35mm · Film photography · Photography

A day at the races

About three weeks ago I visited Doncaster races with my Dad. I’d bought him an experience day voucher for his birthday earlier in the year and, as he’d not found anyone else who wanted to go with him (I’d assumed he’d have gone with one of his pals), I said I’d go. By the time this happened, there was only one event still available before the coucher was due to expire, the Vertem Very Different Stockbrokers Raceday on 25 October. As this was a Friday, I booked a day’s leave.

FILM - Looking for a winner

The voucher gave us access to the County Enclosure at the racecourse. This meant no denim, no trainers or sportswear, and the requirement to wear a collared shirt. It also granted us a £5 voucher each for a drink, as well as a free race programme.

FILM - Bookies

When the day arrived, the weather was pretty atrocious with heavy rain forecast for the whole day. When we arrived there were very few people in the outside areas of the enclosures other than those wishing to place a bet at the trackside bookies, or those armed with umbrellas. Most people seemed to be inside watching proceedings on television screens. This seemed somewhat pointless as, as my dad said, they might have well just gone into a local betting shop to do this rather than pay the entrance fee for the racecourse.

FILM - Equine athletes

We decided to cash in our drink vouchers before doing anything else (first things first, right?). My dad’s beer was covered by his, but the cider I asked for came to more than the allocated £5 and I had to put another 20p to the cost. It wasn’t even a particularly nice cider either. Nonetheless, we found ourselves a table with some free seats and sat down to look at the programme an pick the winners(!). After choosing some likely looking prospects (my dad came armed with a sheet of tips from a bloke he knows) we moved over to the County Enclosure ready for the first race.


A few minutes before the race was due, we went outside (where it was still raining heavily) to watch the event. Although the bottom tiers of the stands were soaked (see my earlier post for an idea of how wet they were), the higher levels were sheltered enough to have dry seats, so we headed up there.

FILM - Rainy racedays

I think there were seven races scheduled for the day. We didn’t bother with the first, which only had four runners, and we left before the final two races, but the others followed a similar pattern of us watching from the dry section of the stands (where I took a number of photos); retreating indoors to place further bets / take shelter; then repeating the process for the next race.

FILM - By a nose

Although I have little interest in horse-racing, and even less experience in picking winners, I didn’t fare too badly on the day. While I didn’t break even, a couple of good results (including a win!) meant that my losses came to only a few pounds – and I’d written off all my stake money as likely to be lost beforehand anyway, so anything less than a total wipeout was good news. I’m not sure that my dad’s tips played any better than my “stick a pin in it and hope for the best” technique.

FILM - Winner

Overall I enjoyed the day and I’d like to do it again (albeit in better weather).

Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 75-150mm f/4, Zuiko 28mm f/3.5, F.Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 & Ilford HP5+.

Taken on 25 October 2019

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