I went to my first Ladies Day at Pontefract Races - and here's what I thought

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My expectations of attending the races in Pontefract were minimal, yet having attended for the first time, I can say that I completely understand the appeal of a girls’ day out at the races.

I’d never attended a race day or even a racecourse before; I’ve never been a gambler, have always been aware around the controversy surounding the sport and ultimately have never really had the chance.

However, when my editor gave me the opportunity to attend Ladies Day at Pontefract Racecourse today (August 9), I decided it was finally time to see what I’d been missing out on.

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I arrived at Pontefract Racecourse as soon as the gates opened at 12pm and was instantly welcomed with a tall glass of champagne which automatically made me feel like a VIP – something I had not often experienced.

Here's how my day at Pontefract Racecourse, as a journalist, went.Here's how my day at Pontefract Racecourse, as a journalist, went.
Here's how my day at Pontefract Racecourse, as a journalist, went.

Having arrived so early, with the first race not starting till 2.20pm, it meant I had plenty of time to explore the grounds ahead of the first race.

The day itself was lovely. Despite dark clouds there were constant sunny spells, with the temperature reaching 22 degrees. However, I can imagine, that despite what the weather could have been, the atmosphere would have remained the same.

After 45 minutes of wandering around and taking in the atmosphere, it was time for an esteemed panel to judge best dressed man and woman.

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To me, the fashion element of the day was something I was particularly looked forward to due to the wide variety of bold, colourful and wholly unique outfits I had seen as I walked in.

Charlotte Hall, winner of Best Dressed.Charlotte Hall, winner of Best Dressed.
Charlotte Hall, winner of Best Dressed.

From layers of ruffles, to fabulous feathers, ladies from across the district donned their best dresses, stilletos and fascinators, hoping for a shot at the top prize.

This year it seemed no expense was spared as the lucky winner would recieve an incredible seven night stay in Dubai – which made me wish I’d made more of an effort.

From 20 women, three were eventually chosen as the best dressed, with Charlotte Hall from Hemsworth taking the top spot in her flowing pink floral dress and home-made garden-inspired headpiece.

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Having seen the outfit earlier in the day, I wasn’t surprised as the spectacular headpiece immediately caught my eye.

I placed (and lost) my first bet.I placed (and lost) my first bet.
I placed (and lost) my first bet.

Following her big win, she spoke to me saying: “It feels absolutely amazing!

“To win this, it feels unreal! At such at beautiful racecourse and an event which I come to every year – I can’t explain it!”

Soon after, it was time for the first race of the day.

I’ve never put a bet on before and, with my loose change, I nervously approached one of the betting counters putting £2 on a horse named Dandy’s Angel.

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Hundreds put on their best outfits, ready for a day full of sun, bets and booze.Hundreds put on their best outfits, ready for a day full of sun, bets and booze.
Hundreds put on their best outfits, ready for a day full of sun, bets and booze.

Being a journalist, I managed to worm my way to where photographers from other publications were – right on the sidelines of the finish line.

Having never watched a live horse race before I didn’t know what to expect, which only made it more exciting.

As I stood on the sidelines, I followed along the start of the race on the big screen before I heard thunderous hooves heading my way.

Within the blink of an eye, the horses sped past as the crowd yelled and cheered – it was incredible.

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The tense atmosphere as they approached the finish line was soon followed by screams of success and casual “oh well, maybe next times”.

Unfortunately for me, Dandy’s Angel came fourth but the thrill of the race made me forget about my loss.

In fact, I realised how truly lucky I was to be attending such a vibrant day, especially with me being able attend doing the job I love.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, various races continued to take place – with me on the sidelines for each one thoroughly enjoying it.

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The immediate care of the horses after each race also put my mind at ease.

I headed over to the winner’s area after each race to watch the owner or trainer of each horse recieve their prize as each winning horse recieved several buckets of water to help them cool down and a bag of carrots.

The smell of freshly made burgers and the sound of joyous laughter and camera noises made for a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere.

With the day thriving, and having placed, and lost, my first bet, I finally felt like I was getting into the swing of things and truly embracing my day at the races.

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I started to notice the lucky winners who either had great instincts or an insider as they consistantly returned to the bookies to get their winnings.

Opposingly, there were the ones who didn’t care much to bet but soaked in the sunshine with a bottle of prosecco while they enjoyed the company of their friends.

Overall, the day was filled with joy and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

I can totally understand the appeal of the day and the idea of wanting to spend your money on bets, having seen the happiness on the faces of those who’d won.

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Coming in with little to no expectations, I can truly say it is a wonderful day out – especially when the sun is shining.

As a journalist, it was also a day that provided me with tonnes of opportunities. However, if I was to return I’d hope to attend with a group of friends as it seems to truly experience Ladies Day, the drinks need to flow with some of your nearest and dearest.

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