My rules when going racing. Stay sober, dress to impress and, oh yes, watch the racing!

My rules when going racing. Stay sober, dress to impress and, oh yes, watch the racing!

pissed punter at bookies stall aintreeNewbury racecourse has taken to Twitter to remind those attending their forthcoming race meeting how they should dress.

This follows recent controversy over the standards of attire the racecourse expects spectators to adhere to.

Last month the joint-managing director of Newbury racecourse had to defend their new dress code. It followed an extraordinary chain of events at the recent Hennessy meeting.

A former Public Relations consultant for the racecourse was initially denied entry to the meeting. Harriet Rochester now runs a sports marketing firm. She said: “I was told my skirt was too short but they allowed me in, presumably in part because I was wearing dark tights. The guys I came in with were wearing jeans so had to go into town and buy trousers.”

Harriet added: “I love going racing and Newbury is my local track. But as a marketeer and someone passionate about horseracing, I think we should be encouraging as many people to go racing as possible and not alienating them regarding dress code.”

Racecourse MD Stephen Higgins said: “With regard to Harriet Rochester, there are guidelines to preferential skirt lengths, and this isn’t a major change in our policy by any stretch of the imagination.”

Another paying customer at Newbury was asked to unzip his coat to prove he was wearing a shirt. Higgins described this as “over zealous.”

He said: “We are responding to 99% of our customers in just tightening up the dress code with a few minor amendments. It’s not as those who aren’t allowed into the Premier Enclosure are made to watch the racing in a ditch – the Grandstand is a £15 million stand and a great facility.”

Lee Mottershead of The Racing Post said: “Newbury asked its regular racegoers what they wanted and they wanted a stricter dress code. For men in the Premier enclosure that essentially meant no jeans, but you could go in without a jacket or tie, something you could not do in the equivalent enclosures at Goodwood, York or even Thirsk.

“Newbury is, however, not without blame. The implementation of the policy was unsatisfactory.

“Men in suits can be just as objectionable as men in jeans, but while we might not all agree with Newbury’s dress code, they are entitled to have one. Newbury’s biggest fault was in how the message was delivered.”

Here is a link Newbury racecourse posted today, Tuesday, that tells you how to dress to go racing at their course

racing post reader Mottershead spoke to one man he said was dressed smartly, but was wearing jeans. 22 year old Daniel Shippen was wearing his metal badge but he was refused entry to the Premier enclosure. Daniel told the Racing Post reporter: “I’ve become an annual member for the first time this year. It’s not even as though they are cheap jeans. They cost £80. Don’t get me wrong. I think if someone was dressed like a tramp they would have a point. But I am not.”

Daniel rejected the suggestion that he go into Newbury and buy some trousers. Instead he went to watch racing from the Grandstand enclosure.


Personally I would ask Daniel why someone who could afford to spend £80 on a pair of jeans could not be bothered to wear a pair of trousers.

Another respected writer, Greg Wood in The Guardian wrote: “It is a reminder that even in 2013 there are still some corners of the racing landscape where it is forever 1950. While tracks like Cheltenham and Aintree now treat racegoers as valued customers, Newbury’s attitude seems to be one of reluctant toleration: we’re doing you a favour by letting you in, so do as you’re told and don’t get in the way.

“The derision heaped on Ascot when it ‘stickered’ racegoers in January 2012 should have served as warning enough that the world has moved on from the days when divorcees were blackballed from the Royal Enclosure. As Charles Barnett. Ascot’s Chief Executive pointed out while issuing refunds worth £28.000 during the subsequent damage limitation exercise, ‘no customers should be expected to pay for such an experience’.”

Greg Wood added: “What Newbury failed to appreciate is that most people do dress up a little when they go to the races. Dressing up adds to the sense of occasion. But it is a matter of choice not compulsion. Like so many of the debates and squabbles that arise in racing, this has its origins where the old in racing rubs up against the new.”

Well, Greg, I don’t see myself as “old” but I do believe people paying to watch racing from the most expensive areas of a course, with the best view of the racing, should not be turning up wearing jeans. Indeed, I think they should be wearing a jacket certainly, a shirt with a collar and, if I had my way, a tie as well. York, Goodwood and Thirsk have got it right. And anyone paying full price for the best facilities should certainly be wearing trousers.


Why wouldn’t men spending that much money not want to be dressed in a stylish manner? And why would women accessing the very best enclosure want to be dressed like a tart going out for a night on the razz?

DSCN0397 But for me this is not the biggest concern when it comes to those who go racing these days. The dress code, or lack thereof, of other spectators is not going to lead me to stop attending race meetings. How my fellow racegoers behave increasingly makes me think twice about watching the sport live.

Wearing a smart suit is no guarantee of good behaviour. More and more I see young people attending racing who are smart but who don’t watch the racing. They are there to have an office jolly, or celebrate a birthday or stag night.


They are there with one motivation. To get pissed. Why I don’t know. The beer at a racecourse is often flat and is always expensive.

Having in mind that they will likely end the day throwing up, perhaps it is best those people do not attend in their Sunday best. Perhaps it would be better if they did not go racing at all.

The sport and those who run it are bending over backwards to attract younger racegoers. Let’s face it, the courses do not care if they watch racing. They simply want their money. Over the bar will do just fine, thank you very much. After all, no doubt the poorly paid cleaners will be the poor buggers who have to sweep away the puke.

As someone said to me on Twitter recently, race meetings are in danger of going the way of greyhound racing. It’s just becoming a place to go for a piss up.

Perhaps the racing authorities should be discouraging binge drinking at racecourses. How about having stewards who say: “Now sonny, you’ve had enough to drink, go home, there’s a good lad. And take your pissed mates with you.”

Perhaps people walking into a course should be given a card that warns them about bad behaviour. The likes of which I have seen often on visits to racecourses these past few years. That situation is getting worse.

As was evidenced at Newbury racecourse itself in July 2012. Here’s a shaky home video of what I am on about

Recently, at Newcastle, trainer Lucinda Russell and partner, the assistant trainer Tom Scudamore, had an emergency to attend to with regards to one of their horses. They had to (politely) make their way through a bar full of inebriated idiots to get to where they had to be. How ridiculous is that?

Would Jose Mourinho have to fight his way through a bar to get to the dressing room? So what are these courses doing with all the money they take over the bar?

Ah yes, of course. They are going to lay down a track for all weather racing
That way the good drinkers of Newcastle can go to the course on a night out, rather than going to the infamous ‘Bigg Market’ to get pissed.

On the day I was at Newcastle racecourse there were more people in the bars, drinking themselves into stupor, than there were outside watching Tony McCoy ride the winner in the big race of the day, the Stan James sponsored Fighting Fifth hurdle.

And McCoy, Scudamore and I were the only people closely watching the big screen when the feature race at Newbury was run. They behaved impeccably. I cheered on the VG TIPS 20/1 winner of the big race at down in Berkshire, Triolo D’Alane.

Meanwhile, back in the packed bars. It was business as usual. Many, many more people were in there getting drunk than watching the racing. How can that be good for the future of the sport?


Racing should be encouraging the right people to go racing. By that I mean those who want to watch the sport.

They should be dressed smartly. Or does the sport want to go down the road of football?

Watch the video at the foot of this post and you’ll hear John McCririck say: “Lots of people go racing and never see a racehorse, so what? If that’s what they want to do.”
I beg to differ.
I agree with bookie Geoff Banks who replies to McCririck thus: “Why do we want to turn everything into football. Why can we not have one enclosure in three reserved for people that would prefer to be smart.

dress code row at newbury racecourse vgtips

You can go racing, be smart, sober & have a good day

But, of course, as has been stated, a sharp suit is no guarantee of good behaviour.

You’ll not catch me paying hundreds of pounds to be a member of an upmarket racecourse so that I can mix with the seriously wealthy. But I can understand how those that do would not wish to share their enclosure with some jean wearing, foul mouthed, drunken specimen who is only at the course because the latest non entity from a TV talent contest is performing ‘live’ after racing.

When I was a lad (there I go again) this boy from a council estate in Hounslow would never have expected his working class father to get tickets for the posh parts of a racecourse. Each summer, come Glorious Goodwood, we sat in the cheapest ‘seats’ imaginable. Namely the hill that overlooks the racecourse. How we and the great unwashed dressed up there didn’t matter.

Racing needs to attract new followers to the sport. Racing needs to attract new people to go and watch the racing. After all, us ‘oldies’ brought up on the sport are a dying breed.

But racing needs like a hole in the head new people to go to racecourses who have no present or future interest in the sport and are going there in preference to doing what they did last Saturday, or have planned for next week. Namely buying in some take home cans of Tesco’s finest ale, or going on a stag weekend to some cheap booze city in Europe.

Keep them out. Whatever they are wearing!

Here are the opinions are the ever dapper bookie Geoff Banks and a man famed for his dress sense, John McCririck


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