Heversham Park’s Nigel and Kat Riley flew out to the United Kingdom in the last week of June to attend the Royal Ascot meeting, to visit Penny Farm at Newmarket, and the Newmarket Museum of Horseracing. They were accompanied by Charl Pretorius.
The whirlwind trip took in Day Four of Royal Ascot, Friday, and was a right royal experience, perhaps even better than expected. Racing remains a sport for the elite in the UK, but the Brits as a nation just love it. The track was sold out every day and hundreds of thousands of RA fans streamed through the turnstyles, including the young.
Our trio was hosted in the Royal Enclosure, where the food was outstanding and the champagne flowed generously. Nigel and Charl were still chasing waist coats in the neighbouring town of Slough when the first race went off, but they did arrive in time for a late lunch and High Tea. Simply superb, and the service was top class!
The crowd participation, and participating themselves from the parade ring and the grandstrand, was riveting, and it was great to see Derby runner-up King Of Steel win on the day, a super horse going places. Also on the day, Frankie Dettori rode his 81st winner at Royal Ascot.
On Saturday, 24 June, the team visited Dave Mulholland at Penny Farm, Newmarket, they’re a spelling facility for trainers including John Gisden and Harry Eustace.
Newmarket hosted a low-key ‘Summer Saturday’ meeting at their July course and an average crowd was expected, but, again, the car park was packed and there must have been over 5,000 racegoers in attendance at about £33 (R700) per person. The townsfolk came in droves, an experience similar to one last enjoyed in South Africa, perhaps, when Horse Chestnut won the Derby at Turffontein in 1999. Sad.
The talking point at this meeting was Ancient Wisdom, a £2-million Dubawi yearling trained by Charlie Appleby. He was impressive in winning his second race from as many starts, green and leggy but with plenty of potential, one for the notebook.
A highlight to end the trip was a visit to the National Horseracing Museum at Newmarket (open, and well supported) even on Sundays, and with a lovely restaurant on the premises. There is much to seen inside and outside – a collection of memorabilia, paintings, framed oldies, paintings and videos inside, with Palace House, Rotschild Stables and the Frankel courtyard inside. The gift shop has amazing (and relatively affordable) fare to bring home.
In all, the UK racing scene and the town of Newmarket, aptly named the ‘world headquarters of thoroughbred racing’, remain must-experiences for any racing fans. Simply joys to behold!
FOR PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP IN OUR GALLERY, TAP HERE Click on individual photos to read captions.