Geoff Banks on dress code and plastic cups

Newbury works hard. Not easy being the one down the road from Ascot. They host a very good Winter Festival and put up a pile of prize money, which is not always snapped up by connections. I saw a lot of happy faces in the crowd last weekend enjoying three cracking handicaps won by the ambulances! They got stuck into the betting with gusto on those. They’ve introduced a dress code for their Members Enclosure that could hardly be described as draconian. Without boring you on the detail – jeans are out, jacket and slacks are in. You don’t need a tie. Girls aren’t allowed to wear very short skirts which is a shame as far as I am concerned as I enjoy the view, but I understand the sentiment. There’s some scruffy urchins about these days. Supermarkets with the exception of Waitrose, are the best place to see them. Jeremy Kyle has a lot to answer for. Standards all over the place are slipping and the establishment do not approve! Most amusing of all is the ranting from certain racing journalists on the subject. Not for them hard hitting exposes on Godolphin, field sizes, Levy deals, or the integrity of Racing. They prefer to cover far more weighty matters such as why can’t they wear their jeans in Members. There’s a dress code at Ascot, one at York and another at Goodwood. These have been in place since 1485. But for little Newbury to move to improve standards in their Premier Enclosure, that’s apparently beyond the pale. I note with disdain the Racing Post with column after column on the subject. Anything affecting their sponsors barely merits a paragraph. Empty vessels tend to make the most noise. Newbury should take an advert out in the paper – see what happens to the coverage then. Is anyone considering the long standing Annual Members of racetracks? They are happy to make an effort to dress appropriately and are proud to do so. There were thousands who walked into Newbury’s Premier Enclosure at the weekend looking a million dollars. It’s in no way unreasonable of them to seek an enclosure of like-minded folk. Is their view of no importance or should we just listen to the moaners in their jeans? Incidentally, £80 is bog average for a pair of jeans these days. Members invest annually in the racetrack and seek a certain standard of dress and facilities. If they were interested in dressing down they could join the Silver Ring and then we wouldn’t have Club enclosures. We have a tiered system in Racing on our Racetracks. I for one am very much in favour of it. I want to be with other smart folk. If people want to wear their jeans to racetracks; they can change outside in their Vauxhalls. Let’s deal with some inaccuracies. Nobody was ‘turned away’. Those without ties were admitted to the Premier. Newbury may have been a bit overbearing in checking attire, but there’s always a teething stage. Nobody was strip searched. Ladies were not required to look Victorian. Another myth – Racing is too class based. That’s nonsense. I expect to rub shoulders with exhaust fitters, shop assistants, Poles, MPs – even Bankers in Members. They let anyone in apparently! Seriously though, you are welcome in any Enclosure on any race day, provided you’re prepared to dress appropriately. You don’t have to dress like Basil Fawlty in that ridiculous tweed I believe they should outlaw. So speaking as the best dressed Bookmaker in the land, I give the new dress code a solid thumbs up. I’d wager Newbury’s Members would too. If a few hacks don’t get in because they like the ‘on the sofa’ look, no loss. Mst don’t have a lot to say anyway. Whilst we’re on the topic of standards and racetracks looking to improve them, I’m in favour of racetracks smartening the whole experience up and appealing to everyone. Where I’d roundly criticise tracks is their drinking policy. Or complete lack of. Racing has become the standard bearter for the plastic cup. And I do not approve. Some even serve their customers bottles of overpriced Champagne in plastic beakers. Imagine! (York – look away, I don’t include you!) This practice is just unacceptable. Smarten up here guys. You simply cannot expect people who enjoy a fine drink to pay you top dollar so you can save on the washing up. Lame excuses about health and safety won’t wash, along with the plastic. It’s an excessively cheap approach. Let’s deal with one other red herring here. There’s no health and safety directive on glasses being used in bars. It’s just cheaper to use plastic than wash glasses, which involves staffing and occasional breakages. Betting rings used to be sacrosanct areas for drinkers. Now we’re surrounded by plastic pint toting crowds. It can be a fairly vulgar environment. Some venues have become positively dangerous in their rings. Fights often breaking out uncontrollably for several minutes, whilst security waits on an appropriately trained response team. Let’s be honest here folks; fighting at racetracks has nothing to do with a dress code. It’s about the proliferation of alcohol. But hey, don’t let the facts spoil a good story. To boot, health concerns take second place to profit. I wonder at the impact on our wellbeing from drinking out of poor quality plastic and the long term impact on the environment? Now I understand why the plastic cup has appeared. Money. No issue with that. Racetracks have to profit like any other business. I’m not objecting to free sales around the tracks in open areas using plastic. I see absolutely no reason however, for those inside the bars to be subjected to these nasty vessels. Especially at £4.50 a pint! We’re not Football. To continue on this path leads Racing inevitably along the hooligan path the soccer folk eventually had to tackle. One last request to my friends running tracks. It’s fine it you want to sell thousands of pints a day but for the good of the Sport, spend a lot more money on private security to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patrons from those whose excesses turn to violence. No track appears immune to that. Adopt a football like scheme to ban those who fight from our lovely racetracks. Furthermore, create havens in your tracks for patrons to enjoy. They should be free of plastic and for those smart enough to appreciate it. We’re not all oiks and some spend a lot of money enjoying our racing.