Racing Traditions - Where did they originate?

The Races - Caitlin O'Sullivan
8 January 2020
With a sport dating back thousands of years, there’s bound to be a few traditions. Many of us have heard the famous bugle call or adhered to the black and white dress code of Derby Day, but where did these traditions originate? 
The Bugle Call 

Bugle calls originated in the military and were used as somewhat of a ‘stand-by’ signal. The tune would be played five minutes before an event and signaled to soldiers and sailors that something important was about to take place. How this tradition transferred from soldiers to stallions is up for debate but nonetheless, the first call is used across racecourses in New Zealand today to signal a race is not far away. 
Derby Day = Black and White  

While we’re all for personal expression, Derby Day is a day to leave your ‘stand out from the crowd’ attitude at home and gallop with the (monochrome) herd. Of all things, the dress code originated from a marketing ploy - for whiskey! In 1960, the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine ran a competition in collaboration with whisky-maker James Buchanan and Co (whose brand colours were black and white) for the best dressed black-and-white ensemble at the Melbourne Cup. The winner received a £200 wardrobe. 
Tuesdays are for Melbourne Cups

The Melbourne Cup is well-known for being run on the first Tuesday of November every year, however, this wasn’t always the case. From 1861 to 1874 the race was run on a Thursday and the 1867 edition was run on October 31! It wasn’t until 1875 that the ‘first Tuesday in November’ tradition was established. While racing on Tuesday involves a few logistics to be sorted for us in New Zealand, those in Victoria are treated to a public holiday! 
It’s not a raceday look without an (utterly ridiculous) hat!

The races are one of the only places in modern-day society where is socially acceptable to parade around with an ornament that could double as an ariel on your head. Racing is considered to be ‘the sport of kings’ - royalty tend to rock hats - wearing hats to the races is a nod to the sport originally being for the elite. 
Keen to get amongst a few racing traditions yourself? Find a summer raceday near you. 

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