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Earlier this year when we were taking a walk around the racecourse at York, the girls asked if we could watch the horse racing again soon – so when the opportunity arose to work with Great British Racing to help promote their Under 18s Race Free campaign, we knew we had to get involved!
We are no strangers to a family race day having first taken Ben to York Races for Family Day shortly after his 1st birthday. Grandad let him pick horses to bet on and he bought a Postman Pat train with his winnings. It was the start of an annual tradition whereby we all went to York Races with Granny, Grandad and Aunty Nic for a few years on the bounce! We haven’t been for the last couple of years though thanks to weddings and holidays clashing with the annual family day.
Whilst we’ve been to York Races a number of times – both with the children and also for more grown up days out, we’d not been to Chester Races before so we were really excited to see what was on offer for us as a family last weekend.
We were lucky enough to be hosted by the guys at Parent Folk who had a special summer social popup area within the Festival Village – this meant we had to get dressed up in our Sunday Best (smart jackets and ties were a requirement for the men – and I got several messages over on instagram to say how good Dave looked in his suit) whereas had we just been attending the Open Course area, we could have been much more relaxed about our wardrobe choices! It was really lovely to have a reason to get properly dressed up though – Amy and Chloe said we all looked like we were going to a wedding!
The Open Course area is a really relaxed and informal space – we saw families enjoying picnics and making the most of all the free fun activities for younger racegoers. I was really impressed by the variety of activities on offer for children – and the fact they were all free was a huge bonus. I spend so much of my time saying “You can’t go on that, it’s too expensive” – £2 for a go on a bouncy castle doesn’t seem to bad until you have to pay it for three children, then the costs of additional entertainment can soon mount up! This wasn’t an issue at Chester Races – the climbing wall, various bouncy castles, face-painting and mini-golf were all completely free! (Of course the downside of this was that there were quite a lot of queues!)
Ben, as you’d expect, made a beeline for the climbing wall and, despite wearing his best clothes, made it to the top of the wall without too much trouble! Whilst he was queuing up for his turn, I took the girls to play mini-golf. I had planned to avoid the bouncy castles partly due to the fact that none of them were really dressed for it and partly because I just couldn’t face standing in a big queue with them but Dave convinced me to let them have a go on the big inflatable slide on the basis that it had the shortest queue and seemed to be moving quickly!
But of course what we were really there for was the horse racing. I love the excitement that comes with picking horses, cheering them on and the sound of thundering hooves as they race past you! We bet on two horses in each race – one that the children picked and one that Dave & I picked. Sometimes these were picked on jerseys or names, others were picked on tips from Grandad. We had two winners over the course of the day, both thanks to Dad – both were favourites with really short odds so we didn’t exactly make a fortune but that’s not the point is it – you don’t bet to win, you only bet what you can afford to lose! Besides, these three were pretty chuffed with their shared winnings of £2.50 each!!
If you fancy a family day out at the races, it’s worth knowing that as part of Great British Racing’s ‘Under 18s Race Free’ initiative, there are 60 racecourses throughout Great Britain where under 18s are admitted free of charge to the vast majority of fixtures throughout the year, when accompanied by a paying adult. Throughout the summer holidays there are more than 200 fixtures up and down the country, including 50 special family days like the one we experienced at Chester Races – these will have additional activities put on for families and young people so are definitely worth keeping an eye out for!
Upcoming Family Race days in the North West
Thurday 8th August at Haydock Park – “Summer Family Day” – 12pm to 5pm
Come and play on the replica beach, where there’ll be music and games throughout the day. There will be beach games, sports day style, so you co could win a medal if you’re the best at the ‘Beach Ball Spoon Race’ or ‘Stick of Rock Relay’!
Candy striped stalls, so you can hook ‘a’ duck and Hoopla, along with our inflatable assault course, craft tables and face painting will make this a fun day for all the family.
Monday 19th August at Bangor-on-Dee – “Family Evening” – 4.30pm – 8.10pm
Expect an exciting line up of racing alongside a wealth of free family fun activities, including: face-painting, crafts, crazy golf, climbing wall, and inflatable play zones. All children’s activities are provided free of charge.