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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Ladies Day attracts record crowds
By Sophie Brown
BBC Sport at Aintree

Racegoers queue for a best dressed competition to win a car
Ladies Day makes for a colourful sight at Aintree
A relatively recent innovation, Ladies Day at the Grand National meeting has already become something of an Aintree tradition.

The idea stems from Ladies Day at Royal Ascot and many of the outlandish and colourful designs at Aintree are similar to outfits often seen at the prestigious Flat meeting.

But while Royal Ascot takes place in mid-June, Aintree is in early April and weather conditions are noticeably cooler.

Not that you would realise it from some of the distinctly "summery" outfits on display.

Aintree hosts one of the most famous jumps meetings in the world but many of the women of Merseyside seem to think of it more as an all-weather event.

The skies over Liverpool were grey and chilly yet the dresses of many of the estimated 45,000 spectators racegoers spoke of sunshine and balmy evenings.

Sleeveless, strapless, chiffon - the amount of bare flesh visible was enough to cause goosepimples even among the well wrapped-up Barbour brigade.

Yet there is a good humour and joie de vivre that is often missing at the more formal Ascot meeting.

The racegoers don't take themselves too seriously but when it comes to fashion, it is a different matter.
A racing fan enjoys Ladies Day at Aintree
Hats dominate the fashion stakes with racegoers

And this year saw an added incentive to make that extra effort as there was a brand new 20,000 Jaguar X-Type on offer to the "best dressed racegoer" on Friday.

More than 300 entrants strutted their stuff on a catwalk erected in the winner's enclosure in the hope of winning the keys.

A panel of judges whittled them down to six - including a token male - and then an overall winner was announced.

There was some consternation among locals when it was discovered that the winner hailed from foreign parts, ie, Formby, but the competition was deemed a huge success.

Racing is currently on a drive to attract people to come to watch the sport live and organisers hope that diversions such as these will boost crowds.

There were certainly signs that racegoers were developing an interest in National Hunt by the time the last race had been run on Friday.

For example, the number of women who took their shoes off to get a better feel of the going will be most encouraging to the sport's rulers.

Links to more Grand National 2003 stories


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