July 3 will mark the 157th year of the of the Queen's Plate, the oldest thoroughbred horse race in Canada. From its simple beginnings in 1860 at the Carleton track in Toronto at the corner of Keele and Dundas, the Queen's Plate has now grown into a massive event featuring not only world class races but also big name entertainment, including seven bands on three stages. It is definitely a social event not to be missed this summer in Toronto.
So if you haven't been before and you've decided you must attend this year, as I hope you have, here are my dos and don'ts of Queen's Plate etiquette.
1. Do Dress for the Occasion
At the Queen's Plate there is no "official" dress code, but it is definitely an opportunity to bring out your finest race wear, especially if you are attending the Hats & Horseshoes Party. For women a fascinator is a fabulous choice, and footwear should be garden-party friendly. Wedges and chunky heels will help you travel gracefully back and forth from the party to the grandstands. For men, this is an opportunity to embrace bolder colours and a jacket -- accessorized with pocket square and a bow tie, and topped off with a fedora -- is the perfect choice for a day at the races.
One caveat: if you happen to be visiting with an owner and you are a guest at the Woodbine Club, this is the one venue where they do have a specific business casual dress code in effect, so make sure your wardrobe is up to snuff!
2. Do Make a Wager
Part of the excitement of race day is watching to see if your horse won, and the only way for your horse to win is to place a bet. Woodbine entertainment has put together an excellent guide with three key steps. First, decide how much you want to wager, the minimum is $2. Second, pick your horse. Here I would highly recommend purchasing a race program to learn more about the contenders in each race, plus it's a great souvenir of the day. Finally, decide what kind of bet, Win (first-place finish), Place (first- or second-place finish) or Show (first-, second- or third-place finish) .
3. Don't Be a Sore Loser
Just because you will be betting at the races does not mean you'll win and in my experience, as a novice gambler, most of the time you should be prepared to lose. So with this in mind it's important to lose well. Don't throw temper tantrums or shout profanities at your horse if they don't win the day. The flip-side is please don't gloat if you are fortunate enough to win -- a strong cheer and an enthusiastic saunter over to the betting booth to collect your winnings are more than sufficient.
4. Don't Rush the Betting Booth
The excitement if you've won can be overwhelming, but there is a process to collect your winnings. When the race is done, you can cash out your winnings with a teller at the betting kiosk. Pack your patience, though, because depending on which race it is you are collecting your winnings from, the line can take a few minutes depending on how many winners there are. The thing to remember as you are waiting patiently in line is that you WON at the races, and that makes it worth the wait! Finally, make sure that you have double checked that you have a winning ticket before you head over. There is nothing worse than waiting in line to collect your winnings then to find out from the teller that you weren't actually as lucky as you had hoped.
5. Don't "Celebrate" without a Responsible Ride
Cocktails of all kinds definitely create a festive mood at the Queen's Plate, but when the race is over you still have to get home safely. Remember, the Woodbine Track is a fabulous venue, but it's not walkable for many living in the GTA. Please ensure that you arrange a designated driver with your group if you've brought a car, or if everyone wants to celebrate, organize a taxi or a car service for the day.
Have fun at the races!
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