Horse Racing

Going to the Goodwood Season Finale? Here’s a quick etiquette guide…

Horse Racing

The horse racing season is coming to a close at Goodwood on 14th October with the theme Harvest, Hops, and Horseracing. There’s an autumn chill over the course now, as the grandest events are a distant summer memory and we finish it all off with all the simple pleasures of the countryside. Expect hog roasts, fiddle music, and roasting marshmallows over firepits while having a little flutter on the horses.


The Dress Code

While the elegant dresses of summer are likely to be swapped out for a coat and a smart pair of trousers, ladies are still expected to embody the relaxed elegance of the races. Bare shoulders are a no-no (not that you’d want to at this time of year) and it’s recommended you forgo the stilettos on the uneven racecourse terrain.

For the gentlemen over 16 years of age, jackets are an absolute must and must be worn with a tie, cravat, or a polo-neck. Boys can omit the tie from their outfit but still must wear a collared shirt. Anyone turning up on the day in jeans, trainers, shorts or fancy dress will be turned away.

While the last raceday of the season is a more relaxed affair than the summer events, everyone is still encouraged to glam up. While you can follow the dress code without making too much of an effort, in the more formal enclosures this is seen as not getting into the spirit of the event and you may find yourself feeling very out of place. Dress to impress and you can’t go wrong.



If you read the newspapers, you would get the impression that racedays are rife with loutish behaviour and it is all part and parcel of the event. Earlier in the year, 12 arrests were made at Goodwood after a fight broke out among twenty-five young men. While things can get out of hand, the racing venue tends to react very strongly to this kind of behaviour and will do everything they can to prevent it.

In general, loud, outrageous behaviour is also frowned upon, belying every horse race ever depicted on the screen. Screaming and cheering, bookies barking their odds, losers ripping up their betslips and crushing them under a well-shod foot. These are not things that are welcome at most racecourses. Think of the scene in My Fair Lady with Eliza’s outburst of ‘Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!’ and do the opposite of that.

Goodwood likes their events to be sophisticated, so keeping your behaviour in check maintains this cultured atmosphere for everyone.


Gracious winners

Winners and losers alike have a tendency to act without grace if their betslip shows a dramatic outcome. Winners are so tempted to celebrate loudly, gloat, or flaunt their winnings around the racecourse. It’s an understandable reaction, especially if it’s a life-changing sum of money, but tact and grace are more important in racing circles. There’s also no excuse to descend on the bookies at the event, demanding your cash like a bank robber. It’s against the law for them not to give you your winnings, so just be patient while waiting your turn. You will get your money. Overall, congratulations are in order for the big winners but don’t go overboard.

The same gracious behaviour should also be shown by losers too. Sulking is never a good look, especially at Goodwood. If you end up losing everything you put on a horse, accept your loss with dignity without the histrionics.


Rubbing shoulders with the elite

Horse racing attracts a certain class of people, from the famous, to the powerful, to the wealthy. There may even be a royal or two in the enclosure with you. But remember, these people are here to enjoy the event just the same as you. Acting starstruck, fawning, or hounding certain racegoers will lead to more than a few askance looks. Most people like to give the impression that they mix with important people all the time, so if you find yourself next to an actor, a princess, or a Forbes billionaire, be friendly and polite but don’t make a big deal of it.


So that’s it! Just a few little things to keep in mind. Just remember that your number one priority on raceday is to have fun.