Royal Ascot is Britain’s annual mid-summer, middle-distance horse racing event that is the centerpiece of the British social calendar. The four-day event near Windsor Castle is packed with honored traditions, high fashion, sleek thoroughbreds and yes, British royalty. In 2011, 300 years of “race meetings” at the Royal Racecourse at Ascot will be celebrated June 14-18, culminating in the Royal Meeting on Saturday, June 18.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of fashionable hats from this year’s Royal Wedding and the 137th Kentucky Derby, Royal Ascot is the place to see and be seen! The most prestigious viewing area at Ascot, the Royal Enclosure, not only requires sponsorship from a member who has attended at least four times before, but also has a very strict dress code. “Her Majesty’s Representative wishes to point out that only formal day dress with a hat or substantial fascinator will be acceptable.” Gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress, including a waistcoat, with a top hat. Ladies, no bare shoulders, spaghetti straps or miniskirts are allowed. The dress code for attendance in public grandstands is not as rigid, but men are required to wear a tie and, indeed, most sport morning dress and top hats, while ladies enjoy flaunting their finest millinery.
Other Royal Ascot traditions include the Royal procession making its way from the Golden Gates into the Parade Ring each day at 2:00 pm and race goers singing traditional favorites around the bandstand after the racing. Another much loved tradition is that while gentlemen guest wear top hats, Ascot’s stewards traditionally wear bowlers. As hats play such an important role in the fashion of the meetings, betting on the color of the Queen’s hat on Thursday’s “Ladies Day” is a popular wager.
A full day of watching racing and fashion works up an appetite and there are several options from which to choose. There are multiple restaurants for fine and casual in the Royal Enclosure and Grandstand areas of the Ascot Racecourse. Beautifully packaged three-course picnic packages are also sold for al-fresco dining in the car park areas. Afternoon brings the most British of traditions, afternoon tea, with a traditional or light service options in three on site restaurants.
Some fun facts about Royal Ascot:
- If your lady’s glamour steals your heart, the pink benches at Ascot are there for proposals!
- Over 8,000 bottles of Pimms and almost 50,000 bottles of champagne are consumed during the week.
- Picnics in Number One Car Park are celebrated affairs with guest frequently set their tables with fine linens, silver and candelabra!
- The racecourse employs 330 chefs and up to 500 waiting staff per day.
- Nearly 500 horses will run in 30 races watched by 300,000 people in attendance during Royal Ascot.
- Ascot’s greatest equine legend is Yeats, the four-time Gold Cup winner (2006-2009). A bronze statue of him will be unveiled this year.
If you want to be part of this pinnacle event where tradition, pageantry, fashion and style, not to mention superior horse racing all meet, let Covington’s Britain experts make all the arrangements and start planning what to wear!