Keen racegoers will have the Devon National firmly in their sights. This top racing event takes place at Exeter Racecourse at Kennford on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The date moves in accordance with Easter but in 2014 it is on the first Tuesday in March. It's one of the first opportunities in the year to see how some of the region's favourite race horses are performing.
The Devon National Race is sponsored by Higos Insurance Services. The race itself entails four miles of racing at a steady gallop with exciting jumps around the beautiful racecourse on top of Haldon Hill. It is quite an exposed and blustery location, so be prepared with an extra layer of clothing so you can really enjoy the day. Hopefully the winter showers will be long gone and everyone can enjoy this first of three race days in March at Exeter Racecourse.
The racing starts at 2pm with the gates opening at 11am. You can get admission to the Grandstand and Paddock for as little as £13 if you book in advance, and even cheaper for groups of 10 or more. The Haldon Premier Stand is a little more expensive. The name of the winning racehorse is added to the prestigious trophy and of course there is a worthwhile cheque for the racehorse owner too. Along with the feature Devon National, there are several other races making it a full day at the races.
Getting to Exeter Racecourse
If you plan to drink or simply don't want the hassle of driving to Exeter Racecourse which is quite a distance from the city centre, a bus is best the best option. A free bus service runs from Exeter St David's and the Exeter Bus and Coach Station on racedays and drops you right at the racecourse. The bus returns to Exeter 30 minutes after the last race so it's worth checking out the timetable.
The racecourse itself is one of the UK's leading tracks with excellent facilities so I can recommend this as a great day out. Families will children will also find family-friendly facilities and there is no admission cost for children under the age of 17.
The racecourse has seen more than its fair share of winners, top horses and renowned jockeys. Desert Orchid won his first chase at Exeter in 1985 and went on to become one of the best racehorses of all time. Denman, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008, and Kauto Star both won races early in their careers at Exeter, so be prepared to back an outsider!
Best viewing positions at Exeter Racecourse
One of the best places to view the racing is from the Desert Orchid Restaurant which overlooks the racecourse with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. If you book a table you can reserve a window seat and you can continue to linger and watch all the races long after the last traces of the three course lunch has been enjoyed. It also means you will be warm and will have a comfortable seat for the entire event, although there's nothing quite as exciting as hanging over the spectator rails urging your bet to the wining post!
The Lunch Hospitality Package not only includes the set three course lunch but also premier admission, a racecard and free car parking, but you need to be organized as places do book up fast.
What's it like to attend Exeter Racecourse at one of the jump fixtures? Is it the horses, the atmosphere, the betting or the social experience that attract so many visitors? Let's hear your opinion, especially if you have attended Exeter Racecourse.