Student winners and losers as Ascot comes to the Knavesmire

ROYAL ASCOT may have been an unprecedented success for the Knavesmire racecourse and the thousands of punters who bet on the favourite Westerner in the Gold Cup on Thursday, but my experience of Ladies Day in York taught me one valuable lesson: never bet your bus money on a horse with an amusing name.

I was forced to return home on foot after some casual gambling that left me without a win on any of the day’s six races. Preferring the rank outsider Mr Dinos at a speculative 20/1 for the Gold Cup, as well as placing a hopeful fiver each way on Beaver Patrol in the Brittania Stakes left me penniless. When the favourite Indigo Cat cruised home in the fifth race of the day to uproarious applause, I realised that I’d spent everything before the bookies had put up the odds for the last race. No Pimm’s, no cheap champagne and only the walk home to reflect on a wasted £60.

At least I drew comfort from knowing there were people worse off than myself. Probably the only safe bet I made all day was to turn up without a ticket, as wild-eyed touts begged passers-by to buy tickets at half their face value. There was more than a hint of desperation in their bartering, and a minute or so of haggling under the noses of the racecourse security guards led to some serious discounts.

It seemed to me that the sensible money was all in the pockets of students who had decided to dump their lectures and seminars for a week and work behind one of the many bars. Despite surprisingly few tips from stingy race goers, catering companies were desperate to recruit anyone who could take the pressure of delivering the gallons of alcohol needed to quench the masses of northerners basking in the uncharacteristic sun. Second year Flora Bradwell commented that ‘things were pretty quiet in the mornings, but when the racing got going you couldn’t stop them. Some of them were pretty disgusting on Ladies day – one woman had a shit in a urinal, and there were plenty of couples having sex behind my Pimm’s tent.’ In retrospect, maybe working wouldn’t have been worth it, at least not for the unlucky toilet attendants.

The best bets at this year’s festival:

Tuesday, 4.55, Leg Spinner, 9/1
Under pressure throughout race, just held off challenge to win

Wednesday, 3.05, Peeress, 14/1
Held up behind leaders for most of race, led in final furlong

Thursday 3.05 Thakafaat 22/1
Took an early lead after two furlongs, and just held on

Friday 4.20 Imperial Stride 25/1
Held up early, but led final furlong to win by two lengths

Saturday 5.30 Cruzspiel 10/1
Led over five furlongs, driven out in final furlong

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