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Originally published June 1, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Page modified June 8, 2012 at 12:27 PM

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Hats on, it's off to the races for the Royal Ascot

The annual five-day Royal Ascot races bring out the high fashion, high-stakes horses and, of course, the royals.

See the spectacle

The Royal Ascot is June 19-23 this year: www.ascot.co.uk

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IN ENGLAND, extravagant hats blossom each June at the Royal Ascot horse races.

The Ascot racecourse has been a fixture on the British sporting and social scene for 300 years. But it's the annual five-day Royal Ascot races that bring out the high fashion, high-stakes horses and, of course, the royals.

Queen Anne founded the racecourse in 1711, and it's conveniently located near Windsor Castle, a vast royal residence. Her present-day successor, Queen Elizabeth II, enters her own horses, bestows trophies and, with other royals, opens each day of Royal Ascot with a horse-drawn carriage parade around the track.

Yet fashionable attire sometimes steals the spotlight, especially on Royal Ascot's traditional Ladies Day when Britain's upper crust, sporting the latest designs and millinery masterpieces, mingles in the invitation-only grandstand and garden of the racetrack's Royal Enclosure.

The Royal Enclosure dress code, tightened this year to stanch a slide in sartorial standards, requires men to wear top hats and morning coats; women must don modest formal day wear and hats. And "fascinators" — the whimsical, sometimes outlandish, headgear like that infamously worn by Princess Beatrice at last year's royal wedding of William and Kate — now are forbidden in the Royal Enclosure.

You could take your fascinator and wear it in the more plebeian viewing areas, however. Just don't bet on a royal nod.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times' NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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