Royal Ascot, What A Glorious Hat Trick!
300 years of history and Ascot has become the most interesting observation point for all that is Royal, Elegant, Glamorous and last but not least tacky. A yearly attendee since my first London season back in the nineties I had lately decide to stay clear of the event because of the rough jungle ambience of the grandstand. Indomitable masses of party girls have shocked the locals who have asked for the event to be shut down because the new breed of race goers has damaged its reputation with unflattering make up, unforgiving tight dresses, polyester morning suits and drunken fracas.
But 2015 is my year to make amends with the event, to become once again the great fan I had always been and stick with the Royals for the good of the tradition. If the Queen keeps going how bad can it be? I was ready to find out what makes the difference: the invitation
It reads something like this: You are cordially invited to spend a fantastic day’s racing at Royal Ascot on Saturday 20th June 2015. Your invitation includes private box hospitality.
And it felt like this: I have been lied to until now, this is how real Ascot is done. The Royal enclosure is no jungle and the private boxes are the height of sophistication, they transform the anticlimax of betting on a slow horse into pure delight. Invited by Olorogun Oscar Ibru and his ever charming wife Wanda, the Nigerian delegation taught a few lessons on style and oomph to the turned out crowd.
The one hour drive from London to Berkshire feels like a high caliber meeting in a mobile situation room, where thoroughbreds credentials are examined at length on the Racing Post and the abundant racing apps. On the day everyone, including the betting debutantes, becomes an expert analyst on matters of ground, performance and weather, ready to bet money on their study. Mrs Ibru, a frequent attendee of the Royal meeting and the famous Saratoga races in the USA, had never been a punter until reading this year’s favoured list. This is where she spotted a young promising $1million horse called Wandjina, and so finally opted for beginners luck and placed her first ever bet. Possibly the last bet for my host as the four legged super star did not realise she had a duty to perform and came in 6th, beaten by Undrafted ridden by England’s most popular jokey Frankie Dettori. A fantastic performance from Dettori for The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the most coveted cup that came with a staggering £525,000 award, snatched at magnificent speed.
Feeling like singing the My Fair Lady song ‘Ascot Gavotte’, I got ready for the next race with the lyrics: “Pulses rushing, faces flushing, Heartbeats speed up, I have never been so keyed up.
Any second now they’ll begin to run. Hark! a bell is ringing, They are springing forward.
Look, it has begun!” Looking at the track is extremely exciting from the very beginning of the event when Her Royal Highness The Queen arrived in the majestic horse led gilded carriage from Windsor Castle, a vision of summer and glory in peach. But the enclosure and the private boxes offer quite a sight too. New to the party Kithe Brewster, New York designer and one of the biggest celebrity stylists in the world, was immediately dazzled by the African textiles worn by Olorogun Ibru and Dr Yemi Coker. Fascinated by the Aso oke designs the gentlemen wore in full regalia, we were left wondering if the 2016 Brewster collections will include Aqbadas for Fifth Avenue and wrappers for his famous client list that includes Halle Barry, Heidi Klum and Oscar winner Julianne Moore.
As fast as the gallop to the finishing line, Ascot came and won my heart back! The hats, the Bollinger rose’ fuelling sparkling conversations and cheering for the winners made this an unforgettable year. How I would love to receive an invitation, that reads: ‘ You are cordially invited to spend a fantastic day’s racing for the inauguration of Lagos New Racing track on….’
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