This is the hoofed peak of the social season. Although Ascot hosts 26 days of racing a year, you should remember it is only the five-day meeting in June that is termed ‘Royal Ascot’. Whatever you do, don’t call it ‘horse racing’. It’s just ‘racing’ – as the attitude of the upper classes is what on earth else do you race? Competing in cars, yachts, motorbikes or (God forbid!) dogs, is simply not done.
WHERE’S BEST TO WATCH THE RACE?
You should probably stay at home if you’re not in the ‘Royal Enclosure’. This is the invitation-only area of the racecourse where only top-notch toffs will be found. To gain admittance you have to be proposed by someone who is already a member and has been for four years. Not everyone is allowed in, and memberships are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Until 1955, divorcees were not permitted, and still to this day anyone with a criminal record or those who have been declared bankrupt are barred. So in theory, you shouldn’t meet too many politicians or bankers.
5 things not to do in the Royal Enclosure
- Never say ‘Pleased to meet you’ when being introduced. If you have no idea who they are, then you are not pleased to meet them. Anything else and you will be spotted as a bluffer very easily, and will have fallen at the first hurdle.
- Don’t kiss someone you’ve never met before. The Royal Enclosure is still (mercifully) free of the luvvie element in society and the old guard generally just kiss once when greeting, but never total strangers.
- Don’t ask for the toilets. The word is ‘lavatory’, not toilet.
- Never, ever discuss money or anything connected with it (ie, a job). Ascot is a social engagement and people’s careers (or lack thereof) are not up for discussion.
- Don’t say ‘pardon’ when you mishear. Just ask ‘sorry?’ Jilly Cooper’s mother puts it the best way, ‘Pardon is a worse word than f**k’.
WHAT DAY SHOULD I ATTEND?
Tuesday is the first racing day and is very popular. Wednesday is the bookmakers’ favourite and more betting than any other day takes place. Thursday is Ladies’ Day, although this is a misnomer, as men are also allowed entry. Friday and Saturday are less busy and quite popular with the young.
WHERE’S THE ROYAL BIT OF ROYAL ASCOT?
Before the racing begins, the royal party arrives through the gates of Windsor Great Park in open carriages, drawn by Windsor greys. They are then conveyed through cheering crowds to the Royal Enclosure.
WHERE SHOULD I PARK MY LUXURY SHOOTING BRAKE?
There is a certain amount of debate as to what the best car park is at Royal Ascot. Number 1 Car Park is probably the best, and most certainly the smartest place for your luxury picnic. Number 7 Car Park is reserved for Royal Enclosure members only, so this is socially acceptable as well.
WHAT DO I WEAR?
Dress for the Royal Enclosure is Morning Dress, which is not to be termed ‘Morning Suit’. Referring to it as such will immediately show you up as a bluffer (and your Royal Enclosure status will probably be withdrawn quicker than you can say ‘Coach Park Number 11’.)
Royal Ascot is synonymous with hats: top hats for the men, and often elaborate hats for the women. The rules have changed in the last two years, and those frightful fascinators are no longer allowed, thank God. No real lady will ever have worn one or even contemplated wearing anything so infra dig.
Also not to be worn by or seen on the women are: spaghetti straps, halter necks, off-the-shoulder outfits or exposed midriffs. Dresses and skirts should be of modest length, defined as falling just above the knee or longer. All this will place a significant sartorial stranglehold on the cast of The Only Way is Essex. And that is exactly the point.
HOW DO I PLACE A BET?
You don’t. You simply inform a functionary which horse you ‘fancy’ and tell him/her to find you the best odds and place your bet.
MAXIMUM BLUFFING VALUE
When amongst racing types, talk about ‘The Going’. This is the description of the ground conditions experienced by the horse. Knowledge of this, a more technical aspect of racing, will give you maximum bluffing points. The Going scale is: heavy, soft, good to soft, good, good to firm, firm and hard. The Going is announced around seven days before the meeting. Bluffers should be forearmed with this knowledge.
DO SAY ‘Thank heavens they’ve tightened the dress codes!’
DON’T SAY ‘Can I wear my killer heels?’
You can buy William Hanson’s The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette here!