Waterloo station was buzzing on that Saturday. Morning suits and toppers were so plentiful that I almost felt out of place in my lounge suit as I joined one of many long queues for the ticket machines. Needless to say, the train we boarded was packed. The crowd was mostly young and intent on having a merry time if the frequent sound of popping corks was any indication. I spent the one hour journey wedged in a doorway. The sardine can metaphor just isn’t adequate to describe it.
The efficiency of crowd control at Ascot station indicated that the rail staff and police had done it many times before, and we were soon on the High Street. The smartest thing I did in planning the day was to book a table at the packed Ascot Grill which provided good food served in a timely fashion, and excellent service. Then we walked the short distance to the racecourse.
I’d booked grandstand tickets at £75 each, and, at that price expected reasonable comfort and a decent view. What we got for our money was uncovered first-come-first-served seating 300m before the winning post – and it was a rainy day. To cap it off, my first bet unseated its rider mid race. I was not happy.
We put up with the crowding and the wet weather until after the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and decided to call it a day, partly because we were feeling miserable, but mostly because it meant a comfortable trip back to the city free of the drunken hordes. And you’d better believe there were drunken hordes. The Brits can teach us a thing or two about consuming alcohol. A large team of vendors strolled through the crowds dispensing beer from backpacks, and they had plenty of takers. (see photo)
The rave reviews of Royal Ascot from Australian racing commentators who get the best of everything for free in the Royal Enclosure should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. If you decide to make the pilgrimage to Ascot, don’t go on drunken Saturday like we did. Do pay the big bucks for the Royal Enclosure, even if it means looking as out of place as Peter Moody in a morning suit and top hat.
“Royal” Ascot? Well, Queen Elizabeth did turn up, but it’s not a race meeting I’ll remember with fondness.