Ascot, owing to its attachment to the Royal Family and to both flat and jumps racing, is arguably Britain’s most famous racecourse.
Located in Berkshire in the heart of one of the country’s great horse racing heartlands, Ascot is renowned for hosting major meetings such as Champions Day and Royal Ascot.
More than half a million people visit Ascot every year to watch races across both codes, with some 27 race days planned in.
- Address – Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7JX.
- Owner – Ascot Racecourse Limited.
- TV Station – Sky Sports Racing.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf
Ascot stages flat, hurdles and chase races throughout the year on its right-handed tracks.
The main right-handed section of Ascot’s turf course is more or less a triangle shape, featuring a relatively sharp turn into the home straight around two-and-a-half furlongs from the line.
The jumps course is in use from late October to late March, though can be used for flat racing on Champions Day should the fixture be in doubt due to waterlogging.
Races run over 1¼ miles, 1½ miles, 1¾ miles and two miles are staged purely on the round track, going right-handed.
Ascot has two mile starts; one in the chute that takes the horses past Swinley Bottom and round onto the straight, and one at the end of the straight course.
The straight course takes in all races at five furlongs, six furlongs and seven furlongs too, as well as housing the 2½-mile start for the Ascot Gold Cup.
Flat Course Analysis
In stark contrast with other major tracks such as York, Haydock, Newbury and especially Newmarket, Ascot’s run-in is a short one.
With that, track position is crucial going into the final half-mile of races on the round course and the draw may play a part too.
Given that the horses quickly hit rising ground once into the straight, wasting valuable yardage by going wide to avoid trouble is not advised as horses can quickly empty out with 200 yards to go.
On the straight course, some pundits have described it as being pace-dependent but in fact the evidence points to the draw being crucial.
The apparent “Golden Highway” down the stands side often sees horses drawn high have a major advantage over those drawn on the far side.
Described as galloping in nature, Ascot’s National Hunt course took on some major redevelopments and reopened in 2006. With drainage now improved, the ground is often less demanding in the winter than it once was but the fences remain stiff.
Jumps Track Analysis
Novices often struggle with the fences on the far side, but generally the track is described as fair and as a front-running venue regardless of age or race type.
One thing you must absolutely keep in mind with jumps races at Ascot is the hill near the finish.
So much is made of horses needing to see out the uphill finish at Cheltenham, often describing it as the toughest in the game. However, factually, the hill is more demanding in nature featuring a higher incline from two furlongs out to the line at Ascot than it is at Cheltenham.
Keep this in mind not only when you bet at Ascot, but also when checking out Ascot form in advance of the Cheltenham Festival.
Visiting Ascot Racecourse
Ascot Racecourse sits within Berkshire, just half a mile from the town. Although very busy during the royal meeting in the summer, the track is relatively easy to access from various places.
How to Get to Ascot
Ascot Racecourse is only around 11 miles from Heathrow Airport, so even those having to fly in from further afield find it easy.
From Heathrow, follow the M25 anti-clockwise and then head onto the A30 London Road at junction 13. Follow the signs for Ascot Racecourse and turn right onto the A329 which takes you directly to the track.
From Slough and Windsor to the north-east, go straight down the A332 and look for the signs. The M4 to the west is just eight miles from the track, while Ascot is just five miles north of the M3 too.
Train services from London’s Waterloo Station run directly to Ascot Station, taking around 50 minutes. The station is just a ten-minute walk away from the racecourse.
Where to Stay
Ascot itself is only a small place, not capable of accommodating 60,000 racegoers during the biggest meetings of the year.
Jockeys and trainers have even been known to stay at their major hubs, such as Newmarket, and use helicopters to fly in for race days. There are plenty of other places to stay before heading to a day’s racing at Ascot though.
Slough, Reading, Maidenhead and Windsor are all nearby and all have plenty of accommodation available.
Major Events at Ascot
Ascot features major handicaps, graded jumps races and Pattern flat races right throughout the year. The Shergar Cup, a team racing event, also takes place on the flat each summer.
Splitting them into categories, Ascot’s major events are:
Major Jumps Races
|London Gold Cup||Handicap Chase, Grade 3||3m||Family Race Day||October|
|1965 Chase||Chase, Grade 2||2m5f||November Racing Weekend||November|
|Ascot Hurdle||Hurdle, Grade 2||2m3½f||November Racing Weekend||November|
|Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle||Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 2||1m7½f||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Noel Novices’ Chase||Chase, Grade 2||2m3f||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Championship Standard NH Flat Race||Bumper, Listed Race||1m7½f||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Long Walk Hurdle||Hurdle, Grade 1||3m½f||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Silver Cup||Handicap Chase, Listed Race||3m||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Betfair Trophy||Handicap Hurdle, Grade 3||1m7½f||Christmas Weekend||December|
|Warfield Mares’ Hurdle||Mares’ Only Hurdle, Grade 2||2m7½f||Clarence House Chase Day||January|
|Clarence House Chase||Chase, Grade 1||2m1f||Clarence House Chase Day||January|
|Reynoldstown Chase||Novices’ Chase, Grade 2||3m||Ascot Chase Day||February|
|Swinley Chase||Handicap Chase, Listed Race||3m||Ascot Chase Day||February|
|Ascot Chase||Chase, Grade 1||2m5f||Ascot Chase Day||February|
In all, there are now 35 Royal Ascot races across five days of the meeting. Royal Ascot takes place every year beginning on the middles Tuesday of the month and ending on the Saturday.
The greatest concentration of Group 1 races on the flat are staged during this meeting. Eight Group 1 races are run in total, all of them of great significance for the Pattern.
Around 300,000 people may attend the royal meeting each year, with the meeting synonymous with fashion, celebrities and the monarchy as much as the racing itself.
Given that it falls at a perfect time of year, the best challengers from Britain and Ireland almost all take part, along with French, American, Japanese and occasionally Australian top-class performers too.
|Queen Anne Stakes||4yo+, Group 1||1m||British Champions Series||June|
|Coventry Stakes||2yo Only, Group 2||6f||June|
|King’s Stand Stakes||4yo+, Group 1||5f||British Champions Series||June|
|St James’s Palace Stakes||3yo Only, Group 1||1m||British Champions Series||June|
|Wolferton Stakes||4yo+, Listed Race||1m2f||June|
|Queen Mary Stakes||2yo Fillies Only, Group 2||5f||June|
|Queen’s Vase||3yo Only, Group 2||1m6f||June|
|Duke of Cambridge Stakes||4yo+ Fillies & Mares, Group 2||1m||June|
|Prince of Wales’s Stakes||4yo+, Group 1||1m2f||British Champions Series||June|
|Royal Hunt Cup||4yo+, Heritage Handicap, Class 2||1m||June|
|Windsor Castle Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||5f||June|
|Norfolk Stakes||2yo Only, Group 2||5f||June|
|Hampton Court Stakes||3yo Only, Group 3||1m2f||June|
|Ribblesdale Stakes||3yo Fillies Only, Group 2||1m4f||June|
Other Major Flat Races
|Sagaro Stakes||4yo+, Group 3||2m||Trials Day||April|
|Pavilion Stakes||3yo Only, Group 3||6f||Trials Day||April|
|Paradise Stakes||4yo+, Listed Race||1m||Trials Day||April|
|Victoria Cup||4yo+, Heritage Handicap, Class 2||7f||Victoria Cup Day||May|
|Summer Mile||4yo+, Group 2||1m||Summer Mile Day||July|
|Valiant Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 3||1m||King George Weekend||July|
|Pat Eddery Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||7f||King George Weekend||July|
|Princess Margaret Stakes||2yo Fillies Only, Group 3||6f||King George Weekend||July|
|International Stakes||3yo+, Heritage Handicap, Class 2||7f||King George Weekend||July|
|King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes||3yo+, Group 1||1m4f||King George Weekend||July|
|Noel Murless Stakes||3yo Only Listed Race||1m6f||Autumn Racing Weekend||September/October|
|October Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||7f||Autumn Racing Weekend||September/October|
|Rous Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||5f||Autumn Racing Weekend||September/October|
|Cumberland Lodge Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m4f||Autumn Racing Weekend||September/October|
About Ascot Racecourse
A full-on British institution for as long as any of us can remember, Ascot Racecourse was founded as far back as 1711.
When riding from Windsor Castle, Queen Anne happened upon some land she thought looked to be the ideal galloping area and so the idea of horse racing there was born.
The first official race meeting was held on the land in August of 1711 and continued to grow steadily in popularity from that point. A permanent building for racegoers was eventually erected in 1793, holding just 1650 people at the time.
Though racing was halted during the War, it returned in May of 1943 and a new era was ushered in. In 1945, Princess Elizabeth attended for the first time and so a love affair with the sport and with this venue began.
The Queen, as she became, has famously not missed a Royal Ascot meeting since she was coronated in 1953, going on to present the Gold Cup trophy to the winning owners every year.
In 1965, Ascot started hosting National Hunt races as well as flat meetings and now hosts some of the most important fixtures of the jumps season.
Ownership and Racecourse Developments
Ascot is owned by Ascot Racecourse Limited, rather than one of the wider racecourse ownership groups such as ARC or the Jockey Club.
In 2004, the track was closed when a £220 million redevelopment began. This led to Royal Ascot being hosted by York Racecourse in 2005.
The £220 million spent still stands as the single biggest cash investment in British horse racing. The track reopened to much fanfare in June 2006, in time for the next royal meeting.
In 2006, another £10 million investment was announced. The programme ensured that viewing was improved from the lower levels of the main stand while drainage was also improved during this time.
As well as Royal Ascot and the Shergar Cup, Ascot is home to another one of British flat racing’s most important race days of the entire year; Champions Day.
Champions Day was formerly held at Newmarket, but after agreeing to move the Fillies’ Mile across to HQ, the Champion Stakes was switched to Ascot and the British Champions Series was created.
Various sprint, mile, middle-distance and staying races at Group 1 level now form part of that series, culminating in Champions Day in mid-to-late October.