by Annette Kellow 

There are fewer pleasures in life than BST (British Summer Time) combined with race season. Top this with a huge hat, strawberries and cream with a view from the Queen's stand and life can't get much better!

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Epsom Derby and with just 24 hours notice, the race was on for defining an outfit and the hugely important millinery.

When visiting the races a stunning hat is essential and choosing one can seem a daunting task. But in my mind there was an obvious winner- John Boyd of Knightsbridge who make glorious hats for every season and every occasion.

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Their showroom is located on the historic Beauchamp Place and Mr Boyd is known as the Royal Milliner, serving for over 75 years. A favourite of Princess Diana as well as other royals and high society including Kate Middleton, his beautiful designs are a confection of the classic and experimental. After spending a deliciously long time deciding on suitable colour and size, (indeed I needed a large cup of tea afterwards it was that difficult!), I eventually plumped for a rich, deep blue number with tones of purple, that filled my head like a cloud.

Now that I had the right millinery, it was time to discover all that the Epsom Derby is about!

The Epsom Derby is Englands oldest race, starting in 1821 and more recently marking the Queens 90th celebrations in 2016. Come rain or shine, every year on the first Friday of June, a multitude of ladies and gents head to Epsom Downs Racecourse to experience a day full of high octane racing, music, glamour and fashion. Across the Queen's Stand to The Hill there is an air of excitement all round and upon arrival I was very impressed by the array of beautiful dresses, suits, top hats and fine millinery.

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After spying some strawberries and cream and then a glass of fizz (of course I said yes to both) I was ready to watch the Investec sponsored races. I enjoyed listening to people's chatter about favourites and odds, hearing the roar as they won, some of the crowd went wild as their chosen horses ran first past the post! Amongst the race day characters I met a couple of lovely gentleman who go to the biggest races throughout the year. They happily gave me a wealth of betting tips which I hoped I would remember for later on that day (of course I promptly forgot them!)

In-between the races my top-hatted and tailed boyfriend and I took a wander around as we were having so much fun talking to the cavalcade of other racegoers. As we ventured outside we noticed that beside a small back entrance quite a few people were waiting, seemingly in anticipation. We wondered what for and as I got closer I heard one of them whisper 'Queen.'

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Then like a vision in canary yellow, her Majesty the Queen exited through the building! I must admit I was quite in shock but managed to get my camera out quickly enough to take a photo. She looked utterly mesmerising in her floral dress with yellow hat and matching coat, it made quite a few of us gasp in awe. Where else but the races can you flit from a glass of champagne to bumping into the queen in a matter of minutes!

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After such excitement I felt it was time to place a bet myself and as I'm not very in tune with the best racehorses I decided to pick a horse that matched my dress. What a lucky choice that the jockey's silks of Wings of Eagles matched the purple of my vintage dress, romping home in first place at 40-1! I would say it's the best pound I have ever spent and I of course promptly celebrated with another glass of champagne (hic!)