What To Wear To A Horse Race When It’s Cold?

Last Updated on December 29, 2022

There is no doubt that fashion is a huge factor in a race-day environment. For many, dressing up is the largest portion of the race experience. However, horse racing season can mean chilly at the beginning and tail-end of the season. Although racing typically ends with the final days of summer in many areas, some locations hold races well into fall. Both spring and fall weather can be very unpredictable. So if you have the unfortunate luck of attending during a bout of bad weather, here is what to wear to a horse race when it’s cold.

Track Style

Despite the inconvenience of weather, hot or cold, race track style does not change. Again, the guest dress code is a major factor in the overall experience and environment. Unless at a very small and informal track, racing is a spectator event where you should dress to impress. This is specifically geared toward traditional Thoroughbred races sanctioned by the Jockey Club. Major races, such as any of the Triple Crown races, are high-fashion statement events. Non-equine fashion magazines cover these events each year. Don’t let the cold fool you, it is always big derby-hat season at the track!

Track Style

Dress Codes

Most track attire resembles “Sunday best” or “smart dress”. However, some tracks will have a mandatory dress code year-round and there will be no admittance for failure to comply. For example, the Royal Enclosure is one of the strictest dress codes for race tracks and is known internationally for this. Comfort does not apply here- no sneakers or casual jackets even in poor weather conditions.

Unlike other events which may require a blazer or collared shirt, they require strict dress codes for both males and females. They are so stringent; they will check males to ensure they are wearing socks! However, the color scheme does vary seasonally. Pastels are traditional, but brighter-colored accents may be more suitable for late summer and fall races.

Check out Do horses Get Cold In Winter?

Differences in Attire

Men and women will have different dress requirements at the track. This is a very traditional element, and in recent years has brought about accusations of gender stereotypes and discrimination. However, at this point, tradition is the longstanding attire guideline.

Differences in Attire


Men fall under the “smart dress” guidelines for most rack tracks. This is much easier to work with during cold weather, as a smart dress typically includes a suit. A full suit means a blazer, which can actually be hot and uncomfortable during the summer months. Men can opt for heavier wool blazers during cold weather, and accessories are welcome as they can bring additional style to an ensemble. This can include scarves, top hats, and gloves. When it is cold enough to require additional layers, collared and more formal coats such as peacoats should be worn with suits. Unless you have special seating out of the way, most tracks do not allow umbrella use. This can distract animals if spotted and obstruct the view of other guests. It is best to check with a track before bringing an umbrella. However, sleek ponchos can be packed as a just-in-case item.

Read more about What to Wear to a Horse Race Track

What to Wear to a Horse Race for Women

Women have a harder time adhering to the traditional track dress code during cold weather. In fact, skirts and dresses are still the preferred dress codes for women. Women wear attire similar to Sunday best or even upscale afternoon tea sessions. Although pastels are also the standard for women, brighter colors and bolder patterns and prints will be seen in summer and fall. Accessories are key to a finished track ensemble, complete with jewelry and a hat.

However, when it is cold, women are left with fewer options than men as most sundresses do not come with optional matching blazers! For these chillier days, women can utilize stockings and accessorize with hats, scarves, and gloves. Jackets, although they may be necessary, will be restricted to more formal appearances. In some cases, this can be a business smart-dress style pea coat or heavy wool coat with pleats. This may be an opportunity to showcase vintage furs, stylish hand warmers, and high-fashion (and low-function) hand mitts!

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What to Wear to a Horse Race When it’s Cold - Furs

Why Do People Dress Up For The Horse Races?

For many people, going to the horse races is a grand day out, and you will see people dressed up to the nines for a day at the races! But why do people get so dressed up for the horse races?

The reason for this goes back many years, to when horse racing was regarded as ‘The Sport of Kings’. Attending the horse races was considered to be a highly prestigious event, with royalty and noblemen enjoying a day out watching the racing and placing a wager or two. The allocation of viewing areas was graded according to your rank in society, and to this day some racetracks still have different grades of viewing zones.

The clothes worn to the races were also an indication of wealth, and men would make sure their wives were dressed in the best they could afford to show the world how rich they were. This wasn’t the case in the viewing areas for the general public where most people would wear their normal clothes.

So, if you get invited to one of the most prestigious events on the annual racing calendar, such as the Kentucky Derby, you may be lucky enough to get a ticket to one of the premium viewing areas. In this situation, you will be expected to attend in your finest attire!

It is not just the viewing public who dress up to go to the races. The owners, trainers, and grooms of the horses also normally make an extra effort to look their best. This is because they will be seen by all the attendees as the horse walks around the parade ring, and they may even make a television appearance!

How Much is a Derby Hat?

One of the most fascinating things about attending the Kentucky Derby is seeing all the hats on display. Year after year the array of hats gets ever more spectacular, with some creations so weird and wonderful you start to ponder how they stay on these ladies’ heads at all!

The cost of a derby hat will vary widely according to where you buy it from. The cheapest option is an off-the-peg design, which can be bought in a clothing store or online. With some searching, you may be able to find a great hat for the derby for under $100.

At the other end of the spectrum are bespoke, handmade hats for the derby, which can cost several thousand dollars. The best hat designers will get booked up many months before the event and will work with their clients to create the ultimate headpiece to complement their outfits.

If you love a bargain, then hunting for a second-hand or vintage hat can be a good option. Some fabulous online stores sell reclaimed clothing, and it can be possible to put together a classic derby day outfit this way at a fraction of the price of a new one.

Final Words

Although it may take a little creativity, don’t let a little cold weather stop you from making the most of your race-day experience. Incorporating warm jackets and accessories can be a fun way to dress up your current ensemble and make an even bigger statement if you are creative. It is important to dress weather-appropriate so you will be comfortable during the races and can sit back and enjoy the experience. As a little pro tip: stock up on the portable hand warmers sold with camping supplies! These are great pack-along items for any spectator viewing an outdoor event or sport.

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What do you wear to a casual horse race?

You can wear clothes in which you feel comfortable. A pair of jeans and a polo shirt is always a good option. Even a casual t-shirt and a comfy pair of trousers are perfectly acceptable.7
Can I wear my favorite team’s gear? Sure! Most horse racing associations allow for participants to wear any color or brand of clothing that they like. Many horse owners are very patriotic and love to support their favorite sports teams. 

Does rain cancel horse racing?

Generally yes but there are several options available.
If the rain is so heavy that the course is unsafe, then it is cancelled. The track will be closed and the race won’t be run. For example, if the track is muddy, or if the track has become dangerous due to standing water or slick footing, then the race can not be run. 
If it is a wet track, then any races on the turf are taken off and put on the dirt. You can check the Penn National website on the day of a race if there is bad weather and find out the status of the track. 
Another option is to postpone the race until the weather improves.

Can ladies wear pants to the races?

Yes, an elegant pair of trousers are perfectly acceptable to be worn by ladies to the horse races. Obviously, ladies should not wear shorts or a mini-skirt or anything else that shows too much leg. However, if you are looking to dress down a little, a pair of well-fitting trousers will look good on any lady.

What do you wear to the UK winter races?

When you are racing in the UK winter races, it’s not always going to be that easy. In some of the UK winter races, the weather can be unpredictable and you might be racing in temperatures of below 0 degrees Celsius. This is because in the UK winter races, the races are often held in the middle of the countryside, where the weather can be a bit of a shock to the system. 
Therefore you want to dress warm as well as rain and wind proof to be able to keep your body warm for the duration on the horse race. It is preferred that you don’t wear jeans to the races, but a pair of smart tweed trousers can be a great alternative. A tweed blazer will complement the trousers perfectly and to keep warm don’t forget a trendy coat that will protect you from elements, pair of gloves and an appropriate hat.  

Does cold weather affect horse racing?

Winter racing season in the United States is often perceived as an inferior event because of the frigid temperatures and the risk of injury to horses. The perception of cold weather racing is certainly understandable.
It is actually important to choose the right season for horse racing. This is because you want to avoid injuries due to slippery surfaces caused by rain or snow as well as diminish the chance of inclement weather. In addition, the horse racing industry is always searching for a way to attract new people to horse racing. By running horse races during the warmer and drier months, the horse racing industry can attract more people to their races.