1. Selecting apparel appropriate to the venue can require a little research, as some races can be tweedy or linen-clad affairs, depending on the season, while others resemble a Gap ad. The National Steeple-chase Association’s website, www.nationalsteeplechase.com, provides links to many race sites, which usually have photographs of their typical crowds. Generally speaking, if you’re going to be standing under a large white tent, drinking from stemware and selecting foodstuffs from chafing dishes interspersed with flower arrangements, opt for the former dress code. If your ticket stub says “GA” and your car is stuck in the mud, the latter should work. When in doubt, slap on a straw hat/sundress or polo shirt/khakis uniform and call it a day, or ask yourself “WWIWTAMTR? (What would I wear to a monster truck rally?)” and avoid the resulting ensemble.
2. Although you may be fretting over your outfit selection, be sure to arrive early. Often times, the day’s events are slated to start at 1 p.m., but arriving shortly before that time would be a heinous error. Particularly if you’re going to be parking in the infield or other non-reserved area, you need to stake your claim in an optimum spot before the masses arrive. This practice will also provide ample time for tailgating, an integral component of the day’s activities.
3. After you’ve planted your flag in a primo location, set up camp. This is not the time to bust out your RV emblazoned with Big 10 football team colors and inflatable mascots or set up chairs on top of a VW bus with an inflatable kiddy pool out front for cooling your “dawgs.” With space at a premium, contain your dining/lounging/spectating spread to your designated parking area; however, such restrictions should not hinder your tailgating creativity. Just because it’s the middle of the day and you’re in the middle of a field, doesn’t mean you can’t have candelabra adorning your table.
4. The uninitiated will soon feel the jealous sting of envy if they don’t stock their race day pantry to the hilt. A sack of subs picked up on the way will surely pale in comparison to your fellow tailgaters’ well-planned repasts. And what kind of message does it send to offer green-tinged potato chip remnants in return for shared shrimp cocktail from a neighbor? Be advised that care should be taken in preserving perishable items’ viability during a potentially long day’s exposure to the elements. Mayonnaise gone wrong can ruin anyone’s day.
5. A vital aspect of your sustenance for the day, which is undoubtedly not necessary to mention, is liquid refreshment. Avoid glass bottles–some races actually forbid them–as errant longnecks can find their way underneath the feet of frolicking children and galloping horses. Do try to include some non- flammable beverages, as someone has to drive the lot of you home.
6. Bring plenty of ice to maintain optimal temperatures of the aforementioned consumables. The stuff is like crystalline gold on a blazing afternoon, and it’s just not good form to stealthily lop an appendage off your neighbor’s David ice sculpture to chill your mimosa.
7. As large, view-blocking, shade-bearing edifices are often not permitted for the poor slobs sweltering outside of those big, white tents, be sure to prepare for the sun with ample SPFs. That straw hat actually serves a purpose, after all. Though it may be tempting to multi-purpose in this instance, beer helmets are generally frowned upon.
8. After quelling your pangs of hunger and slaking your thirst, it’s time to place your bets. Much study can be devoted to the art of examining performance algorithms for each race’s entries, but selecting a horse whose name you’ll enjoy bellowing from the rail is a good failsafe.
9. Steeplechasing typically allows for much more personal interface with the action than flat racing. Dressed in your finery and raising your cocktail on high, don’t get too wrapped up in your “Julia Roberts as Pretty Woman stomping divots at her first polo match” impersonation and get trampled by the oncoming field.
10. When it’s time to leave, be sure to follow the “pack-in, pack-out” camper mentality and gather up the remains of the day, including all your trash, any semi-catatonic cohorts and perhaps a few contact numbers for all of your new friends and fellow race fans.