One of horse racing’s most archaic rules has finally been ditched as the sport seeks new ways to attract new punters.
The Jockey Club has confirmed that racegoers will no longer need a to wear formal attire for most of their meetings – including the iconic Cheltenham Festival.
It means that jeans, trainers and collar-less shirts will be allowed in many enclosures at Cheltenham, Aintree and Newmarket, to name just three of the fifteen tracks that the Jockey Club oversees.
That should see an end to unsavoury scenes like those witnessed at Sandown last year, when two women were initially turned away from the Premier Enclosure for having the temerity to wear clean trainers.
They hope that a more casual approach will welcome new faces to trackside.
“Horse racing has always been a sport enjoyed by people from all different backgrounds, and it’s really important to us to be accessible and inclusive,” said Nevin Truesdale, the Jockey Club’s chief executive.
“We hope that by no longer placing an expectation upon people of what they should and shouldn’t wear we can help highlight that racing really is for everyone.”
The only exception as far as the Jockey Club is concerned is Derby day at Epsom Racecourse. There, formal wear will be required to gain admittance to the Queen Elizabeth II Stand.
It’s a move that has been met with positivity from many inside racing, who are keen to see attendances rise after what has been a tough time for getting punters through the turnstiles.
But others, including famously level-headed former MP Nigel Farage, have been left feeling rather aggrieved by the change in ‘standards’.
— GB News (@GBNEWS) February 2, 2023
Who Owns British Racecourses?
It should be noted that the new rules only apply to those racecourses owned and operated by the Jockey Club.
So, if you are attending a meeting at a course owned by the Arena Racing Company, or one that is operated independently, you will still need to adhere to any dress code implemented there.
To keep you in the loop, the UK racecourses operated by the Jockey Club include:
- Haydock Park
- Kempton Park
- Sandown Park
Other tracks, such as Ascot, Brighton, Chelmsford, Chepstow, Doncaster, Goodwood and Newbury, DON’T fall under the remit of the Jockey Club, so dress codes may apply here.
What to Wear for a Day at the Racing
The Jockey Club’s new rules come into force with immediate effect as of February 2023, and so the Cheltenham Festival will be free of a dress code for the most part.
You can dress as smartly as you want to, while recognising that you will likely be on your feet for most of the afternoon (or evening at a floodlit meeting). Therefore, comfortable shoes are a must.
Many UK racecourses are exposed to the elements too, and while grandstands offer some shelter from the rain, they won’t prevent you getting blasted by a crosswind. Wearing a few layers, especially in the often-chilly conditions at Cheltenham in the spring, is wise.
As confirmed by Truesdale, your choice of what to wear for a day at the racing – at Jockey Club venues, at least – is yours.
“This is about giving people a choice and the opportunity to come racing dressed however they feel most comfortable and confident, while also bearing in mind the challenges regularly presented by the British weather,” he said.
“Of course, that doesn’t mean we are discouraging people from dressing up for a day at the races if they want to.”
What Not to Wear for a Day at the Racing
If you are heading to the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National or any other meeting at a Jockey Club venue, there are a couple of caveats that you need to be mindful of.
The first is that replica sports shirts are still not allowed, so if you turn up to Prestbury Park in your Chelsea kit you will not be allowed in.
The wording of the Jockey Club’s rules are interesting in that they prohibit ‘offensive’ fancy dress. But inoffensive fancy dress is not expressly banned, so you might just get away with an outfit that is not likely to offend the masses.
It should be noted that ‘offensive clothing of any kind’ is not allowed, so anything of a slightly risqué nature should be left in your wardrobe for another day.