Race goers hail 'laid back' Ascot

Race goers today hailed Royal Ascot as “laid back” and “unstuffy” as the prestigious meeting re-located to the North for the first time in its history.

Race goers today hailed Royal Ascot as “laid back” and “unstuffy” as the prestigious meeting re-located to the North for the first time in its history.

The bitter flowed as freely as the champagne, as the high society event moved to York while the Berkshire course undergoes redevelopment.

Punters enjoying a day out mixed with the upper echelons of society as the five-day racing extravaganza got under way.

There was a distinct lack of A-list celebrities present, however.

Rumours that David Beckham and other high profile celebrities would grace the world-famous sporting and social occasion proved unfounded.

But fears that humbler punters, particularly from the south, would stay away from the Knavesmire course did not materialise as the terraces and grass areas were packed with enthusiastic racegoers throughout the day.

Celebrities who did venture to York, and who had to endure wind and rain at times, included home-making guru Linda Barker and cricket legends Fred Trueman and Frank Tyson.

Fashion writer Hilary Alexander and comedian Nick Hancock could also be seen among the crowds.

The Dubai royal family, well known in the racing industry for their patronage of the sport, were present for the five-day event and could be seen mingling with the Royal Family, racecourse officials confirmed.

Rumours were also circulating that Castaway actress Amanda Donohoe was present at the picturesque course.

A spokesman for Royal Ascot said: “It has all gone pretty well. It certainly feels like Royal Ascot.

“We think about 40,000 people have come today and that is what we expected. It’s been a great opening day.”

Racehorse owner, Rob Stevens, 54, from Swansea, said he had found York a lot friendlier than Ascot.

“I have been to Ascot a number of times and I can say it feels a lot more laid back and friendly up here in York,” he said. “It feels a lot more classless. People are really mixing with each other and people are generally more down to earth. It’s a lot more accessible for people like me, who are working class.”

Mr Stevens, who owns a share in Mesmeric, which was running in the 4.55, added: “It’s been a fantastic day and I hope my horse can put the icing on the cake.”

Keely Chatterton, 37, from Sedgefield, near Newcastle said she had enjoyed the event more this year than on any previous occasion.

“Ascot can be a bit stuffy but here in York it is fantastic, it is much more down to earth and friendly. I think a lot of people will be hoping it comes back here next year.”

Katie Ritchie, 29, a first time race goer from Leeds said: “I have never been racing before in my life but after today’s excitement I will definitely be coming again. It’s a great spectacle, it is just wonderful dressing up for the day and mixing with the rich and famous."

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