It’s easy to get carried away when you visit Royal Ascot. This is the premier flat racing meeting in the world where the food and drink is plentiful, the worlds of fashion and high society combine and each of the five days provides punters with at least seven world class races to get their teeth stuck into.
Although spectators will be absent, you don’t have to visit Royal Ascot to get involved in all the excitement it provides. People thousands of miles away from the Berkshire course will follow along with the action and try to make the most of the betting opportunities Royal Ascot provides.
Day One Races (Tuesday)
|1.15||Buckingham Palace Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|1.50||Queen Anne Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|2.25||Ribblesdale Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.00||King Edward VII Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.35||King’s Stand Stakes||Group 1||5f|
|4.10||Duke Of Cambridge Stakes||Group 2||1m|
|4.40||Ascot Stakes||Class 2||2m4f|
Day Two Races (Wednesday)
|1.15||Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|1.50||Hampton Court Stakes||Group 3||1m2f|
|2.25||King George V Stakes Handicap||Class 2||1m4f|
|3.00||Prince Of Wales’s Stakes||Group 1||1m2f|
|3.35||Royal Hunt Cup Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|4.10||Windsor Castle Stakes||Listed||5f|
|4.40||Copper Horse Handicap||Class 2||1m6f|
Day Three Races (Thursday)
|1.15||Golden Gates Handicap||Class 2||1m2f|
|2.25||Jersey Stakes||Group 3||7f|
|3.35||Ascot Gold Cup||Group 1||2m4f|
|4.10||Britannia Stakes Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|4.40||Sandringham Stakes||Class 2||1m|
Day Four Races (Friday)
|1.15||Palace of Holyrood House Handicap||Class 2||5f|
|1.50||Albany Stakes||Group 3||6f|
|2.25||Norfolk Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|3.00||Hardwicke Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.35||Commonwealth Cup||Group 1||6f|
|4.10||Queen’s Vase||Group 2||1m6f|
|4.40||Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes||Class 2||1m4f|
Day Five Races (Saturday)
|12.40||Silver Wokingham Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|1.15||Queen Mary Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|1.50||Coventry Stakes||Group 2||6f|
|2.25||Coronation Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|3.00||St James’s Palace Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|3.35||Diamond Jubilee Stakes||Group 1||6f|
|4.10||Wokingham Stakes||Class 2||6f|
|4.40||Queen Alexandra Stakes||Class 2||2m5½f|
About the Meeting
Held every June at Ascot Racecourse, Royal Ascot is the number one Flat racing festival anywhere on the planet. Each year the best horses, jockeys and trainers from Britain, Ireland, Europe and even farther afield flock to the Berkshire course for five days of top class and highly lucrative horse racing action.
Each of the thousands of fans who come through the gates every day have their own reasons for attending Royal Ascot. For some it’s the chance to enjoy themselves in the sunshine with their friends, some are attracted by the style, the pomp and the pageantry of Royal Ascot whilst for others it’s a pilgrimage that simply must be completed. Whatever they’re there for, every single fan is sure to find some world class racing and a great day out.
There is so much top quality racing at Royal Ascot that it can be a little overwhelming for unseasoned punters. Some races stand out above the rest though so here is the list of the meeting’s very biggest races for those looking only to get involved in the pick of the action.
Queen Anne Stakes
The organisers of these sort of big meeting like to get things going with a bang. Royal Ascot’s bang is provided by the Queen Anne Stakes which is the top target for milers aged four and older. The easiest way to tell the class of this race is by looking at the horses who turn up every year and go on to win this Group 1, mile long race.
Four-year-olds of this class often have room for improvement left in them so whilst previous impressive form is a prerequisite, many recent winners could be considered late bloomers. That said, the majority of Queen Anne Stakes winners since it became a Group 1 in 2003 had already had success at that level. Specifically, running well in a Guineas and/or at the previous year’s Royal Ascot are strong indicators of success.
2018 winner, Accidental Agent, provided the biggest shock of all time in the Queen Anne Stakes. He was largely ignored at 33/1 but a couple of shrewdies commented that his performance in the Lockinge Stakes – a key race in the lead up to the Queen Anne – was impressive. It remains to be seen whether improving horses will have more of a say in years to come or if the tried and tested options at the head of the market will reassert their dominance.
King’s Stand Stakes
The King’s Stand Stakes is about one thing and one thing only – speed. This Group 1 is one of the highlights of the opening day of Royal Ascot and sees the fastest horses aged three-year-old and upwards sprint to the line from 5 furlongs out. It’s a real blink and you’ll miss it affair over the minimum distance which rarely lasts longer than a minute.
Although three-year-olds regularly contend, it’s rare for one of the youngest horses to win. At that age sprinters tend to still be developing so it takes a very special horse (like 2017 winner, Lady Aurelia) to hack the pace at three. From a betting perspective, favourites have a pretty poor record and it isn’t rare to see a winner go off at double figure odds.
The international aspect of Royal Ascot has been very much in evidence in the King’s Stand Stakes. Recent years have seen winners from Australia, Hong Kong and the USA as well as European and Irish victors. That makes it tough for punters to properly assess the form but the key British races to pay an interest to include the Temple Stakes at Haydock and the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket.
St James’s Palace Stakes
Royal Ascot doesn’t host any of the Classics but it always plays host to most the leading contenders from those races. The St James’s Palace Stakes is a good example of this as many of the leading runners from both the British and Irish 2,000 Guineas face off over 1 mile. As that suggests, this Group 1 is open only to three-year-old colts.
The 2018 winner, Without Parole didn’t contend either Guineas races but eight of the 10 winners before him won at either of those, whilst 2017 winner, Barney Roy, finished second at Newmarket. Moreover, Guineas winners finish inside the top three with great regularity.
The strength of the field that always contends the St James’s Palace Stakes means that winners can come from fairly low down in the betting but that is the exception rather than the rule. Favourite backers have only been obliged infrequently in recent years but more often than not the market has it right with the top three in the betting providing most recent winners.
Prince of Wales’s Stakes
The prize fund for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes has swelled significantly to the point it reached £750,000 for the 2018 renewal. That tells you a lot about the importance of this race for older horses. Four-year-olds and older are eligible for this Group 1 which is run over a distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs and has resonance far beyond Berkshire.
The way that the Flat racing season is scheduled in Britain means that the best Irish and French horses tend to have had an earlier crack at a Group 1 over a mile and a quarter than their British-trained counterparts. That is one reason why the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is held in such high regard in European racing.
There is plenty to consider when looking for a Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner. Most recent champions already had Group 1 success under their belts so whilst there are important warm up races at Group 2 and 3 level, making the step up is no mean feat. Stepping up in terms of the trip is not such a worry, whilst history shows us that it takes a very special horse aged six or older to win.
Ascot Gold Cup
The range of different races held over the five days is one of the key strengths of Royal Ascot and there really is something for everyone in an equine sense, as well as off the track. Race goers are treated to everything from 5 furlong sprints to the Ascot Gold Cup which stretches out to 2 miles 4 furlongs. This Group 1 is the number one target for every trainer with a high class stayer and also one of the most popular races among horse racing fans as it produces drama year on year.
Perhaps as a by-product of the regular close finishes, the Ascot Gold Cup is a race that produces heroes. Big Orange, Order Of St George, Yeats, Royal Rebel, Kayf Tara, Drum Taps; the names of previous Gold Cup winners include some bona fide Ascot legends. The lack of elite level staying races means that the leading contenders tend to have faced each other a couple of times before which only adds to the narrative in the lead up.
As so much is known about the best stayers, the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup tends to come from the top three or four places in the betting. Younger winners are increasingly common which, in turn, means that several recent winners were scoring at the 2m4f trip for the first time, although a lack of winning form over 2 miles should be a cause for concern.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes doesn’t quite bring the curtain down on Royal Ascot but it is the final Group 1 of the meeting. This 6 furlong sprint was first run all the way back in 1869 but it’s undergone a serious change in recent years. After the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup – a sprint for three-year-olds only – the Diamond Jubilee Stakes became a race of four-year-olds and above.
There are a few sprints for connections to choose between at Royal Ascot but it usually comes down to a choice between this or the King’s Stand Stakes. The uncertainty in terms of the field, the number of high class performers over shorter trips and the unpredictable nature of sprinting means that there is always some very good value in the ante post betting for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. In terms of starting prices, double figure winners are almost the norm, whilst favourites have a poor strike rate.
The obvious exception to the rule of favourites struggling was Black Caviar, who survived a terrible jockey error to win at 1/6 in 2012. The superstar Australian mare is just one of several international raiders to have won the Diamond Jubilee. At six she was older than most winners since it became a Group 1 in 2002, whilst some UK and Irish winners had also contested big international races such as the Caulfield Cup.
Royal Ascot is about much more than the biggest races on the card, although it doesn’t always seem that way given the huge number of those. There is an incredible selection of races to enjoy ranging from Group 1s to handicaps, sprints to 2m4f tests of stamina and from juvenile contests to those for the older contingent. Whatever floats your boat in the world of Flat racing, punters are sure to find top class entertainment from the other big races below.
The Coventry Stakes provides racing fans with a glimpse into the future. It’s the first real chance for the most promising two-year-olds in training to face off against each other and many winners have gone on to have incredibly successful careers.
Just one previous run has been enough for most recent winners of this 6 furlong, Group 2 contest. That, obviously, is not a great amount of recent form to go on but the amount of information in terms of breeding and performances at home is usually enough for the bookies to call the Coventry Stakes well as winners tend to come from the top two in the market.
Duke of Cambridge Stakes
The Duke of Cambridge Stakes is a Group 2 race for fillies and mares held over a straight mile. Four is the minimum age for entrants and it’s the younger cohort who have had the better of things since the race was introduced relatively recently, in 2004.
There have been winners aged five and six but each of them was a top class mare. In fact, it is vital to back horses who have already claimed a Group level race with most winners achieving that feat over a mile. The other thing to keep an eye on is the Group 1 penalty that applies to winners at the top level after August 31 of the year before.
Queen Mary Stakes
The Queen Mary Stakes is a chance for two-year-old fillies to claim a Group 2 win early on in their career. It’s run over the minimum distance of 5 furlongs but the stiff pace set by these keen fillies often means that many of those who go off early find that their race is run before the kick for home.
Obviously, a certain amount of pace is needed to win the Queen Mary but it’s no coincidence that most winners since it was introduced in 1978 had at least a degree of stamina in their breeding. The winners list also paints a picture of the international nature of this race with the American trainer and sprint king Wesley Ward, having a particularly impressive record.
Day three at Royal Ascot begins with the Norfolk Stakes, another high class contest for juveniles. Like the Queen Mary Stakes, this is also run over 5 furlongs but is open to both fillies and colts. Although some winners have kicked on to have success at the very top level, for whatever reason, the Norfolk Stakes does have a habit of producing winners who fade into obscurity.
Whatever the future holds for the winner, more often than not they’ve already done enough to come to the attention of the bookies as longer odds victors are far from the norm. Don’t worry about a lack of experience as one win (and sometimes just one performance) has been enough for many.
The Oaks is the obvious race to look at when assessing the chances of the contenders in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Open to fillies from the Classic generation and run over 1 mile 4 furlongs the Ribblesdale is arguably a more interesting race because it is a Group 2 rather than a Group 1.
There are bigger targets for the best three-year-old fillies so the Ribblesdale offers a shot at redemption for those who failed at the top level and a chance for those who are still improving to show how good they are. One thing to note from recent winners is the impressive record of Irish-trained horses.
King Edward VII Stakes
Many of the races at Royal Ascot have parallels with the Classics but few are as close to each other as the King Edward VII Stakes and the Derby. This Group 2 is still known as the Ascot Derby and, like its more famous equivalent at Epsom, is run over 1 mile 4 furlongs. There are only three weeks between the two races but that doesn’t stop many of the leading contenders from Epsom having a crack at the King Edward.
Even with such a good amount of recent form to go on this is not typically a great race for punters as favourites have a poor record. The number of winners who came from handicaps rather than going down the Derby or established trial routes makes the King Edward even trickier to predict.
As alluded to earlier, the Commonwealth Cup was only introduced into the Royal Ascot schedule in 2015 as part of a shake up of the European sprinting division. The idea was to give three-year-olds the chance to contest a Group 1 against each other rather than being thrown into the pool against their elders at this early stage of their career. It’s fair to say that connections of the leading young sprinters have enjoyed the changes as some truly top class sprinters have claimed this race.
It will be a while before punters have enough data to form a proper opinion on the trends. The picture has been further muddied by a mixture of winners at odds-on and double figures odds against.
Just like the St James’s Palace Stakes, punters take a long hard look at the Guineas form when picking their bets for the Coronation Stakes. This is the main target for trainers of three-year-old fillies at Royal Ascot and, fittingly, has been won by some of the very best milers in the history in racing.
This Group 1, 1 mile contest is far too good for horses to win having shown little previous form at the top level. As well as the various 1000 Guineas races it’s well worth taking a look at the juvenile form of the leading contenders in the betting.
Connections of the very best horses often have a tough decision to make with their biggest stars. Do they keep them in training or retire them to stud? That is not a worry shared by winning connections of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
This 1 mile 4 furlong contest may be open to four-year-olds and older but it is viewed as a springboard for future success. It’s a vitally important race for late bloomers who find their best stuff once they’ve fully matured. Therefore, many winners had failed in the biggest three-year-old races, whilst the view that it is a shot at redemption is borne out by the number of four-year-old winners recently.
Handicaps play an important part in the make up of Royal Ascot and the Wokingham Stakes is one of the best of the lot. It’s tough to imagine that so much can happen over just 6 furlongs but the 30 odd horses that take part in the Wokingham mean it is a very tactical race, even if it has the appearance of a cavalry charge!
Many punters will pay close attention to the draw but it’s far from the deciding factor in this race. Rather, it pays to focus on horses carrying between 8st 12lb to 9st 3lb and who are aged either four or five, with strong trends a great help in narrowing the market down at least a little.
The history of Royal Ascot begins with Queen Anne in 1711. Legend has it that she spotted a patch of land in the Ascot area that was perfect for “horses to gallop at full stretch” and the first race, Her Majesty’s Plate, was run soon after. The racing has changed significantly from that first contest – back then it involved three separate heats of four miles each! – but the popularity of racing at Ascot has remained constant.
The foundations of the meeting that we now know as Royal Ascot were laid in 1807 with the inaugural running of the Ascot Gold Cup. That was also the year that the course really started to take shape as an arena befitting the standard of racing on show, although it wasn’t until 1813 that an act was passed in Parliament to ensure the public would be able to watch racing at Ascot for years to come.
Racing has continued to evolve and grow at Royal Ascot and the facilities at the course have improved alongside that growth. The meeting is one of the richest and best-attended in Europe, attracting real stars both on and off the track.
Whilst the crowd is increasingly egalitarian, Royal Ascot remains a key event within the British social calendar and you can expect to hear plenty of champagne corks popping over the five days. The pageantry of the British royal family remains an important part of Royal Ascot too and the Queen is still a regular visitor to the festival.
A Complete History of Royal Ascot
Summer race meetings simply do not get any bigger than Royal Ascot, the undoubted sporting and social highlight of the entire flat season. Many of the highly recognised events that make up part of the five-day festival have roots dating back to the early 19th century, giving it an incredibly history.
Although Ascot has long held racing in June, sometimes with royalty in attendance, 1911 stands as the official start date of Royal Ascot. Only then did it become a royal occasion but apart from a little added glamour and prestige, it was largely business as usual in Berkshire. Since then the festival has continued to expand with more and more fantastic races creating a past that makes for fascinating reading.
1744 – Greencoats Called In
For the first time at Ascot, the Greencoats, or rather Yeoman Prickers if you want to use their more traditional name, formed a ceremonial guard. Their distinctive green coats with gold trim are a familiar site at Royal Ascot. In the earlier days their role was to use their prickers to keep racegoers off the course but today they merely help ensure guests have a top class Royal Ascot experience and add to the sense of occasion.
1790 – Top Hats Become a Requirement
Although the precise year isn’t known, towards the end of the 18th century Ascot demanded that any man coming into the Royal Enclosure must don a top hat. The silk hats made from hatters’ plush commonly worn then are now so rare that you could well spend tens of thousands of pounds to find one that fits a modern day head. Or you could spend your cash on something more fun!
1807 – Ascot Gold Cup Created
Royal Ascot’s oldest race appears on the scene for the first time, awarding prize money of 100 guineas to its inaugural champion, Master Jackey. The three-year-old horse won while in the presence of King George III and Queen Charlotte who were both in attendance at Ascot. Today the Gold Cup remains just one of three perpetual trophies during the Royal meet, along with the Royal Hunt Cup and Queen’s Vase, which can be kept by the winner’s owners.
1807 – Royal Enclosure Debut
Although the famous and highly exclusive Royal Enclosure as we know it wasn’t established until the mid-nineteenth century, its roots date back earlier. In 1807, Ascot reserved a space exclusively for King George III, his family and his esteemed guests. In one sense this can be seen to be the birth of Royal Ascot, although as stated, officially it didn’t commence until later on…but some argue it began much earlier!
1813 – Wokingham Stakes Follows
Not long after the creation of the Ascot Gold Cup, the Wokingham Stakes enjoys its first ever appearance. A horse named Pointers, owned by the Duke of York, won the inaugural running of the race which is named after the market town located just a few miles from Ascot.
1823 – Duke of York Joins Race
Usually high profile figures arrive in plenty of time for Royal Ascot but the Duke of York was caught being exceptionally tardy this year. The Duke was so late that he had to gallop up the course as a race took place, arriving at the Royal Stand only moments before the winner crossed the line.
1825 – The Royal Procession Begins
It’s hard to imagine Royal Ascot without the Royal Procession and it’s a tradition almost two hundred years old. King George IV led the first ever procession, followed by four other horse drawn coaches featuring members of the royal party. They paraded down the Straight Mile with spectators commentating that the “whole thing looked very splendid.”
1834 – Walk Over in First St James’s Palace Stakes
Racing experts at the time regarded Plenipotentiary as one of the finest of his generation but he didn’t have to show off his talent in the inaugural St James’s Palace Stakes. Initially set for a re-match with Lord Jesery’s Glencoe, the hotly anticipated battle never occurred with the colt withdrawn from the race late on. Facing no other challengers, Plenipotentiary was able to canter along the course by himself before claiming a walk over victory.
1834 – King Edward VII Stakes Debuts
Alongside the St James’s Palace Stakes, spectators at Ascot also caught a glimpse of the new King Edward VII Stakes. Originally called the Ascot Derby, the name change occurred in 1926 in memory of Queen Victoria’s predecessor. Epsom Oaks champion Pussy won the first ever edition of the event but fillies are no longer able to compete in the one and a half mile test.
1838 – Queen’s Vase Begins
There’s a good reason why the Queen’s Vase is called what it is. On its inaugural appearance, Queen Victoria kindly donated a gold vase which became the race’s trophy. For the first two years, only three-year-old horses could compete but organisers opened the door to older horses after this point. The broader entry criteria remained until 1987 when it returned to being a strictly three-year-old affair.
1840 – Queen Anne Stakes & Coronation Stakes Founded
Ascot launched a new race by the name of the Trial Stakes, originally open to horses three and above. It’s a contest we now know as the Queen Anne Stakes, as, in 1930, the named changed to honour the monarch who founded Ascot Racecourse in 1711. There was more honouring taking place in 1840 as the Coronation Stakes also launched, two years after the coronation of Queen Victoria.
1840 – 11 Year Old Races in the Wokingham Stakes
During these times there were no rules regarding who could ride at Ascot. Taking full advantage of the lack of regulation was an 11-year-old boy who rode a horse in the Wokingham Stakes. Later on he revealed it was his first ever race although he had taken horses out on the gallops before.
1843 – Royal Hunt Cup & Norfolk Stakes Introduced
The first running of the Royal Hunt Cup proved to be quite the memorable one. Knight of the Whistle got himself to the line first but further back there was a triple dead-heat for second place involving Bourra Tomacha, Epaulette and Garry Owen. During the very same year the Norfolk Stakes, then titled the New Stakes, also made its debut at Ascot.
1844 – Nicholas I of Russia Attends
During a state visit to England, Nicholas I of Russia drops by Ascot to spectate at the Gold Cup. The winning horse ran without a name but after his win, in order to honour Nicholas I, he was given the name of ‘The Emperor’. At the same time the Russian guest donated a new trophy for the race which led to the event changing its name to the Emperor’s Plate. It reverted back to the Gold Cup nine years later though following the outbreak of the Crimean War.
1856 – Railway Comes to Ascot
For the first time, keen festival goers could ride the train directly to Ascot. This was a particularly fantastic development for more wealthy guests who had previously been at great risk of being robbed when travelling up by carriage. Many that made the journey, including those that continued to make the long walk there, camped out at Ascot for the entire four-day (as it was then) meet.
1860 – Rain Leads to King’s Stand Creation
Ascot had been preparing to run the two mile Royal Stand Plate this year but heavy rainfall waterlogged much of the track. Only the final five furlongs remained in a race-worthy condition so organisers opted to use this part to host a sprint. Initially called the Queen’s Stand Stakes, the five furlong name reverted to its current title in 1901 following the ascension of King Edward VII.
1862 – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes Founded
Carisbrook claims glory in the first ever running of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. To begin with the race only featured three-year-olds and those involved raced over a distance of one miles and five furlongs, three furlongs longer than today’s trip.
1868 – All-Aged Stakes & Alexandra Plate Added
The All-Aged Stakes became the latest race to feature at Ascot’s summer schedule although it spent more time known as the Cork and Orrery Stakes. Further name changes followed this side of the century, first to the Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2002 and then with obvious logic to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes a decade later. For a long time it had been somewhat true to its original name with all horses aged three and above able to compete but the creation of the Commonwealth Cup saw the minimum age upped to four.
The other new recruit at Ascot was the Alexandra Plate, a race we now know as the Queen Alexandra Stakes. For much time it stood as Britain’s lengthiest flat race despite being cut by 110 yards during Ascot’s track realignment in 2005.
1879 – Hardwicke Stakes Inaugurated
Honouring men who served as Master of the Buckhounds is a common theme among Royal Ascot races as you’ll discover. In this instance the race gets its name from the 5th Earl of Hardwicke who took up the role between 1874 and 1880. It started open to horses aged three and above but following a rule change, the last three-year-old champion was Helioscope in 1949.
1884 – Tristan Wins Third Hardwicke Stakes
Shortly after the Hardwicke Stakes got itself up and running, Tristan set a record in the contest which as of 2019, remains unmatched. The three-time Champion Stakes winner also claimed three Hardwicke victories despite the difficulties jockeys often had riding him. Unless the race reopens itself to three-year-olds, it’s very hard to see anyone ever matching Tristan’s accomplishment.
1890 – Coventry Stakes Created
Honouring the 9th Earl of Coventry, former Master of the Buckhounds, was the Coventry Stakes which made its inaugural appearance this year. The Deemster won the first ever running of the race and three years later it was Ladas, owned by future Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, who rode to glory.
1901 – Lord Churchill Takes Control
After his appointment as first official Representative of His Majesty, Lord Churchill, got to work personally vetting applications for the Royal Enclosure. When doing so he ordered them into three orderly piles, ‘Certainly’, ‘Perhaps’ and ‘Certainly Not’. Was Churchill the world’s first bouncer?
1910 – Black Ascot After Death of King Edward VII
The death of King Edward VII, an avid racing supporter, a month before this edition of Royal Ascot made it a most mournful one. All racegoers dressed in black throughout the festival while ladies in the Royal Enclosure also featured contrasting white flowers or strings of pearls.
1914 – Bessborough Stakes Begins
For many of you the Bessborough Stakes may still ring a vague bell. The name initially was attached to a five furlong race for two-year-olds at Royal Ascot but it was later bestowed on a mile-and-a-half handicap. Since 1999 we’ve known the very same handicap as the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, not to be confused with a two-year-old race ran in autumn by the same name, a contest once won by the incredible Sea Pigeon.
1915 – WWI Disruption
Due to World War I, Ascot had no choice but cancel much of its racing. Many of the races that form today’s Royal Ascot were simply put on hold as a result. Newmarket Racecourse did however manage to rehouse a couple of the events such as the Coventry Stakes and the Gold Cup while the conflict was ongoing.
1919 – Three New Races Added
Prior to World War I, Ascot had held a race called the Triennial Stakes which compromised a race for two, three and four-year-olds over five furlongs, seven furlongs and two miles respectively. Although it received the axe immediately after the war, the second leg continued to live on via the Jersey Stakes. The title is derived from the 4th Earl of Jersey who served as Master of the Buckhounds in the late 1700s.
Joining the Jersey Stakes as a debutant event in 1919 was the Ribblesdale Stakes, a race named in honour of the 4th Baron Ribblesdale who also served as – you guessed it – Master of the Buckhounds. Originally a one mile race open to three or four-year-olds of either sex, it first ran under its current format shortly after World War II. The final race to be added this year was the Chesham Stakes, which replaced the first leg of the aforementioned Triennial Stakes.
1920 – Helen Vernet Becomes First Female Bookmaker
Since its inception, bookies at Royal Ascot had exclusively been men. That was until 1920, when Helen Vernet became the first female offering to take hopeful punters’ cash. Her social connections no doubt helped her pass the ‘fit and proper’ character test which was then required to obtain a bookmaker’s license.
1928 – Britannia Stakes Introduced
The Britannia Stakes once stood as the only one mile handicap at Ascot but following changes to the Royal Hunt cup in 1956 the pair have taken place over the same course and distance. In more recent years the Britannia winners have caught the eye among Hong Kong yards with Roca Tumu (2013), Born In Bombay (2014) and Defrocked (2016) all later exported to the former British colony.
1934 – Brown Jack Proves Unstoppable
No horse has enjoyed more success in a single event at Royal Ascot than Brown Jack. This year the specialist stayer won the Queen Alexandra Stakes for an unbelievable sixth time. His success made him a hugely popular figure at Ascot so it’s only fitting that a bronze stature of the thoroughbred, produced by Alfred Munnings, soon featured at the course.
1940 – World War II Disruption
War again leads to mass cancellations at Ascot. Many races didn’t appear at all between 1940 and 1945 as a result, although there were a few exceptions. The Royal Hunt Cup moved to Newbury for one year for instance, while the St James’s Palace Stakes and Gold Cup moved to Newmarket for one and four years respectively.
1964 – Wet Weather Issues
This year’s Royal Ascot had begun without any problems but for the final two days wet weather led to the cancellation of the procession. So strong did the downpours become that officials later had to call off the Ascot Gold Cup due to waterlogging.
1968 – Prince of Wales Returns
With nobody serving as the Prince of Wales, organisers at Ascot discontinued the Prince of Wales’s Stakes immediately after World War II. This remained the case for over two decades before the event eventually made its return in 1968, a year before the investiture of Prince Charles. From this point on the race has been contested over its current distance of one mile and two furlongs.
1970 – The Bandstand First Plays
Now an unmissable tradition, the Bandstand only started playing British classics at Royal Ascot sometime in the 1970s after the Clerk of the course’s wife helped organise it. When first hitting the scene they played the same iconic songs we still hear today such as Jerusalem and Rule Britannia.
1972 – Rock Roi Denied Again
In the history of Royal Ascot you’ll struggle to find any nag as luckless as Rock Roi. The chestnut horse got himself first past the line in the 1971 edition of the Gold Cup but a failed drugs test saw the title snatched from him. Returning the following year as clean as a whistle, Rock Roi once again won the race but this time the stewards awarded the race to Erimo Hawk after the two had engaged in a bumping match.
1974 – Brook Promoted From Fourth to First
Disqualifications are not an incredibly uncommon sight in racing but how about three in the same race? That’s precisely what happened in this incredible 1974 edition of the Queen Anne Stakes which saw Confusion, Gloss and Royal Prerogative claim the top three places. For various reasons the stewards disqualified the trio, resulting in fourth placed Brook being handed the most unlikely of victories.
1982 – Piggott Cements Gold Cup Legacy
Many of the 4493 races Lester Piggott won during his illustrious career came at a high level but there’s not a single elite race he won more than the Ascot Gold Cup. So regularly able to produce the goods in this historic event, the legendary jockey made it win number 11 on the back of Ardross in 1982. That’s a record that may prove unbeatable, much like his scarcely believable total of 116 Royal Ascot victories that spanned 41 years.
1988 – Coronation Stakes Upgraded
Today the Coronation Stakes is one of the most prestigious races on the continent for three-year-old fillies but it’s not always boasted quite such a big reputation. For many years the one mile event had been classified as a Group 2 race but this changed following an upgrade in 1988.
1992 – Yet Another Prince of Wales’s Disqualification
No Royal Ascot race has seen the winner disqualified on more occasions than the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. The first came in 1902 and a second followed in 1976 as Trepan tested positive for a banned substance. Making it number three was initial winner of the 1992 running, Kooyonga, disqualified after causing interference with third place Young Buster. Trainer Michael Kauntze had few arguments with the call but did add it was unlucky as his horse was clearly the best on the day.
2000 – Prince Of Wales’s Changes
The Prince Of Wales had been open to horses aged three and above but a rule change this year meant horses needed to be at least four years old to qualify. Alongside this, the now lucrative event moved from being a Group 2 race to Group 1.
2002 – Royal Ascot Extended to Five Days
As a way of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II, organisers at Ascot added another day to the Royal schedule. Ascot had previously hosted five consecutive days of racing in June but the final day, Saturday, had been what was known as the Ascot Heath meeting, unrelated to Royal Ascot. It offered a fairly low quality card, acting very much as a warm down from the showpiece event.
Some of the Ascot Heath races, such as the Hampton Court Stakes and Sandringham Handicap received a makeover as they joined the Royal meet. Others such as the Buckingham Palace Stakes, Albany Stakes and the Wolferton Stakes were brand new races making their debuts.
Organisers also rescheduled some existing events to the final day, for instance the Hardwicke Stakes and the Cork & Orrery Stakes (now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes). To begin with the plan was to include this extra day for just one year but the it ended up remaining thereafter.
2003 – Queen Anne Promoted to Group 1
Having initially received Group 3 status when the Horse Racing Authority issued the current system of classification, the Queen Anne enjoyed promotion to Group 2 three years later. A further step up in class followed in 2003 when the one mile contest became a Group 1 race for the very first time. In the same year, the race, previously open to three-year-olds and above, increased the minimum age of participants to four.
2003 – Wokingham Stakes Dead Heat
The crowd at Royal Ascot witness a rare dead heat and the first ever to occur in the Wokingham Stakes. Some commentators initially thought Ratio on the far side had just nicked it but replays showed there was absolutely nothing between him and Fayr Jag. Quite incredibly it almost looked as though we might have a dead heat for third place too but closer inspection revealed that last year’s winner, Capricho, missed out by a short head.
2004 – Duke Of Cambridge Added
As part of a continental push to increase the number of valuable races for older fillies, Ascot rolled out the Windsor Forest Stakes, or since 2013, the Duke of Cambridge Stakes. As a new addition to the Royal Ascot schedule, one event had to make way and the dropped race ended up being the Balmoral Stakes, a five furlong handicap.
2005 – Royal Ascot Moves to York
Due to the relocation of Royal Ascot, swathes of spectators travelled in their numbers to York on a scale not seen since the times of Viking invasions. Maybe! For one year and one year only York took up the great responsibility of hosting the action while its usual home went under some extensive refurbishment work. This was not only a great honour for York Racecourse but by holding the five-day long event, the local economy enjoyed a boost thought to be worth around £50m.
2008 – King’s Stand Re-Joins the Elite
The King’s Stand Stakes enjoyed 15 years at Group 1 level before being downgraded to Group 2 in 1988. It returned to former highs this year however, shortly after its inclusion to the Global Sprint Challenge in 2005. As one of the founding races of the scheme, the King’s Stand quickly attracted top class names from overseas, leading to the restoration of its Group 1 classification.
2009 – Yeats Scores Fourth Ascot Gold Cup
Over the course of its long history, many horses have managed to win the Ascot Gold Cup twice. Going further than that seemed an impossible task until Sagaro’s spectacular hat-trick in the mid-1970s. As impressive as this is, it’s a record now overshadowed by Yeats’ stunning four-time triumph. The Aidan O’Brien-trained horse only won one race in 2009, his final season racing, but what a race to win it was.
2013 – Henry Cecil Tribute
Racing waved goodbye to a legendary figure, Sir Henry Cecil, just a week before Royal Ascot 2013 got underway. In order to pay tribute to the trainer who had saddled 75 Royal Meeting winners, the Queen’s Vase was renamed as a special one-off to the Queen’s Vase In Memory of Sir Henry Cecil. It was an appropriate race to choose to with the 10-time Champion Trainer claiming victory in the race a record-breaking eight times.
2013 – Estimate Wins Ascot Gold Cup for The Queen
Queen Elizabeth II has been an ever present figure at Royal Ascot, never missing a single meeting since taking to the throne in 1952. She’s had her fair share of winners over the years but the most memorable of the lot came in 2013. Estimate, the 7/2 favourite, edged out a fantastic battle with Simenon to provide a reigning monarch with a first ever Gold Cup winner.
2015 – Commonwealth Cup Unveiled
As part of a shake-up to the state of sprint racing across Europe, the Commonwealth Cup made its first appearance in Royal Ascot 2015. It replaced the rather short-lived Buckingham Palace Stakes, only founded in 2002. Although some responded poorly to the axing of the handicap, the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup rapidly became a valued addition to the five day meet. Muhaarar became our first ever winner of the race, seeing off 17 other runners during a well-attended opening edition.
2016 – Significant Funding Increase
A meeting as popular as Royal Ascot will continue to offer more and more prize money but it received a particularly large boost in 2016. An extra £1m was up for grabs this year, representing an 18% increase on the previous year. The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was one of the largest benefactors with its purse leaping up to £750,000 from £525,000.
2017 – Queen’s Vase Reclassified Once Again
Since the present system of race grading emerged, the Queen’s Vase has moved between being a Group 3 and a Listed contest. In 2014 it was on the receiving end of a downgrade but three years later the European Pattern Committee promoted it to Group 2 after recognising the importance of having more high quality flat staying races. They also took the decision of reducing the contest two furlongs in distance.
2018 – Norfolk Stakes Joins Breeders’ Cup Challenge
The Norfolk Stakes becomes the latest event added to the popular Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, serving alongside four other races as a “Win and You’re In” contest for the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Wesley Ward’s Shang Shang Shang won the first Norfolk renewal following the change but unsuitable ground ruled him out of the contest at Churchill Downs.