Hundreds of women dressed up in the latest fashions braved sunshine and showers to take in the glitz and glamour of Ludlow Racecourse’s annual Ladies Night.
Women from across the region and further afield donned their favourite outfits and enjoyed an evening of National Hunt action with the eyes of the racing world looking on to see the return of 18-time champion jockey AP McCoy.
The crowd, dressed in fancy hats and summer dresses, could have given the women of next month’s Royal Ascot a run for their money as the venue was turned into a fashion parade, with everyone hoping to back a winner.
McCoy, 39, had been sidelined for the previous month after breaking ribs in a fall at Cheltenham on April 18, spending a week in hospital.
But the rider, known as the “Iron Man” of the weighing room was back in the winner’s enclosure after winning on 1/2 favourite Church Field in his first race back, the Lycetts Insurance Brokers Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Perhaps the real stars of the show, however, were the racegoers themselves, with summer dresses, hats and suits all on show as first sunshine and then light showers hit the course.
The first 100 women in the centre course marquee were even given a free glass of Pimm’s to help the evening go with a swing.
Racegoer Lynn Jones, from Knockin, near Oswestry, said: “It was an excellent evening and everyone was dressed up to the nines and sipping champagne. The women of Shropshire looked beautiful.”
Back in the saddle four weeks after suffering the fall from Quantitativeeasing at Cheltenham, McCoy looked relaxed on his way out to the paddock, stopping to sign autographs for his fans.
Officially crowned champion jockey for the 18th successive year on April 27, the Northern Irishman is no stranger to success at the South Shropshire track winning 24 times from 77 rides in the past five years.
Going on three fences out, McCoy was joined by the strong-travelling Eightfold and briefly looked like having a fight on his hands. But McCoy and Church Field – trained by Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Jonjo O’Neill – eventually gained the upper hand and, after negotiating the last safely, came home with five lengths in hand.
Speaking to TV channel Racing UK after the race, McCoy said: “It’s nice to be back, you get fairly frustrated and pretty bored.
“The first week or 10 days when you are in hospital you don’t really think about that, you think about getting back as soon as possible, but when your body starts to heal it gets a little bit irritating not being able to ride.
“I was pretty pleased to be back and it’s nice of Jonjo (O’Neill) to put me on a winner. I had plenty of rest at home – you’d love to get a break in other ways but I always say as a jump jockey you’re going to get enforced holidays, whether it be through injury or suspension.
"Hopefully that’s mine out of the way. I rode somewhere near 900 horses last season between England and Ireland and there’s a fair chance you are going to get falls. You always hope one of them doesn’t leave you in hospital for a little while, but that’s part of the game – you just get on with it.”
The next meeting is on October 9 with a 2.10pm start.