Summer is synonymous with Royal Ascot in the racing world, and nowhere else would you see such a diverse crowd. If you’re heading to the races this week (20-24 June), watching from home, or merely just perusing the daily papers, here’s a snapshot of some of the characters you’re likely to come across
1. The exhibitionist
You can’t miss them: they’re the ones surrounded by a sea of snappers and will be splashed across every newspaper and online site. Wearing outlandish outfits in an array of bold colours, they are there solely to stand out and make the headlines. The outrageously massive hats might make moving difficult, and give them serious neck-ache in the process, but that’s no deterrent; they’re here with one goal in mind — catching the eye. If you haven’t already spotted them (which is unlikely), the frustrated tuts from fellow racegoers whose view is totally obscured by the monstrous headpieces will lead you to the exhibitionist’s location.
2. The fashionista
Hoping to be photographed as much as the exhibitionist, though in a far subtler manner, the fashionista is a staple of Royal Ascot. Having spent months working out the perfect outfit, they spend the week before praying that the weather won’t make a mockery of their chosen attire. Wind (dangerous for floaty numbers), rain (no one wants a soggy hat) or even too much sun (suncream smudges) could cause havoc with the painstakingly picked combination. The fashionista’s choice of clothing spans all genres from vintage to couture to high street, but all are vying to be interviewed for “best turned out”. They know the rules, they dress appropriately and wouldn’t dream of even uttering the word fascinator, let alone wear one.
3. The Royal Ascot regular
Whichever enclosure you’re in, there are sure to be many of these. In the Royal Enclosure they are the ones who certainly haven’t hired a morning suit or top hat for the occasion. They all know their way around, they are more interested in horses than the fashion (though obviously they’ve made the effort for the day), they’ve marked their card, look forward to catching up with old friends and the thought of missing a day at the Berkshire track fills them with dread.
4. The Royalist
Royal Ascot, by its very name, is sure to attract more than the average amount of Royal supporters. You’ll see them rows deep lining the paddock and racetrack as The Queen arrives and parades in her carriage, bustling for the best view. If they’re not wearing some form of red, white or blue, they’ll certainly have a mini flag to wave tucked in their handbag.
5. The competitive picnicker
The fashionista has been planning their wardrobe for months, meanwhile the competitive picnicker has been doing the same, but with food. They’ll arrive early and set up in a prime position. Tables and gazebos will be put up (reluctant partners roped in for the assembly process, grumbling as they start to sweat in their morning suits) and then adorned with pretty cloths and napkins. The only Tupperware here is solely for transportation processes – all lovingly prepared food will be transposed into delicate china dishes and plates before the guests arrive. Move over soggy egg sandwiches wrapped in tin foil, this one is all about elaborately baked quiches and fine French cheese. Follow the pop of Champagne corks and clink of glasses and you’ll find these, cautiously eyeing up everyone around them to reassure themselves their picnic is the best.
6. Horse-sport’s who’s who
You might not recognise them, having swapped crash helmets for top hats and fine millinery creations, but they are there, mingling with crowd and admiring these equine athletes in action. From eventers to dressage stars, no rider could fail to be impressed by the equine athletes of Royal Ascot. You’ll probably notice a jump jockey or two also, mumbling about how they’d rather go round the Grand National course than head to post on a fresh two-year-old.
7. The stag and hen parties
Every race meeting from Aintree to Ascot is sure to have a couple of these. The photographers will flock to them, and you’ll no doubt see some form of comedy hat or have to step over some discarded stilettos if you’re crossing their path. More interested in the booze than the racing, chances are they might not see a horse all day, but they will have enjoyed it none the less.
Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:
Still deciding what to wear for Royal Ascot? The H&H team guide you through the dos and don’ts of the…
When I realised his full background I just thought how fortunate I am
You don’t need to have backed The Queen’s horses to get a thrill from seeing her colours surge past the…
8. The die-hard punter
You can tell them from the binoculars around their necks, the pen in the breast-pocket and the well-thumbed copy of the Racing Post tucked under their arms. They’ve been to the Royal Ascot previews, gone through the card thoroughly and know more about each race, horse and form than anyone else. You’ll spot them throughout the day wearing varying expressions of delight, despair and quite possibly bafflement when a shock winner goes in.