fellow students stick stupid amounts of money on each race, and I can’t say I ever saw their horses win. This was a university group, though, so it’s fair to say that some of them were quite wealthy; however, even if I had their fortunes, losing any amount of money seems like such a waste. Gambling addictions are a serious problem. Whilst betting apps do have features to limit spend and a user’s time on the app, there are no safeguards in place to support gamblers at the races.

One thing that was noticeable was the number of people taking drugs. This shocked me. I’m not naïve to the fact that people will take drugs; I don’t really have too much of an opinion on it. What I wasn’t expecting was the volume of people sniffing different powders. I understand that some people might take drugs at a rave, for example, to add to the experience, but doing this at the races didn’t make sense to me. The irony is that the drugs these people were taking were more suited to the horses than the humans. Whilst all this did make getting to the toilet more difficult, it didn’t ruin my day.

Ultimately, my group had a great time. When I look back at university, that outing will definitely be something I remember fondly. University is all about trying new things—and pretending to know about horse racing for just a day was definitely great fun!

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