As the best dressed lady racegoers in Yorkshire prepare for next week’s grand final, Stephanie Smith asks them how they came up with their winning outfits. Pictures by Hannah Ali.
It’s time to place your bets as the nine winners of the summer’s Ladies Days across Yorkshire come together at Doncaster Races next Saturday to battle it out, hat to hat, for the title of Go Racing Best Dressed Lady. Each of the county’s nine racecourses held a Ladies Day competition, with some entrants having planned their outfit for months in advance.
Last year's Go Racing in Yorkshire grand final winner, Katie Maini
Each heat winner automatically goes forward to the grand final – and the stakes are high. The winner will receive: a 1920s vintage ring made of 18 carat white gold from loveVintageDiamonds.com with a value of £2,000; a £500 voucher to spend at Incognito and a two-night stay in a Spa Suite at the Best Western Mount Pleasant Hotel in Doncaster.
Last year’s winner was Katie Maini, now 28, a solicitor from Doncaster, who was named St Leger’s Best Dressed Lady 2018, having previously won the spring competition, then going on to win the Go Racing in Yorkshire Best Dressed Lady Final wearing a dress with fur cuffs from Obi in Doncaster, a hat from Vixen Millinery and shoes from the high street.
She was encouraged to enter her heat by her sister, Sarah, and was amazed to win. “I couldn’t quite believe it,” she said. “Everyone looked amazing and a lot of people go for these co-ordinated outfits. I had just thrown something together the first time round.”
Her prize included a holiday in Santorini in June, with her husband, Sonny.
Catterick winner Lisa McArdle, 45, from Castleford, is a factory worker at Warburtons, Normanton. She is married to Zac. 'It was my birthday,' she said of the Catterick heat. 'I'm also an annual member at Pontefract races which I won at Ladies Day last year and this year I was asked to be a judge.'''I was wearing a hat from Sonlia fashion from Australia. The blazer is from Zara and the tutu skirt was made by Bridal Boutique on Bridge Street in Castleford. I did go dressed up but I didn't think I would win.'''She met Zac, from Bolton, in Benidorm 25 years ago. 'We both love horse racing. I stress him out on Ladies Day as it's a walking fashion show in my house.'''People from any job or any area go to the races - that why I think it's extra special."
Katie has tips for this year’s finalists. “I’d always go for something classic and elegant. Less is more, I’d say that. I’m not one for extravagance.”
The Best Dressed Lady Final is on Saturday, October 26 at Doncaster Racecourse. Gates open at 11.30am and the first race is at 1.45pm with the judging of the final at 2.35pm.
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Beverley winner Natalie Thornton, 48, is a senior project coordinator for Siemens Mobility, Goole. She lives in Kirk Ella, Hull, with her husband and their two teenage children.''She won wearing a cream dress with lace bodice and sleeves and a pleated skirt, with cream accessories. 'The dress was from Zara, teamed with a belt from a local boutique in Hull (Sasi Boutique),' she said. 'My fascinator and handbag were from Debenhams Jasper Conran range and my shoes were from Nine West. My daughter Sophie did my make-up.'''I felt really elegant in the dress. I think the empire cut suits my shape. I go to Ladies Day at Beverley every year with lifelong friends and some of our mums. We thought it would be nice to have a professional photo of us all together so we went over to the Flemingate marquee. It was at that point that I found I'd entered the competition.'''I enjoy buying clothes from the high street and adding some of my own accessories to make them a little different."
York Races Ladies Day winner Ruth Margaret Bird, 32, is a housewife from Stokesley, with two boys. She won her heat wearing a red and white printed pleated midi dress was from Rosie's Closet, accessorised with red headpiece, bag and shoes. 'I liked the print and style,' she said, adding: 'I love a nice, elegant, girly style. I won a Ladies Day in Thirsk, I think it was in 2016, and went on to win the Doncaster final.'''Ruth loves the occasion of a Ladies Day, especially 'getting to wear a hat and enjoying the racing with a glass of fizz.'''She has a new outfit for the Doncaster final featuring more autumnal colours. Her top Ladies Day style tip: 'Keep it classy, elegant and fun.'
Pontefract heat winner Charlotte Hall, 36, from Pontefract, is a support worker for young adults with learning and physical disabilities. She is married with four children, aged 3-13. 'This year my outfit was a last minute thing as I wasn't originally attending. My skirt was from Closet and top by Jessica Wright. I had a bit of outfit drama two days before as my parcel with matching shoes and bag didn't arrive. I dug out a pair of shoes from the back of my wardrobe from New Look and a bag from Next. My hat was just plain lime green from eBay and I got my glue gun out and jazzed it up with artificial flowers. I love being creative. I thought I turned out fab.'''I always think Ladies Day is a day when you can go really over the top and make a statement. Some of the hats are out of this world and the ladies look like they've just walked out of a film set or the red carpet. You don't have to spend massive amounts of money to look good."
Wetherby winner Tracey Howell, 55, lives in Bishop Auckland and is a teaching assistant in a primary school. She is married with two grown-up daughters and a two-year-old granddaughter. 'I wore a wine dress trimmed with feathers by Lipsy. My fascinator was by Annette Gaskill of Ferryhill,' she said. 'I had the fascinator made first as I loved the flowers, then chose the dress and had some feathers added into the fascinator. I have entered Ladies Days before and was lucky to win at Thirsk in 2018 and also at Hexham, where both myself and my daughter Rachel were lucky enough to win prizes.'''I will be wearing a different outfit for the final but at the moment it is between two. I enjoy going to the races and it's nice to get dressed up for them. However, I do feel it is important to be comfortable.'
Ripon winner Lisa Jane Longden, 37, is a medical secretary from Rotherham. She is married with a stepson and grandson.'''I wore an orange two-piece from Forever Unique and added a Vivienne Westwood brooch, a fascinator from Debenhams and shoes and bag from Lipsy. It was such a bold statement for me. I'm usually a monochrome kind of person but I'd worked hard getting fit and wanted to embrace my new confidence and show off my figure. I knew I wanted to enter the competition and did put my look together for that.'''Ripon is our favourite course. To have even been placed there, let alone win, was a dream come true. Just to see the outfits is amazing. I have met some lovely people through Ladies Days.'''Lisa will keep some elements of her original outfit for the final but making it more appropriate for the time of year. ''As for her top tip: 'Confidence is key and feeling comfortable in your outfit. Always walk tall.'
Redcar winner Kayleigh Imiela, 32, from Middlesbrough, works for Yorkshire Bank. She is married and is mum to four-year-old Freya.''Kayleigh won wearing a cream dress with a deep floral hem and a blue bow bel. 'My dress and shoes were from Chi Chi,' she said, adding that she chose the outfit because it was feminine and elegant, and that she put the look together with the competition in mind, although she had never entered a Ladies Day competition before.'''It's not every day we get to put on our finery and dress to impress,' she said. She will be wearing a different outfit for the grand final. 'Another dress from my favourite store, Chi Chi,' she said.''As for her special occasion top style tip, she said: 'Be true to your own sense of style. Wear what makes you feel special.'
Doncaster winner Leesa Smickersgill, 51, is a self-employed bespoke hat and fascinator dressmaker and lives in Belton on the outskirts of Doncaster.'''I was wearing an outfit designed by myself,' she said. 'I love making outfits. I like everything to match perfectly - the dress, fascinator and bag.'''I won Ladies Day in 2011, 2017 and 2019 so I'm not doing bad. Of course, I will be making another outfit for the Go Racing competition. I love the outfits on Ladies Day and I always go with my friends and my mum.'''Leesa plans to carry on making her own outfits. 'Hopefully, everyone will like my next outfit and I will win again.'