It has been an interesting weekend in racing after Ascot’s attempt to remind racegoers about their dress code spectacularly backfired.
It was an episode that did damage to Ascot but in my view it was more telling in revealing the true nature of many in the racing press, revealing an underbelly of hypocrisy and vitriol.
Indeed the whole affair is a classic example of certain members of the press, who have their own agendas, making a volcano out of a molehill.
Let’s begin by taking the emotion out of the events and look at the cold facts – I realise many will not actually like hearing the facts as it will contradict their nasty, pernicious prejudices.
Ascot has introduced a stricter dress code for 2012 which, for the Premier Enclosure, states:-
Gentlemen should wear a jacket and tie, smart trousers or smart jeans, no trainers. There will be an announcement on the day allowing jackets to be removed, should the weather be hot. Ladies should dress for a smart occasion; hats are encouraged but not compulsory. Children should be dressed smartly.
Saturday’s meeting was the first to use the new dress code. Now Ascot could easily have turned away racegoers who did not comply with the new code but instead took the decision to advise racegoers who did not adhere to the code.
Once a racegoer had been advised of the new code a sticker was placed on their badge to indicate they had been advised. The sole purpose of the sticker was to indicate the racegoer had been advised so that stewards would constantly be stopping the racegoer throughout the afternoon.
One can understand the reasoning behind the approach. Now we all know hindsight is wonderful but Ascot clearly did not take account of the fact there were people who would exploit the situation to suit their own particular prejudices.
A significant number of the racing media and media in general are what I would call Champagne Socialists, the sort of people who despise Ascot and all they perceive it stands for, yet they are more than happy to live what many would call privileged lives and, of course, accept Ascot’s generous hospitality.
For them this was a dream story, the type of story which would appeal to their chums in Islington as well as the poor oppressed “working classes” whom they profess to support but would never be seen dead with.
Of course social media like Twitter allows stories like this to gather legs as well, and it was soon a trending topic.
The trouble with social media is it allows stories to disseminate unchecked, the facts are the first to suffer and it is the extreme views which get picked up on.
Very soon there were Tweets flying around comparing Ascot’s stickering of racegoers with the labelling of Jews in Nazi Germany.
I would like to think I am thick skinned and there is very little which offends me. However having a Jewish antecedence and having relatives caught up in the Holocaust I found those comparisons deeply offensive.
However this error of judgement by Ascot gave our leftie media friends a perfect opportunity to stick the boot into elitist Ascot.
Even the Racing Post managed to report the matter emotively, its Editor Bruce Millington declared it “a hugely important story.”
It is not an important story, to quote Aussie Jim McGrath it is a “silly season” story, it’s most likely an important story for Millington because it enables him to engage in some toff bashing.
Talking of “silly season” what was with those stupid orange stickers they wore on ATR yesterday morning – were they trying to make some kind of point – to me it was simply a puerile, pathetic, immature cheap stunt.
You only have to look at Tweets and forums to see this has little to do with dress codes but has more to do with class prejudice. The politics of envy is still rife in the 21st century.
Turning back to the original issue I personally welcome Ascot’s stricter dress code and I wish more courses would have similar codes.
It has nothing to do, as some will claim, with exclusion. Even at Ascot racegoers who do not wish to wear a suit or tie still have access to the excellent Grandstand enclosure which gives access to the parade ring and good race viewing. In other words they have a choice.
If racegoers want to dress informally that is fine but why should they deny others the right to dress up and have an exclusive earea they can share with like-minded racegoers?
There is plenty of vitriol being aimed at Ascot yet I see none directed at, for example, Thirsk which has a strictly enforced tie rule in their Premier enclosure.
Or how about Goodwood which has a very strictly enforced dress code which includes the same notice about permission being granted to remove jackets as Ascot has.
I would not advocate a strict dress policy at all racecourses, it clearly would not work at single enclosure courses but at those which retain multiple enclosures what is wrong with having some standards?
Some say they would not be seen dead in a suit and tie, that's fine. Personally I would not be seen dead in jeans but we all have our own likes and dislikes. Why can't both sides be catered for though?
If people do not want to adhere to a strict dress code they have the option of voting with their feet, if enough do so the commercially astute courses will soon amend their dress code.
Ascot state the rules come at the request of racegoers and the fact the Premier Enclosure at Ascot is sold out most meetings suggests there are enough racegoers who are happy to comply with dress code.
Why does it have to be dragged down to some kind of spurious class war, elitism or snobbery.
If media colleagues wish to attack Ascot that’s fine by me but if they are going to do it why don’t they front up and declare the true reason, namely a political axe to grind and ranting about their own prejudices, rather then make something out of what is in reality a non-issue.
By the way does anybody know how many orange stickers were issued on Saturday – let me tell you – it was less than 50.