York proves a winning place for Ascot racegoers

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The Independent Online

A buffeting wind and foul rain satisfied southern preconceptions about the northern weather, but did not detract from the excitement of Royal Ascot's first day in York yesterday. The move of the British racing calendar's most glamorous event 200 miles north while its home is refurbished had been greeted with such disgruntlement in some parts that a southern mock Royal Ascot is available for those who prefer to pretend that nothing has changed.

A buffeting wind and foul rain satisfied southern preconceptions about the northern weather, but did not detract from the excitement of Royal Ascot's first day in York yesterday. The move of the British racing calendar's most glamorous event 200 miles north while its home is refurbished had been greeted with such disgruntlement in some parts that a southern mock Royal Ascot is available for those who prefer to pretend that nothing has changed.

Forty thousand spectators - in line with predictions - crowded in to the York course for the most eagerly awaited event on Knavesmire since Dick Turpin was hanged in 1739 for horse stealing. The Royal Enclosure was, however, comparatively sparsely populated and the celebrity count low.

The Beckhams did not show, as rumour suggested they might, and sports-watchers had to satisfy themselves with Fred Trueman, the former Yorkshire cricketer. The best of the rest was thin: Linda Barker, the home-making guru; Nick Hancock and Amanda Donohoe, the Castaway actress.

But the Dubai royal family, well known for patronage of the sport, could be seen mingling with the Royal Family

Gathering with the throng for the royal procession, Carolyn Ruddick, 38, from Middlesbrough, could not understand what all the southern fuss was about. "I've been to Ascot for 15 years and I can tell you that this is every bit as good as any of the meetings I've been to," she said. "York is really geared up for it."

With Rakti, Ouija Board, Doyen, Dubawi and more temperate weather expected from tomorrow, it seems the atmosphere can only get warmer.

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