Horse Racing Traditions that Will Never Go Out of Fashion

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Tradition and British horse racing have always gone hand in hand, fuelled by a long history and royal association. But as a spectator sport, ‘the Sport of Kings’ is also accessible to a wide and diverse audience, with millions of people going through the turnstiles each year, drawn by the glamour and excitement of a day at the races. Part of the excitement comes from forming a lucky 15 bet. We take a look behind the scenes to discover the horse racing traditions that will never go out of fashion.


The Thoroughbred

The ultimate equine racing machine, one of the highlights of the races is getting up close with the magnificent thoroughbred racehorse. And the British tradition of the racehorse is truly remarkable. All racehorses in the UK must be a thoroughbred that can be traced back to one of the three founding sires of this exceptional warmblood breed. The three original stallions were named The Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Barb and were brought to England in the late 1600s and bred with English native mares to create the prestigious thoroughbred bloodline. Originally used as part of Britain’s military force, this lineage still drives the thoroughbred breed used in UK horse racing today.


The trackside bookmaker

The trackside bookmaker is a familiar sight at today’s race meets, with their fast-paced talking and mesmerising hand gestures. The race bookmaker also adds to the thrill of a day at the track, with the opportunity to have a flutter on live races. The tradition of the trackside bookmaker goes back to the reign of Queen Anne, who founded the Ascot racecourse in the early 18th Century and heralded the arrival of racing as a professional sport on which spectators could place a wager – now known as a bet. The arrival of the Tote – the official board for state-controlled betting – in 1928 moved horse racing and the tradition of betting into the mainstream, enabling both on and off-track betting to take place.


Ladies Day

All the major race meets such as Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby, Cheltenham and the Grand National dedicate a day to women in their traditional Ladies Day extravaganza. Typically the busiest day of race festivals, Ladies Day is colourful and vibrant as attendees dress to impress. The tradition goes back to 1823, when the final day of Ascot became known as Ladies Day after the course founder, Queen Anne. Originally ladies were given a free ticket for the day and encouraged to dress in their finest hats and clothes. While the free ticket is long gone, the Ladies Day and fashion tradition continues to this day and is one of the most popular attendance days at the races.


The Jockey Silk

With their flash of bright colours, each jockey has a different pattern on their riding jacket and racing helmet which are known as their silk and are designed to identify the horse’s owner. The tradition of the jockey silk was started in the UK and are believed to date back to as early as 1515, with the silk system we know today established in the 18th Century. The tradition of the silk adds colour and excitement to today’s racetrack, and they are feature on the race card as an aid for the bettor when selecting the horse they want to back. Each jockey silk is unique, and the colour and pattern registered in the name of the racehorse owner with Weatherby’s.