The last time I went to the races was as a child with my family. I remember the hustle and bustle of it all, the suits, the bookies on their stalls, the thudding of hooves and asking my Dad if we could go right up to the track and watch the thoroughbreds sprint past the finishing post. It was quite the treat then, to make the trip to the Southwell Autumn Floodlit Flat Races.

Only a half an hour drive through the autumn-dusted lanes out of Nottingham City Centre and we arrived at Southwell racecourse. It may be small, but it’s one of the busiest racecourses in the UK, hosting flat and jump meets on all-weather track and turf all year round.  It’s one of six racecourses to have an all-weather track in the UK, and the only one with a ‘fibre sand’ surface. Apparently, it’s a bit like marmite for the horses, who either love it or hate it.

As the sun started to dip down beyond the golf course in the centre of the track, Will Bowler, the race-day presenter at Southwell, kindly offered to show us around. We got a sneak peek into all the behind-the-scenes action from the hospitality boxes and dining suite to the commentary and officials towers. From the top was a beautiful view over the racecourse and Will insisted on a clear day you could even see Southwell Minster. Today, however, great grey storm clouds were threatening in the distance.  The judge’s box was particularly interesting, lined up exactly with the finishing post so the winners and places could be called. We even got to see the computer that’s used to work out the really close calls.

Next was the parade ring, where the horses trot around in front of the punters as they prepare for their race. The small paddock was adjacent to the winner’s enclosure and suites where the champagne and flutes were waiting. After a quick look at where the trainers sign in and where the jockeys weigh in and out before and after races, the tour was over and it was time for the flat racing to begin… after a meal at The Pantry, of course!

The racing began at 6 pm, and I’ll admit, I was slightly lost, since I was too young to remember how it worked from my last outing. My friend and I got a drink in the Grand Hall and studied the race-card.  I texted my Dad and asked for his tips on the night’s runners, then we ventured outside, our coats pulled tight against the cold. The bookies were stood by their stalls, their screens flashing with the changing odds on the next race. After the first (unsuccessful) two pound each-way bet, we soon got into the swing of things.

The floodlights switched on as the night grew darker and the racing got into its full pace. Even in the chilly autumn night, there's a certain warmth in the crowd cheering on their horses, illuminated as they sprint under the LED lights.  We cheered too, finding ourselves swept up in the excitement of it all, and in between races we huddled in the Grand Hall to pick our next winners.

As we drove back to Nottingham, our wallets surprisingly slightly heavier than when we’d started, I wondered why I’d left it so long to go to the races. It's a hugely intense and exciting experience - and even if you're a beginner, you can find simple and clear instructions on how to bet on the Southwell Racecourse website to help you get into the swing of things. I'll definitely be back to try out one of their other raceday events soon!

This blog was written by guest writer for Visit Nottinghamshire, Charlotte Evans.

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Southwell Racecourse
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Southwell Racecourse

Southwell Racecourse offers a unique blend of charm, excitement and comfort, making it one of the premier sporting venues in the East Midlands. With racing on both All-Weather and Turf tracks taking place throughout the year we are sure to have a rac

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