Royal Ascot

One of my favorite musicals is “My Fair Lady.” Do you remember the scene where Eliza Doolittle is at her first society event, a big horse race? That, my friends, is the Royal Ascot.

My Fair Lady at Ascot

A long-running British tradition.  A place where ladies dress in fancy clothes and wear over-the-top hats and where men wear tails and top-hats. A venue for people-watching, for seeing and being seen. The horses run their races, but the society action is in the “royal enclosure.” Royalty has been attending this racing event for over 300 years.

Imagine my absolute delight when my sister asked if I would be willing to go with her to Ascot as her guest! We had great fun together, pretending to be “posh.” We studied the official STYLE GUIDE to make sure we would be dressed appropriately. We covered our hats with bright, cheerful flowers (and I included a whimsical turquoise butterfly).

Ascot Sisters

Garden Hats

It is traditional for race-goers to have a pre-meet picnic in the car park. Many of the groups put up fancy marquee tents with wooden tables and chairs, hot food, and magnums of champagne. Ours was much simpler, with folding chairs and a small side table, but we felt fancy, and I bet our food and drink was just as tasty as theirs! (Let’s not talk about the rain, okay? It was a bit squished finishing up our picnic in the car…)

Fancy Picnic

Bubbly Drinks

Posh Picnic

We joined the throngs walking towards the special entrances reserved for those in the Royal Enclosure. Along the way, we walked on a boardwalk across the turf race track. (Just think what it would be like to stand in the middle of the track with horses thundering toward you…)

ascot grounds

turf track

We were still a little nervous that it might be obvious by our dress that we really didn’t belong in the Royal Enclosure. Whew! After doing some people watching, we realized we fit in just fine!

Ascot Hats

Proper Ascot Style

The Day’s events started at 2:00 with a parade, including the arrival of the Royal Family. The QUEEN and Prince Philip were in one of the first carriages. (No, they did not join us in the Royal Enclosure. That was surely too plebian for them…they had their own private Royal Family Box!)

Parade

the Queen arrives

Then the races finally began. Besides the wonderful people watching in the Royal Enclosure, and the feeling of being one of the “elite,” it was also a wonderful place to watch the horses. We stood along the rail, right at the finish line. That meant we saw each horse explode out of the tunnel on to the track AND we saw the actual finish of each race.

in the tunnel

entering the track

on the rail

finish line

My sister insisted that if we were at a horse race, we had to “take a flutter on the ponies.” She broke even. Don’t ask me how I did… (yes, the first two races I picked winners…but I wasn’t betting on those races…sigh…) Others could be seen intently studying the race card between races.

breaking even

studying the racing card

With passes for the Royal Enclosure, we also had front row access to the owners ring (where they could watch the race on big screens) and to the winners circle. After each race, the jockeys walked past this area to weigh in. At the same time, there was a media circus while the trophy was presented to the winner of that race.

owners

jockeys

winners circle

After all 6 races were over, thousands of people crowded around the bandstand behind the grandstand for a singalong. This is apparently a long-standing tradition. Everyone waved British flags, singing and dancing. (Quite obviously many of the prim and proper British upper crust folks had plenty to drink during the races…guess that’s why they had magnums of champagne at their picnics!!) Occasional rainbursts didn’t stop anyone from having fun—they just put up their umbrellas and carried on.

ascot singalong

dancing

brollies

singing and dancing in the rain

“Singing and Dancing in the Rain”
(This one’s for you, James)

It was an amazing day that ended with a double rainbow. I didn’t have to search for the pot of gold—even though it was a dark, drizzly day, it will always be golden in my memories! Thanks for a wonderful, extra special way to celebrate my 50th Birthday, little sis!

Golden memories

(If you haven’t seen “My Fair Lady,” you can see the opening scene and song of Eliza Doolittle at Royal Ascot HERE. And yes, I managed to restrain myself from yelling “Move yer bloomin’ arse” as the horses neared the finish line…sorry Eliza, I managed to stay in high-society character even though you didn’t!)

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