The centerpiece of the British summer social calendar, Royal Ascot (16 – 20 June) is Britain’s most valuable race meeting, attracting the world’s finest runners and riders as they compete for over five million pounds in prize money. And this year it will be attended by around three hundred thousand spectators. Will you be one?
Ascot owes its very existence to Royalty. In 1711 Queen Anne was riding out from nearby Windsor Castle when she spotted an area of open heath which she pronounced “ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch.” Today Ascot continues to enjoy Royal patronage and Her Majesty the Queen, a dedicated racehorse owner has attended every Royal Meeting since her reign began.
DO make sure you catch the Royal Parade which occurs at 2pm daily before racing begins. The Royal Family and their guests arrive through the gates of Windsor Great Park in open Landau carriages drawn by Windsor Grey horses and make their way to the Royal Enclosure.
DON’T expect to waltz into the Royal Enclosure. There is no more exclusive enclave in racing and admission requires months of planning. You need to be sponsored by two members and can expect your application to be scrutinized in minute detail. No-one with a criminal record or history of bankruptcy is ever admitted.
Make an Entrance
Unless you’re heading to the Heath, remember to book in advance. Tickets for the Grandstand and Silver Ring sell out, so get booking.
DO consider the changing atmosphere of Royal Ascot. Pick your day carefully.The Queen Anne Stakes are a highlight on the Tuesday. For a more relaxed day book for Wednesday. Friday and Saturday draw a younger, cooler crowd. Don’t miss the closing race, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on the Saturday.
DON’T avoid Thursday just because it’s Ladies’ Day. This is a misnomer as men are also allowed entry and is the day of the prestigious Gold Cup. At the time of writing there were no tickets left for the enclosures although hospitality packages were still available, (see below).
Wine and Dine
Royal Ascot makes for a wonderful day out so, whether you’re enjoying a track-side tipple or indulging in fine-dining make sure you enjoy the hospitality on offer.
DO take a picnic to eat on the Heath (the centre of the racecourse open to the public from £13 -£17 a head). Picnicking is also permitted in the Silver Ring with one bottle of wine allowed per person. Those in the know often picnic by their vehicle in Car Park One then leave the hamper in the car.
DON’T forget your wallet! The Grandstand is packed with food stalls and bars but with champagne costing around £90 a bottle, it’s not cheap. Hospitality packages are a great way to enjoy the day and are often available even when entrance tickets are sold out. Prices range from £250 for the Pavilion Grandstand to £1260 a head for the Parade Ring in the Royal Enclosure. This may seem pricey but includes admission, car parking, a champagne reception, three-course meal, afternoon tea, complimentary bar and the chance to avoid the crowds. For more information on availability and to book Tel: 01344 878488.
Know Your Stuff
Royal Ascot is not your average race meet so it’s worth getting grips with etiquette and parlance before you arrive. For starters it’s never ‘horseracing’, but ‘racing’, the general feeling being ‘what else would one possibly want to race?’
DO talk about ‘the going’ – the way to describe the ground conditions experienced by the horse. Depending on the weather this could be heavy, soft, good to soft, good, good to firm, firm or hard. The going is announced around a week before the meeting and knowledge of this can help you sound less of a novice.
DON’T talk about nags and gee-gees, the horse is venerated and revered here. Garb the Racecard to find out about race times, runners and riders. The minimum bet at the Tote is £2.
Look the Part
Style and elegance are Ascot’s watchwords and there is a formal dress code (which even varies slightly for the flat and jump seasons).
If you’re lucky enough to have made it into the Royal Enclosure, grey or black dress wear with top hat is the only acceptable attire for men, while ladies must have modest, knee length hemlines and a full hat rather than a fascinator.
DO hit a winning streak with your outfit. For the Grandstand you’ll need a suit with a collared shirt and tie so check out T.M.Lewin’s fantastic range of tailoring. The rules are relaxed slightly in the Silver Ring so for a smart rather than formal look opt for a blazer or jacket such as our Bridges Stone Washed piece.
DON’T wear heavily branded clothing or fancy dress in the enclosures, it’s forbidden. Remember your jacket and remind ladies in your party that strapless or sheer dresses are always a no-no.
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