The biggest ladies’ days in horse racing

Horse racing has been a constant in British sporting culture since the 18th century and alongside the prestigious events created since, there have been a range of festivities attached to them. 

Ladies Day was introduced into the sport’s traditions in the early 19th century and since it has been a prominent aspect of many of the major festivals in the United Kingdom. 

How Ladies’ Day has changed since 1823

The headline day in which women are invited to dress with as much glamour and style was first established at Ascot in 1823 on Gold Cup day.

It was initially only accessible to the super-rich who could afford high-class fashion, although in the modern day that has changed completely.

All sorts of women with different economic statuses can now attend the races in style, and they can even get directly involved with the on-course action due to the introduction of racehorse shares through a horse racing syndicate. RaceShare is an example that offers all-inclusive part-ownership packages for a one-off fee.

This means women can embrace the fashion side of major festivals like the Grand National, as well as have a physical stake in high-level racehorses. Shares can be obtained for as little as £33 showing that like Ladies Day, horse ownership has evolved over the years to cater to the majority rather than an exclusive group of people.

With that in mind here we will look at the biggest Ladies’ days that still take place in modern times, and with the prevalence of part-ownership, some women may have stakes in the competition on and off the course in 2024. 

Grand National Ladies Day

Grand National Ladies’ Day takes play on the penultimate day of the three-day festival. It is a day that typically receives worldwide coverage with extravagant outfits often overshadowing the racing action. 

Aintree’s version of Ladies’ Day features a set of official style awards which means the most impressively dressed receive physical recognition for their fashionable exploits. 

There are two awards for the best dressed and the winners receive a range of vouchers and tickets to the proceeding Grand National Ladies’ Day. There is also a single receiver of the most sustainably dressed who receives a similar awards package each year. 

Royal Ascot Ladies Day

Royal Ascot’s Ladies’ Day takes place on the third day of the festival and unlike the Grand National, it deploys a strict dress code.

In the Royal and Queen Anne Enclosure formal dress is generally a necessity and hats must be worn. For some a high-class affair may be exciting, but others may not like the lack of flexibility in dress that Ascot’s grandest stands offer. 

For the Windsor and Village Enclosure, the only requirement is to wear formal dress – beyond that ladies can be adventurous in deciding the accessories to accompany their outfits. 

Unlike Aintree, Ascot does not give awards to the best dressed and their version of Ladies’ Day is simply to promote elegant dress at the festival.

Ultimately, the Grand National certainly hosts the most exciting and most talked about Ladies’ Day on the horse racing calendar. Ascot though is where the idea was established and their Ladies Day carries the highest level of historical prestige on the calendar.