Royal Ascot - Top Tips with William Woodhams of Fitzdares
“Every duke and earl and peer is here
Everyone who should be here is here
What a smashing, positively dashing spectacle
The ascot opening day”
The Ascot Gavotte from My Fair Lady perfectly sums up Royal Ascot, Britain’s most celebrated and valuable race meeting. The five day event welcomes horses and guests from across the globe, as they compete for millions of pounds in prize money and soak up this most English of occasions. Ascot is recognised the world over as the consummate event of gentrified society and behaviour and is a firm favourite in the sporting calendar.
Whether it’s the arrival of the Royal Procession at 2pm sharp, six world-class races throughout the afternoon or the communal singing around Ascot’s Bandstand early evening, each of the five days in June is a whirlwind of excitement and colour, a joy to behold.
This is an event where a strict dress code has reigned supreme from day one. Shirts, ties and suits are essential as a minimum, but the most revered and recognised code of dress for men and the general default, is Morning Wear. Whilst not obligatory throughout the grounds, if you are lucky enough to attend in the Royal Enclosure, it is a prerequisite of the day and access is not granted without. This is not a time to get too creative, but instead to conform to this dignified and flattering code and celebrate men’s tailoring and elegance at its very best. Below are a few do’s and don’ts to ensure perfect Royal Ascot turnout.
William Woodhams is CEO of private bookmaker, Fitzdares. The team there are a wonderful bunch, who beyond betting, also put together great sporting moments and events. Will is a regular on the horse racing circuit and an expert when it comes to all things Royal Ascot, we asked him what recommendations he has for getting your sartorial look just right.
- “First rule is keep it simple: black or grey tails, plain (or lightly striped) trousers, and under no circumstances should you wear a funky waistcoat – this is the sartorial equivalent of a spotty bow tie. Try to avoid too many accessories too. A tie pin, watch chain and button hole can, frankly, make you look like you’re ‘trying a little too hard’. Dress watches are preferable to enormous diving contraptions.
- There is a lot of snobbery about top hats, but really, a simple antique silk topper is perfect. Avoid the chimney tall ones or a hat that slips down to your eyebrows. Watch your hat like a hawk – thousands of pounds worth of top hats get picked up by mistake every year and insurance companies don’t quite understand the costs involved. They are very tricky to claim back!
- Ties are the easiest bit. A very simple pattern or a plain one does the trick (paisley just feels wrong). Make sure they are thick silk, although a fine cashmere is also ok. Avoid equine motifs at all cost, but a light snaffle design is passable if you wish for a nod to the racing.
- Finally, shirts, which are much more important than you might think. I used to wear a detached starch collar but it can get uncomfortable in the heat. If you do go for it, white on blue is great, worn with a Cornhill collar. A blue shirt with a permanent white collar is a little bit Wall Street and I would swerve a full Windsor tie knot. Keep it simple and give your throat a break.
- Shirt colours are easy too: white, cream or light blue. A light blue stripe is fashionable, and if you love check, keep it Prince of Wales. Your shirt maker will advise the right weight of cotton for Ascot. However, you must remember that you’re wearing a waistcoat and morning oat coat that are inevitably tighter than the year before. The lightest, finest cotton or voile you can wear will really help you through the day. There is no air conditioning for anyone in the Royal Enclosure…apart for the horses!”
We highly recommend deferring to Fitzdares for your betting experience and enjoyment, however, should you have a less formalised approach to the races, then follow Budd Chairman, Stephen Murphy’s advice for Cheltenham, earlier this year. Still appropriate, we have revived them here!
“If are only doing your runners homework on the morning of the meeting, then you might as well just stick a pin in the race card and be prepared to make a sizable donation to the “Bookies” (the universal nemesis of all punters).
My race day usually starts with an early breakfast and the Racing Post. I get this on my iPad now. Timeform is also worth checking out and of course the very good Sporting Life site. The most important bit of information you need is the “Going”. More hope and faith expressed in the Racing Post than anything I have ever read from the Catholic church! I am always amused by the language used by trainers and jockeys to describe the prospects for their various runners. It is a mix of part understated confidence, part superstition at tempting fate and most of all, completely unhelpful in the nicest possible way. However, it should at least help you to narrow down the fields in each race. if you can read the Form you should be able to figure out if your fancied runner will handle the Going.
The ideal source of tips are the yards themselves. My golden rule is never listen to an owner’s tip (with the exception of JP McManus). For these more informed “opinions” you have to be connected to somebody in the racing rumour mill.