For many years live horse racing has been an event that inspires people to dress up. There are many horse racing tracks today that still insist on a dress code for attendees who visit areas like the clubhouse. Why do people dress up to go to the horse races? Here’s a quick look at the answer, as well as some attire suggestions for both men and women.
Horse Racing – A Sport for Royalty
When one begins to trace the recorded history of horse racing in the world, it is not so surprising that live horse racing events demanded fancy dress. Horse racing is called the Sport of Kings for a reason. In the earliest days the sport was the exclusive province of royalty. Kings and queens and their offspring were the only individuals capable of owning expensive horses.
As horse racing began to expand it retained its connection to wealth. To some extent this is still true today. The owners of race horses became accustomed to wearing nice clothes at racing events. In some respects, attending a horse race was a social event as well as a sporting contest. It was an opportunity for wealthy people to see and been seen.
The traditions of fancy dress were upheld by many American race tracks like Belmont Park and Churchill Downs. Even today there are still dress code restrictions at some race tracks for specific areas of the venue.
Dress Code at American Horse Racing Tracks
Horse racing tracks in America today are expansive facilities. They are built to accommodate large crowds. This is especially true at horse racing tracks like Churchill Downs where major racing events like the Kentucky Derby are contested each year.
Horse racing tracks today are used to handling many types of fans. These include the casual fans that only attend the horse races on the biggest days. It also includes the race horse owners and other individuals who may want to dress up when they go to watch the races.
What you will find at live race tracks are areas that are designed to provide seating for many different fan types. Some of these areas have a dress code while others allow for casual dress. You should know the requirements before you head out to the races.
The grandstand is the area of a race track that is similar to the general admission seating that you would find at a sporting event. At some horse racing tracks admission to the grandstand is free. At others there may be a nominal charge. At events like the Kentucky Derby the price of admission goes up, of course.
In the grandstand area it is common to see individuals dressed casually. T-shirts and jeans may be permitted. There may be men dressed in button-up shirts and slacks, but you usually won’t encounter the suits like you would find in other areas. This is the place to go if you want to wear your regular clothes to the event.
By extension, the infield of the track is opened up on some racing days. At events like the Preakness Stakes there can even be parties and other events held in the infield of the racetrack. These parties can be a little bit wild, and there is virtually no dress code other than the requirement which prevents indecent exposure.
The clubhouse is an area of the horse racing track that is designed to accommodate horse owners and other wealthy patrons. In this area you will be expected to dress in a certain manner. For men, this means wearing a jacket and sometimes a tie. For women, an elegant dress or pantsuit is the order of the day.
At the Kentucky Derby each year there is a section of the clubhouse that is referred to as Millionaire’s Row. In this area you will find the most wealthy patrons as well as celebrities. All of them will be in their finest dress.
Some Dress Suggestions for Live Horse Racing
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind if you are planning on attending a live racing event in the near future.
For both men and women, hats are a big part of horse racing attire. Men should stick to the simple when it comes to hats. Women, on the other hand, should go big. There are contests for the best hat at many race tracks on Kentucky Derby day. It is not unheard of for horse racing hats to be valued at $10,000 or more.
The ascot is also a popular choice for men when attending the races. A bow tie is also acceptable. Women may want to consider a dainty purse or other accessories, and jewelry is a must.
Dressing Up for Horse Racing is About Feeling Good
At the end of the day dressing up for the horse races is about pampering yourself and feeling good. Why do people dress up to go to the horse races? Maybe because it gives them a sense of connection to the early days of the sport. But there is another reason that is sometimes overlooked.
Some race horse owners dress up nice for the races because they know that they might need to get their picture taken when the horse wins. After each race the winning horse is brought into the Winner’s Circle for a photo opportunity. The owners are asked to join the trainer and the jockey to have the photo made.
Of course, there is also a way to enjoy the horse races from the comfort of your own home without having to dress up. This is to use an online racebook like Amwager. When you sign up with an online horse betting site you can bet the races with a computer, phone, or tablet. Some racebooks will even give you free horse racing betting tools when you create an account. Others may provide a matching deposit bonus. Best of all, you can wear your pajamas or any clothing that you like as you make your bets.