If there’s ever been a track that’s built for the summer then look no further than Royal Windsor. Nestled into a bend in the River Thames around a mile from the Queen’s pad, Royal Windsor Racecourse comes alive from late May to early September with its famous Monday night meetings on one of the only figure of eight tracks in the UK, which could lead to chaos and confusion if you have a very slow horse crossing the track at the same time as the leaders but alas never seems to!
On a balmy summer’s evening there’s no better place to be on a boat cruising down the river, champagne in hand, on the way to a night of racing. Once you arrive at the dedicated dock it’s a 2 minute walk to the entrance. There are three enclosures including the Granstand which is a fine old building with bench seats at the top and steps lower down offering excellent views of the action. There’s plenty of places to grab food and drink including bars that serve local Windsor beer.
When the sun is shining the lawns provide a perfect spot to spread out and relax. The Silver Ring Enclosure allows punters to bring in their own picnics whilst the large grass area behind the County Enclosure often hosts concerts after the racing.
The track hosts the grade 3 Winter Hill Stakes every August, it’s biggest race with a purse of around £60,000. Back in 2012 it was here that Richard Hughes rode seven winners on a card of eight at combined odds of 10,168-1, which cost the bookies significant cash and LEDs to one punter winning around £159,000.
The track was also the location used for the 2001 film Last Orders starring Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone.
Our last visit – August 2015
With the littlest Fuller’s safely packed away with their Grandparents for the week it was time to explore somewhere new. I’d heard lots of good things about Monday nights in Windsor so we indulged, driving down early in the afternoon, parking at the course then taking the uninspiring mile walk into the twin centre for some food and pre-race drinks.
Come 5.30pm and we were on one of the regular boats, leaving the quayside at the foot of Castle Hill. The Racegoers River package not only included our entry but also the boat transfer up the River, peering into the back gardens of the rich and famous. Not only would we have a night of racing but a Queen Tribute Act to end the day with the Love of my Life (CMF not a fake Freddie Mercury).
The first person I bumped into in the bar was West Ham legend Tony Cottee, who loves the horses and was only too happy to chat. Seeing this as an omen I went with the Mick Channon-trained Gandvik and a horse called Zlatan. Neither finished in the money. Bridget’s strategy of backing colours saw her grab second place with Dark Forest at 2/1.
The second race only had five starters but on their gallop down to the starting point Melting Ice threw its jockey and sprinted down the straight. The poor jockey dusted himself down and started to jog down to the stalls, some mile down the track. As the race couldn’t start until he was mounted it seemed bizarre that nobody went to his aid. When he finally got to the stalls, the horse refused to enter and he was promptly withdrawn from the race, making it a 4 horse field and with Nebola Storm winning at 11/10 there was nothing to be had. 0/2.
My two Jimmy Quinn trained horses grabbed two second places in the final two races (Quinn sharing his name with a former West Ham striker and a Lewes manager) whilst the eagerly anticipated Isabella Bird finished fourth in the second to last. Not the best of evenings in terms of racing succes with a net loss of about £20, but you can’t moan about meeting a West Ham legend, having a few new beers and seeing a jockey trying to chase a horse in such beautiful setting.
The Queen act played in front of a few hundred as the sun went down, topping off a very pleasant Monday evening and one that I can thoroughly recommend.
What’s the track like?: Flat racing only around a figure of eight track in a beautiful setting.
Admission: Theres a number of packages available for racegoers that includes River transport to/from the track and entry from £30. Standard entry to most meetings is £10 when bought in advanced for the Silver Ring, £19 for the Grandstand Enclosure and £23 for the County Enclosure. Tickets bought on the gate cost £3 more. Under18s are admitted free with an adult.
Food and Drink: There’s a number of places to eat depending on how formal you want to be. The Castle Restaurant is a superb panoramic restaurant which overlooks the racetrack giving a fantastic view of the racing in elegant and comfortable surroundings with a luxury a la carte menu drom £115 per person. The Grill Bar and Restaurant is located within the original Victorian Grandstand and is an oasis of calm amidst the bustle of racing. It is only a short walk from the finishing post and main entrance to the course and offers a modern stylish grill menu from £65 per person.
The Blues and Royal restaurant is a unique al fresco restaurant is set within the Club Enclosure just metres away from the finishing post. It provides a stunning location for dining in style and is the ideal restaurant to enjoy a wonderful summer night of racing.
The bars around the course offer some excellent local beers and well as the normal race day fayre.
Address: Royal Windsor Racecourse, Maidenhead Road, Windsor, SL4 5JJ
Directions: Exit the M25 motorway at J15 joining the M4 West Slough and Reading.
Exit the M4 at junction 6 signposted Slough Central, Windsor A332, Eton. Take the first left following the A332 to Windsor. Take the slip road signposted A308 and Windsor Racecourse. Take the third exit on the roundabout towards A308 Maidenhead Road. The entrance to the racecourse is on the right hand side on the Maidenhead road.
The nearest stations to the racecourse are Windsor and Eton Central, Windsor and Eton Riverside and Slough. Trains run from Paddington and Waterloo to these stations. Taxis are available from all stations.
A river taxi service operates for all race meetings from Barry Avenue Promenade, opposite Browns restaurant, in Windsor Town centre. This is just a short walk from the Windsor train stations. The river trip takes approximately 10 minutes and there is a full bar facility on board. For further information on boat services contact French Brothers on 01753 851900 or visit www.frenchbrothers.co.uk. Special Racegoer packages which include the riverboat and entry are available online.
Hotels near-by: The nearest hotel to the course is Coworth Park, located on Blacknest Road, which offers special rates for racegoers. There’s plenty of hotels in Windsor town centre to suit all budgets, enabling you to utilise the riverboat service to get to and from the race meeting.