Looking for Royal Ascot etiquette tips? The clue’s in the name. Europe’s best-attended race meeting is as regal and royal as racing comes — and has pomp and pageantry bound up in its illustrious history. Over 300,000 visitors usually attend during the week. And, although this year is bound to be a little different, the traditions and rules remain the same.
So we’ve partnered with Fitzdares, the world’s finest bookmakers, to get the lowdown on these age-old customs and conventions. Whether it’s the height of your hat, the best way to bet or how much to drink, here’s how to enjoy a spectacular, successful and enjoyable day at the races…
When to arrive
First up, the prickly subject of punctuality. Ignore the overused, ugly mantra of being ‘fashionably late’ because, at Ascot at least, it’s good to get in early. The gates will open at 10:30am, and it pays to get hustling and bustling in the hubbub as soon as possible.*
This way, you’ll have plenty of pre-race time to explore the Grandstand facilities and surrounding lawns — and they’re well worth a nosey around. If you, for some reason beyond your control, can’t make it for opening time, we’d suggest at least arriving before midday (if just to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty the Queen’s arrival).
*If you’re loathed to leave London — or simply can’t spare the time, The Fitzdares Club in Mayfair is the best city-based place from which to enjoy the races. Lavishly decorated and fitted with 4K televisions, you’ll feel as though you were trackside.
What to wear
Perhaps the most memorable, integral part of the whole Ascot experience? Dressing to impress. The Royal Enclosure is the gold standard here; offering modern men that oh-so rare opportunity to wear a top hat and morning suit.
Elsewhere, the Queen Anne Enclosure dictates men wear their sharpest suits, complete with a shirt and tie (no cravats or bow ties). In all other enclosures, including the Windsor Enclosure, there is no must-follow dress code — but you must still avoid wearing anything branded, any replica sports clothing, fancy dress or anything novelty. A comprehensive guide to looking the part is available here.
Where to go
Once you’ve found the enclosure you’ve been invited to — and enjoyed a wander around the lawns — you should think about getting a good look at the horses themselves. This means heading over to the Pre-Parade Ring, where you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the horses being saddled up and led around before each race.
It’s a great opportunity to see the muscle definition and sheer power of these creatures — as is a spot at the Parade Ring (meant for those observing horses before placing their bets). When the racing commences, soak up every drop of the atmosphere by (politely) getting as close to the rails as possible.
How to bet
The betting itself is easy — it’s coping with the outcome that can be difficult. If fortune does happen to smile and shine upon you, feel free to crack a smile. But gloating about your success is in exceedingly poor taste — and very ungentlemanly if your friends and companions haven’t been quite so lucky.
On the other hand, don’t let loss ruin your day, either. Losing a bet is part and parcel of a day at the races, and it’s worth remembering that most other people bobbing around in top hats will be in the same wallet-draining position.
And remember to respect your bookmakers. If in doubt, we’d recommend placing your bets through the Fitzdares’ smart racing app — or picking up the phone and giving one of their expert brokers a call. On occasion, these savvy advisers have even been known to give you a price boost (but only if you ask nicely…).
What to eat and drink
Slow and steady may not win the race, but it makes for a solid trackside refreshment rule. Royal Ascot cultivates, predictably, a jubilant and celebratory atmosphere. But, fuelled as the place is with fine champagne, over-indulgence can soon temper the festivities with boorish behaviour and dehydration.
The Royal Ascot Village features a variety of restaurants, in close proximity to the track, that offer high quality fine-dining experiences (and some terrific views). But we’d recommend a luxury picnic. The Silver Ring and Health Enclosure allow you to bring in blankets and fold away chairs. In other areas, you can pre-order your own decadent picnic — everything down to the white tablecloths and butlers.
How to act
Watching a raucous race — especially after these many months of lockdown — can be overwhelming. And, while this excitement is part of Ascot’s appeal, giving in to your raw, roaring emotions (swearing, shouting etc.) pleases no-one.
So, if you feel yourself getting caught up in the moment, it pays to take a breath. Like the finest jockeys on the course, rein it in and be sure to maintain your manners and sense. It is the sophistication of Ascot which makes it such a special event – so uphold those traditions, gentlemen.
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