This five-day Royal event at Ascot in Berkshire attracts more visitors than any other meeting in the Europe with annual attendances of over 300,000. Race lovers have been flocking to the event for more than 300 years to watch traditional royal processions and high quality horse racing. The highlight of the week is the Ascot Gold Cup which is always run on day three of the event. Between 2005 and 2008, Aidan O’Brien-trained Yeats won four consecutive races making him the most successful Gold Cup horse of all time. English jockey Lester Piggott is the most successful jockey having won the race 11 times in his career.
The race course in Ascot was originally founded in 1711 when Queen Anne first galloped horses on a patch of land known as the East Cote heath. The venue gets its current name from the town in Berkshire in which it is located and is currently owned by Ascot Racecourse Ltd. The course has long had ties with the British Royal Family and is just a few miles away from Windsor Castle.
The course is just over a mile long with a right-handed set-up and offers flat and jump options. The jump course in particular are considered very challenging.
The inaugural meeting in 1711 was known as Her Majesty’s Plate and offered a prize of 100 guineas. It was open to any horse, of any sex aged six years over. Later in 1840, the meeting was opened by the Queen Anne Stakes, an honour that has remained ever since.
The tradition of the four-day meet was started in 1768 and the first permanent building appeared in 1794. The original course was the brainchild of designer William Lowen.
Today, the course administration is managed by a Royal-assigned representative (Senior Trustee and Chairman Jonny Weatherby). Previous representatives included the Master of the Royal Buckhounds and Lord Churchill. In 2004, the venue benefitted from major redevelopment that was finally completed in 2006.
Ascot if famous the world over for its thoroughbred horse racing. The course hosts nine of the UK’s Group 1 races (from a total of 32).
Notable races include:
- The King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
- Diamond Jubilee Stakes
- Gold Cup
- Prince of Wales’s Stakes
Royal Ascot has always followed a strict dress code and race day fashion still plays a big part in the event.