Testing out the hosting skills of David Crosse
Mel Brodie takes a punt on a Monday night at Royal Windsor Racecourse
Imagine if you went horse racing with an expert tipster who could only predict winners. That was my experience with jockey David Crosse at Royal Windsor Monday night races. The excitement. The glory. The riches.
Being a corporate hospitality guest at this small, friendly and beautifully manicured racecourse, you get your own jockey as host, luminaries of the racing world including Colin West, who rode Desert Orchid to victory no less than 17 times, but today it is David Crosse, aka The Oracle.
He meets us at the racecourse’s private jetty as we step off a French Brothers cruise boat, having caught the train from Waterloo into Windsor and Eton Riverside and pulled in past the sports grounds of the prestigious boys’ college and under the watchful windows of Windsor Castle itself. It’s all about arriving in style. No Harry and Meghan spotting today, although the Queen apparently once joined the racing throng every Monday.
David is currently not riding, having fallen and broken his thumb. His plaster cast has set his hand in a permanent thumbs up position.
This should have been our first clue to which way the day could go.
Keeping up with his pace and Irish jockey patter, liberally sprinkled with “it’s all about the craic”, was fun and breathless.
First stop, the Weighing Room, usually out of bounds to the public, where we learn that the jockeys can sweat off half a stone in the sauna before a race in order to get down to the required weight. Then off to our box with its view over the long green straight to the finishing line.
Mid-way through drinks, David appears, clutching a copy of the Racing Post – and a whip. He proceeds to pick on one of our party to hold out his hand. Has he done something particularly naughty? A crack (not craic) sounds loudly as the whip descends. We gasp. But the recipient of the beating is still beaming.
These days jockeys use air whips up to a maximum of eight times in a race. Noisy and effective, but painless.
Having rattled through the race card with his tips for “on the nose” and each-way bets, and been assured that jockeys are always unreliable tipsters, we chew our pens, furrow brows, make decisions and pile out to the Tote desk in the hospitality area (although you can easily take the extra few steps to the real bookies outside).
During our starters, it’s the first race. Plates are abandoned as we head out to the balcony with the best view on the course to cheer on our horses. David’s each-way tip wins. I didn’t put any money on that horse. I realise I don’t like being told what to do. This becomes a pattern for the first three races as the tension mounts, the squeals of delight erupt and I rip up my Tote ticket.
By the fourth I’ve learnt to follow his advice and start making a few pounds. Then we get another hospitality perk – exclusive access to the starting gates.
David banters with the jockeys high in their saddles (there’s the craic again) and we admire the quiet power of a tonne of racehorse galloping out of the stalls up close.
So, imagine if you went horse racing with a tipster who could not get it wrong. That was my experience. Excitement? Yes. Glory and riches? Unfortunately, no.
I was more convinced by his argument that jockeys were rubbish tipsters than his tips until too late.
But I only went home £14 poorer than I’d started. That could have been so much worse.
All in all a great day and there were consolation drinks and listening to live music after the races had finished. Odds on, I’ll be back. Take a tip from me.
‘‘ We admire the quiet power of a tonne of racehorse galloping out of the stalls Mel Brodie
Winning host David Crosse Monday nights at Windsor Racecourse are proving to be a popular choice