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THE DERBY AND OAKS AT EPSOM
With Optional Excursions to the French Derby and Newmarket
7 or 9 Days, 6 or 8 Nights (including one en route)
MAY 29 to JUNE 4 or 6, 2019
5 nights in Windsor, 2 nights in Newmarket
3 days/evenings of racing at Epsom and Windsor
A Thames River cruise and other special sightseeing in Windsor
An optional day trip to Chantilly for the French Derby
A 2-day/2-night optional extension to Newmarket including
Morning training, farm visits, the Racing Museum and the Jockey Club.
Depart the U.S., if not joining the trip from the U.K. or elsewhere.
|Arrive in London. We'll meet your flight and transfer you to our accommodation at the Oakley Court Hotel on the Thames River in nearby Windsor. We can also collect you in-town in London if you're already there.
The remainder of the day is free for your adjustment and personal activities. Depending on your flight arrival time, and although we'll be having a thorough look at historic Windsor later in the week, you might want to pop into town for a bit to stretch your legs. There's plenty to see and it's only a ten-minute taxi ride. We always think it's a good idea to stay active if it's your first day over from the U.S.
In the late afternoon we'll rendezvous at the hotel's dock and have a multi-hour cocktail cruise on the Thames while we get to know each other and get organized for our week together. Back at the hotel you can be on your own this evening or join in on the no-host booking we will have made for the group in the hotel's casual dining area. It won't be a late night.
THE OAKLEY COURT: We've been regulars here for seven years running and never been disappointed. Atmosphere and tranquility are the hallmarks of this beautiful country house, originally built as a private residence in 1859. The public spaces offer traditional English ambiance and the 37 acres of manicured grounds include several hundred yards of frontage on the gently flowing Thames. For the more actively inclined there’s a gym, sauna-and-steam, an indoor pool, and a Par 3 golf course. Our deluxe rooms are located in a quiet modern wing. Please refer to www.oakleycourt.co.uk for more details on the property. A full English breakfast is included each morning of our stay.
|Mid-morning we’ll depart the hotel for the first of our two days at venerable Epsom Downs, just south of London. It's Oaks Day. Now promoted by the racecourse as “Ladies Day” this Friday draws a larger crowd than it used to, but it’s still nowhere near as frenetic as it will be tomorrow for the Derby. It’s a connoisseur’s day of racing and the superb card includes several Group and Listed races – two of them Group 1s over the traditional Classic distance of a mile-and-a-half.
The headline event is of course the Oaks itself. Inaugurated in 1779, the success of it led to the organizing of the Derby the following year. The name derives from the house the promoters were staying in locally, and the Oaks “brand” has been appropriated for 3-year-old filly races everywhere. For more than two hundred years it’s been the premier prize for the division in Europe and it remains so today.
The other big tilt is the Coronation Cup, which dates to 1902 and the crowning of King Edward VII, one of the great Royal supporters of racing down the years. This is the first European Group 1 of the year for classic-distance older horses and is thus a very important race on its own. Nine Derby winners and the great filly Pretty Polly have taken it, and post-war winners include Ballymoss, Petite Etoile, Exbury, Mill Reef, Exceller, Rainbow Quest, Swain, Daylami, Yeats, Shirocco, Cirrus des Aigles, Highland Reel, and most recently Cracksman.
We’ll be in the premier Queen’s Stand today and we have elaborate hospitality planned at the racecourse: Champagne on arrival, a multi-course lunch, formal afternoon tea, and an open bar throughout. Our dining room has a wrap-around outdoor terrace with outstanding viewing of both the racing and he paddock.
After a day like today, we doubt many of us will be wanting elaborate dining tonight but we’ll make a non-host booking if anyone is. Another simple evening at the hotel might be in order.
|Derby Day. With an atmosphere made up of equal parts amusement park, gypsy encampment, pre-game tail gate party, rock festival, spring break at Daytona, the largest double-decker bus parking lot you've ever seen, 100,000 fans, and the most famous horse race in the world, this is one of the great sporting spectacles in the world.
No other single event has been as influential through the centuries as the Derby. The great Italian horseman Federico Tesio, breeder of Nearco and Ribot, hit the nail on the head when he said that the Thoroughbred is what he is because of "a piece of wood – the finishing post at Epsom". For most of its history this race has been the definitive trial for all the qualities that make a great or near-great horse, and just this young century it's been won by the likes of Galileo, High Chapparal, Motivator, New Approach, Sea the Stars, Workforce, Australia, and Golden Horn.
Every race anywhere that has "Derby" in its name gets it from here. It's your trip organizer's favorite single race in the world.
Also on the card are a couple of Group 3s and a Heritage Handicap, the five-furlong Dash Stakes over the famous Epsom “downhill all the way” straight course, which for most of its history has been the site of the world record for the distance – currently 53.69 seconds.
What really sets the course apart, though, is the testing Epsom mile-and-a-half. Upon arrival today, for those game for the experience, we'll walk across the infield to the Derby starting point and get a runner's-eye view. We'll do a course walk: up the 150-foot right-turning climb of the first five furlongs, down the sweeping, descending left-hand turn to Tattenham Corner, and finally have a look up the 3 1/2-furlong finishing straight with its camber toward the rail and treacherous uphill final 100 yards. You'll get an appreciation for all the things a horse has to cope with at Epsom, and come to understand why many think it's the most demanding flat race anywhere.
This day there are formal dress requirements for the premier Queens Stand and that enclosure also get uncomfortably crowded. The restaurants are prohibitively expensive, there are no reserved seats, and unreserved ones are hard to find and hold. For these reasons we'll be in the grandstand side (now officially referred to as the "Duchess's Stand"). Our race viewing won't suffer -- our block of reserved seats is in arguably the best spot in the house, just before the finish line.
On the way back to the hotel, assuming everyone's on board in advance, we can renew a Racing-Europe tradition and stop for a post-race no-host dinner at the 400-year-old Thatched Tavern in Cheapside, a Berkshire landmark and a place where we've had great fun on past trips. It's no problem for any not interested to continue on straight back to the hotel after the races.
|Those who’ve had enough racing for the time being can relax and have an OPEN DAY. Go into London for the day, explore nearby rural England (The Cotswolds are within a 2-hours’ drive), or just kick back and enjoy the riverside ambiance at The Oakley Court.
If you just can’t get enough, we’ll be up early and off to France for another day of Classic racing at Chantilly. Depending on the final air scheduling we’ll probably leave the hotel about 9:00AM.
Our objective is the Prix du Jockey-Club, also popularly referred to as the French Derby. Racing at Chantilly dates back to 1835 and the Jockey-Club was first run in 1836. The supporting card features several other Group-level events. The course itself is certainly one of the world’s most beautiful, with its signature backdrop of the Grand Stables and the elegant Chateau behind the stretch turn.
This optional excursion will include door-to-door transport, round-trip London-Paris airfare, and arrangements at the racecourse.
We should be back at the hotel by 10:00PM.
|Everyone – France adventurers and independent explorers alike -- can have a sleep-in this morning, as we have no scheduled activities until later in the day. Early afternoon we'll head into central Windsor for a walking tour of the town and its castle with our own private guide.
Windsor has been the site of a royal residence since William the Conqueror first threw up a few battlements over nine hundred years ago. The present castle is England's largest, and by some accounts the biggest inhabited fortified site in the world. It's also one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite resting places, and she spends a good bit of time here. Our walk will include, in addition to the castle, some street-level poking around in Windsor and across the bridge in Eton.
Late afternoon it'll be time to get to the town docks and catch the boat for the ten-minute ride back upstream to Windsor Racecourse.
In English racing, Summer Monday evenings belong to Windsor. From late April to late August the local course is a firm fan favorite despite the fact that few major races are contested. It's all atmosphere here – from the tall trees surrounding the walking ring, to the old traditional-style members' stand, to the peculiar figure-8 course layout dictated by the riverside siting that can take the runners out of sight for long moments. Windsor presents English racing at its idiosyncratic best.
We'll have dinner at a paddock-side restaurant, with race-viewing and everything else close at hand. We should be back at the hotel before ten.
For those of you not coming with us to Newmarket, today is your getaway day. We’ll provide transport to the airport for your flight home or into central London if that’s your next stop.
The rest of us will pick up stakes at the Oakley Court and head north to Newmarket. Following breakfast and checkout we'll get on the road mid-morning for the two-hour journey. Upon arrival we'll check in at our accommodation at the Bedford Lodge Hotel, but we won't linger as we're due in town for a quick snack and then our visit to the Jockey Club and its historic rooms.
Modern organized racing traces its origins to Newmarket over 300 years ago. The matching of horses here goes back even further in time, to the 1300s, but it was in the 1660s that King Charles II selected this locale to be the most suitable place in England to establish his stud and begin improving the emerging Thoroughbred breed. Thus did Newmarket gradually become English racing's "HQ" -- and the home of its governing authority, its principal training and farm area, and its major sales.
The Jockey Club assumed ruling powers over racing in the mid-1700s, and the customs and standards it set were largely copied wherever racing took hold around the world. It no longer administers the sport in England -- that role passed to the new British Horse Racing Authority in 2006 -- but the Club still has enormous prestige and owns and operates 15 courses around England, owns and manages the more than 3,000 acres of training grounds here and at Lambourn in Berkshire, and provides many advisory services for the racing industry.
We'll have a guided tour of the Club's meeting, social and supervisory rooms as well as its significant collection of racing art.
Just a couple of walking minutes away is the Palace House, a building with a rich history that now houses the National Racing Museum and the Museum of British Sporting Art. It’s permanent galleries and special exhibitions showcase racing from its earliest beginnings to the present day.
As the name implies the structure was originally built as a palace for the above-mentioned King Charles. Several subsequent monarchs visited but by the early 1800s the property had been converted to a training yard, and it remained so until 1985. A number of Derby and Guineas winners were trained here.
In 2016 Queen Elizabeth formally opened the renovated building. We’ll provide admission and you’ll be free to explore at your own pace.
Late afternoon we'll return to the Bedford Lodge for a respite. Those interested can re-gather for a round of drinks and/or a no-host dinner either in town or at one of the small villages nearby.
THE BEDFORD LODGE HOTEL sets the standard for comfort in Newmarket. Originally a hunting lodge built for the Duke of Bedford in the 1700s, it was converted to a hotel seventy years ago and has been the leading property in town ever since. There is on-site dining, a charming bar, gym facilities and an indoor pool, and a full-service spa. It's three acres of grounds are literally surrounded by training yards, and the Warren Hill gallops are just across the street. See www.bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk for more details. A full English breakfast starts each of our days here.
|Following breakfast, a full day of exploring Newmarket begins with a visit to a trainer's yard and an overview of the famous training grounds. Over 80 trainers are based in Newmarket and upwards of 2,500 horses a day exercise on the more than 60 miles of grass and artificial gallops and tracks, many of which are specialized for certain types of work. The training areas are spread out on both sides of the "downtown" (horsewalks right through town connect up the two sides) and we'll get a good look at all of it.
Over the course of the rest of the day we'll see both of the local racecourses -- one of which is the home of the classic 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas races in the spring -- visit two of the most prominent breeding farms, and see as many other of the significant features as we can squeeze in. There won't be too many spare minutes today.
Back home at the Bedford Lodge we can put our feet up for a bit. Then, as it’s our last night, we'll aim to find a suitable place for a last dinner together.
|Regretfully, the organized itinerary ends this morning following breakfast and check-out. We'll provide transport for you to either your departing flight at your London airport or to any alternate London destination. Those extending at The Bedford Lodge will get their transfer on their departure day.
Good luck, and travel safely.
This trip will close on April 1, 2019. Payment in full and all necessary completed paperwork must be received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the trip.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE:
This itinerary is designed to be full and busy. You may want to consider coming early, staying on, or fitting this program into or alongside other European travel plans.
Even a day for adjusting or exploring at the beginning can ease the pace of the trip. We can greet you at the airport on whatever day you arrive, or from London if you're already there, and get you to the Oakley Court. You might want to consider extending at the back end – the interesting university town of Cambridge is just a half hour away from Newmarket by taxi or train.
We’ll accommodate extensions as best we can, but room space is not blocked or guaranteed at this time at The Oakley Court or the Bedford Lodge either before or after our trip dates. It’s a very busy time of the year. Please let us know as soon as possible if you’d like to extend your stay at either of our trip hotels.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The basic itinerary includes:
The itinerary does not include:
- Five(5) nights’ lodging at The Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor.
- Breakfast each morning as indicated.
- Three(3) escorted days/evenings of racing at Epsom and Windsor, including transportation to and from the racecourse and race cards. Queen’s Stand admission and lunch at Epsom on May 31, Duchess’s Stand admission and reserved seating at Epsom on June 1, and Premier Enclosure admission and restaurant seating at Windsor June 3.
- Lunch on one(1) day: at Epsom Downs on May 31.
- Dinner on one(1) night: at Windsor Racecourse June 3.
- Afternoon “Welcome” cocktail/sightseeing cruise on the Thames River on May 30.
- Walking tour of Windsor and its Castle, with a private guide.
- Arrival transfer from your London airport or other London location to the Oakley Court Hotel. (Please note the trip price includes transfer from Heathrow Airport. Transfers can be arranged from Gatwick Airport or from central London, however they will incur a surcharge.)
- Departure transfer from the Oakley Court Hotel to your London airport or alternate London location. (Please note the trip price includes transfer to Heathrow Airport. Transfers can be arranged to Gatwick Airport or to central London, however they will incur a surcharge.)
- Complimentary racing newspaper each day.
- Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
The Cost of the Trip does
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- The cost of lunch or dinner any day except as specified above.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
- Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room and breakfast, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, and activities arranged through the hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
- Excess baggage charges. Please check baggage limits on inter-European air flights.
- Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
- Travel insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages, except during the Thames River cruise and at Epsom Downs on May 31.
- Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the “Itinerary Includes” summary above.
- Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip our drivers, farm and barn personnel, and hotel staffs on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outgoing transfer drivers and anyone who provides them with personal assistance, including special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
$3,855 per person, based on double occupancy (twelve or more travelers).
$3,975 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers).
$4,075 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers).
$625 single supplement, regardless of group size.
*Please note we have not received final costing for some minor elements of the itinerary, and therefore the final price of the trip is subject to minor adjustment until we do.
We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single traveler’s decision whether or not to accept a roommate. Single travelers on this trip will be accommodated in the same class of room as the double occupancy travelers at the Oakley Court Hotel (with a less desirable view to help keep the singles’ price down). The single rooms at the Bedford Lodge are somewhat smaller than the double-occupancy rooms.
Trip prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and the United Kingdom. U.S. Dollar prices quoted herein are based on the following exchange rates:
1 US $ = 0.781 U.K. Pounds // 1 Pound = 1.28 US $
The French Derby Day Trip (Sunday June 2): will include economy-class airfare from London to France and back, airport transfers in England and all transport in France, lunch or reserved seating at Chantilly Racecourse, and accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable escort. As to cost, about $450 to $550 per person is our best estimate at the moment. Final price will depend on prevailing airfares and the number of people selecting this option.
The Newmarket Extension (June 4-6) will include two(2) nights’ lodging at the Bedford Lodge Hotel, including breakfast each morning, tour of the Jockey Club rooms, entry to the Palace House, morning training excursion, visits to at least two farms, visit to the two local racecourses (non-racing days), group transport from the Oakley Court Hotel to Newmarket, group transport while in Newmarket, and private transfer to your London airport for your flight home or into central London. (Please note the trip price includes transfer to Heathrow Airport. Transfers can be arranged to Gatwick Airport or to central London, however they will incur a surcharge.) The Cost of the Newmarket Extension is:
$575 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or more travelers).
$645 per person, based on double occupancy (seven or nine travelers).
$725 per person, based on double occupancy (five or six travelers).
$245 single supplement, regardless of group size.
- Additional nights at the Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor, if available: or at the Bedford Lodge in Newmarket, if available: Please inquire with us.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to sixteen(16) people. Although we will make every effort to operate the trip, we reserve the right to cancel the trip if it has less than eight(8) subscribers. The Newmarket Extension will require a minimum of five(5) travelers to operate. Should we need to cancel the trip or the Newmarket Extension, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the cost of the trip or option will be fully and promptly refunded.
*Some of the activities listed for Newmarket may be shifted from one day to the other due to scheduling issues, however all will be included.
*Please note the transfer time from the Bedford Lodge to Heathrow or Gatwick Airports is approximately two hours and can take longer if you are in rush hour or are otherwise unlucky with traffic. We recommend leaving the hotel a minimum of six (6) hours prior to your flight departure time unless you will be clearly outside the rush hour period. Therefore, we advise a departure time for your flight as late in the day as you can make it, consistent with when you want to be back in the U.S. You may want to consider spending a night near your airport and taking a flight on the following day.
*You must have a valid passport to enter the United Kingdom.
Epsom racing photo © www.actionplus.co.uk. Other photos courtesy of the Oakley Court Hotel, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, The Jockey Club, Kay Minton, Peter Kastner, and Julie Brewster
View the Itineraries for our other 2019 trips:
For Late June (Ireland), click here
For August (France), click here
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