Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Ascot Opening Race...

Royal Ascot...it's all about the, er, horses?

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. 

At the gate are all the horses 
Waiting for the cue to fly away
What a gripping, absolutely ripping
Moment at the Ascot opening day. 

Pulses rushing, faces flushing 
Heartbeats speed up, I have never been so keyed up 
Any second now they'll begin to run, 
Hark a bell is ringing, they are springing forward look, it has begun.

What a frenzied moment that was 
Didn't they maintain an exhausting pace? 
'Twas a thrilling, absolutely chilling 
Running of the Ascot opening race.

Hatted up for Royal Ascot.

You will recognise, I’m sure, the lyrics from ‘My Fair Lady’. But until I had been to Royal Ascot, I didn’t really appreciate quite how accurate they are. Yes, there were plenty of duke and earls and peers thronging the Royal Enclosure. Indeed, on a bright Saturday in June (it only rained a little), Her Majesty herself was there, arriving with her Prince in a horse-drawn landau, parading the course before watching the horses parading in the parade ring.

The Parade Ring


Ascot in yesteryear

As to the horses, I was there to see one special horse run: the Australian sprinting mare Black Caviar. Ascot, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, was her first race outside of Australia. To that point, she was unbeaten: 21 wins from 21 starts. I am very pleased to report that after Ascot, her record is 22 wins from 22 starts - though it was achieved by a mere nose, her jockey having some kind of brain fry in the middle of proceedings. That’s what he said, anyway. But nevertheless, Black Caviar’s army of antipodean supporters was able to hold its collective head high, draped as they were in the horse’s colours of salmon pink with black spots. Black Caviar herself looked quite calm on her victory walk around the parade ring, before the Queen presented the cup to her ‘connections’ (as they are called in the racing world).

The Royal Entrance

Close encounter of the Queenly kind
-- that's Her in green, with Her Handbag behind Her back.

Suitably attired.

Bookie & punters.

But Black Caviar wasn’t the only exciting thing at Ascot - there were the outfits. Ah, yes, the outfits! The gents in morning suits and toppers, the ladies in their compulsory hats. Yes, there is a dress code at Royal Ascot, and I quote:

Ladies Ladies are kindly reminded that formal day wear is a requirement in the Royal Enclosure, defined as follows:
Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer.Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater.Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code.Trouser suits are welcome. They should be of full length and of matching material and colour.Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.Ladies are kindly asked to note the following: Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch (2.5cm) are not permitted. Midriffs must be covered.Fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).
Gentlemen Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or grey morning dress which must include:
A waistcoat and tie (no cravats)A black or grey top hatBlack shoes.A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden.  Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden.The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
Overseas Visitors Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal National Dress of their country or Service Dress.
Serving Military Personnel Serving military personnel are welcome to wear Service Dress or equivalent.
And so, if you can get the gear right, you can enjoy an uncomfortable day at the Races. And what a thrilling, absolutely chilling, running of the race it was too...

I invite you to raise your glass of Pimm's to Black Caviar - unbeaten.

Showing the colours for Black Caviar
A long day at The Races.

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