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updated: 8/16/2014 9:10 PM

Fans enjoy racing, fashion at Arlington Million

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  • Video: "Best Dressed lady"

  • Allison Harris, left, and Brianna Yarwood, both of Bartlett, wait to show off their pretty hats and dresses during a contest at the Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse Saturday.

       Allison Harris, left, and Brianna Yarwood, both of Bartlett, wait to show off their pretty hats and dresses during a contest at the Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Stephanie Slinger enjoyed the best of both worlds at the Arlington Million Saturday.

The apprentice jockey took part in two races -- including the first run of the day with a horse named Viola George -- during Arlington International Racetrack's annual international festival of racing.

"This is one of the premier events in the world so it's great to be here and be part of it and to ride today," she said.

But the self-proclaimed "girly-girl" also sported a well-fitted dress and twisted, light pink headpiece for part of the day as she judged the first Best Dressed Lady Contest at the event. Lisa Sheehan of downstate Pekin was crowned the winner.

"Glamour is very traditional in horse racing, and there's a certain grandeur that's expected at major events," Slinger said.

Dozens of women took part in the contest, which was put on by Fashion at the Races, an organization that tries to draw in new horse racing fans by showcasing fashion and the social side of race days.

From big hats dotted with feathers to tall, flashy heels, it was clear all the participants put a lot of time and thought into their colorful outfits.

"It's a lot of fun for the women," Slinger said. "It gives them something to look forward to when they come out."

Brianna Yarwood and Allison Harris of Bartlett said they have great memories of coming to the racetrack with their families when they were young. But now, they said, at age 22, they have a better appreciation for the atmosphere.

"I enjoy getting dressed up," said Harris, who paired a blue dress with gold shoes. "It's fun to be all classy and bet on the races and be an adult."

Yarwood's outfit -- a white lace dress, pink shoes and a fancy, netted hat that she bought while traveling in London earlier this summer -- won her a spot in the top 20 for the best dressed contest.

"I needed a place to wear (the hat), so we thought this would be the perfect place," she said.

Plenty of casual attire was also worn by the thousands of attendees at the event, which was capped by the running of the Arlington Million and a win by longshot Hardest Core.

Families and young adults crowded the first few floors of the track, while the cheers from the higher -- and more expensive -- seats roared the loudest as horses crossed the finish line throughout the day.

Some attendees, like Mike DeGroote of Lake in the Hills, have been coming to the Arlington Million every year since its beginning more than three decades ago.

"It's exciting and entertaining," he said.

Many others traveled from far beyond the suburbs to experience the thrill, such as Janet Sheehan of Springfield, aunt of the fashion contest winner, who spent the warm, sunny day with more than a dozen family members from various parts of central Illinois.

"This is my first real big race," she said with a huge smile. "Oh my gosh, it's wonderful. It's beautiful and fun."

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