>

Ascot Racecourse – Horse Racing with a Touch of Royalty

It doesn’t matter where you are located; Ascot Racecourse is a big, big deal. The horse racing facility in the small town in East Berkshire, England, has been the home of some of the most luxurious events in the world of horse racing.

Are you a big fan of Ascot? Never heard of the place?

Either way, you landed on the perfect page. We decided to create a guide dedicated to the most recognizable racecourse in England. Ascot isn’t just a place where horses race and fans come to watch. Ascot Racecourse is a landmark structure in England that hosts some of the biggest events in the sport. In fact, out of the 36 Group 1 horse races in Britain, 13 of them are run at Ascot.

Our guess is that you would love to read and learn about the place in the form of some organized sections. Today is your lucky day because that is exactly what we do. Get comfortable, grab a beverage, and enjoy this ride through the racecourse in Ascot!

Overview of Ascot Racecourse

Year Opened
1711
Location
Ascot, Berkshire, England
Owners
Ascot Racecourse Ltd
Course Type
Flat
Notable Races
The Gold Cup, Champion Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
Official Website
Overview of Ascot Racecourse

Ascot Racecourse Opens in 1711

To start things off, it’s important to understand some background information. First of all, the actual location of the course is about five miles from the Windsor Castle. The Royal residence being so close is a big reason why the British Royal Family has been tied to Ascot ever since its inception. Speaking of the beginning, we have to go all the way back to 1711 to arrive at the date of the first horse race at Ascot.

Queen Anne founded the course and aptly titled the first race “Her Majesty’s Plate.” All you have to do is look at some details of that initial race to see how much things have changed. The seven horses who participated did carry some weight – 12 stone, or 168 pounds to be exact.

But the purse was only 100 guineas, and the race consisted of three separate four-mile races! The events today are not nearly as long, and as you can imagine, there is quite a bit more money on the line than the 100 gold coins offered back in 1711.

What transpired in 1813 was a big break for those that weren’t “in the know” or part of the British Royal Family. Thanks to the Parliament passing a new law, the general public was legally allowed to attend races. Over the years, many amendments and changes have been made, all under the control of the Ascot Authority.

Established in 1913, the Ascot Authority still directs what goes on at the racecourse. It is one of the chief reasons things are run so smoothly and professionally at the racetrack in East Berkshire.

Some Interesting Notes About Ascot Racecourse

There are a few specific details about the racecourse in Ascot we want to get to before we jump into the Royal Ascot or the other major races at the track. The capacity at Ascot is about 70,000 for a given day, and everyone dresses their best.

There is, quite literally, a plaque that states the dress code for any patron who wants to enter. You’ll need to plan on wearing your fanciest outfit, especially if you’re lucky enough to have tickets inside the Royal Enclosure. There are precise rules for the dresses or skirts that women can wear, and men have to accompany their grey or black suit with a top hat. There are no exceptions.

The Royal Enclosure at Ascot Is Only for the Well-Dressed
Access to the Royal Enclosure is subject to a strict dress code.

More than £180 million was spent on a master renovation that meant closing the course for nearly two years between 2004 and 2006. Unfortunately for the Ascot Authority, they were forced to spend an additional £10 million on refining the grandstand, as not enough people from different levels had good enough views of the track.

It was obviously important to make sure that if people were going to get “all fancied up” and spend money to come to the track, the least that Ascot could do was provide them a clear shot at watching the major races unfold. As far as what the schedule entails, take a look below.

Racing Schedule at Ascot Racecourse

The features 26 days of racing on the entire calendar, which is much more than the original way things were done. Up until 1945, there were actually only FOUR days of racing the entire year.

Hurdles and steeplechase events were added in 1965, creating a new wave of horse racing events at Ascot Racecourse. Despite the additions, there are a few events that really stand out as the most notable and frankly most significant races.

The Royal Ascot

The Royal Ascot is the series of races that all racing fans in the UK have their eyes set on all year long. The five-day festival of events at Ascot takes place in June every year. It features six races per day, for a total of 30 events.

There are a plethora of reasons that make the Royal Ascot such a glamorous and well-known attraction. Not only is more than £6 million on the line, but anyone who is anyone in the UK attends.

Whether it is the Prince of Wales or other family members, the British Royal Family makes an appearance at the Royal Ascot, and it is a grand one at that. Arriving in style would be an understatement, as they show up each afternoon in a horse-drawn carriage, and yes, the Royal procession occurs every time.

One can actually say the interest of the media coverage is more focused on the social aspect as opposed to the actual racing of the horses. There are more cameras pointed on the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and the Earl of Wessex then there are on the fillies and stallions who are competing.

To further understand the extent of how large the Royal Ascot is, take a look at a few staggering facts.

  • Normally a facility that employs 143 full-time staff members, there are more than 6,000 additional bodies needed to support the Royal Ascot and all of its entertainment. This includes 39 separate kitchens that are needed to support that food and beverage program.
  • Speaking of what is eaten and drunk at the Royal Ascot, have a glance at some of these mind-boggling numbers that were calculated at the 2014 Ascot Cup. This is meant to enlighten those you who are unaware of what takes place at this five-day extravaganza.
  • More than 51,000 bottles of champagne were consumed, not to mention more than 160,000 glasses of Pimm’s and 131,000 pints of beer. That is a fair bit of alcohol, and we didn’t even bring up the 42,000 bottles of wine that were drunk.
  • More than 3,700 rumps of English lamb and 2,400 kilos of beef sirloin were served over the course of the five days. Throw in 10,000 Angus steaks, 5,000 kilos of salmon, and 7,000 crabs, and we are talking about one ultimate feast!

However, with all that being said, there is at least one event at the Royal Ascot that takes the attention away from the “socialites” for at least a few minutes. We are talking about the world-renowned Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup

The owners of the “stayers” (the horses that specialize in the long-distance races) most definitely have the Gold Cup circled on their calendars. The third day of the Royal Ascot is known as “Ladies Day,” but many who show up to Ascot that afternoon come to specifically see the Gold Cup in action.

The Gold Cup is open to horses who are four years old and older, and there is a nine-stone handicap placed on the race. To be more specific, the horses that are five years old and up actually must tack on an extra two pounds to help even the playing field.

The Gold Cup was inaugurated in 1807, so obviously there have been quite a few memorable moments. What immediately comes to mind is the four-year stretch of performances displayed by Yeats. Arguably the most dominant stayer of all time, the stallion left his mark on the Gold Cup at Ascot by winning the race an astonishing four consecutive times from 2006-2009.

His trainer, the great Aidan O’Brien, was responsible for all four of these victories. After training the winning horses in 2011, 2014, and again in 2016, who knows what O’Brien has in store for years to come?

As far as records by a jockey in this event, good luck catching Lester Piggott. “The Long Fellow” made his presence felt at the Gold Cup by winning it an incredible 11 times. This includes victories that spanned 25 years, from his first in 1957 aboard Zarathustra until his last in 1982 riding Ardross.

Please see the following page for more information on the Gold Cup and other races during this five-day festival.

British Champions Day

While the Royal Ascot may be the main draw at the racetrack in East Berkshire, British Champions Day does not go unnoticed. It’s the culmination of a sequence of 35 races that take place throughout the year, known collectively as the British Champions Series.

Ever since 2011, this series concludes with a huge day of Thoroughbred racing at Ascot every October. If you are someone who likes betting and big bucks, this might be your favorite day in English horse racing. More than £4 million is up for grabs over the course of the six races.

There are five divisions of the British Champions Series, with each “final” taking place on British Champions Day. The sixth race contested is a one-mile handicap race.

While there may not be 5,000 kilos of salmon eaten or 160,000 of pints of beer slammed down like there is during the Royal Ascot, there is plenty of “wining and dining” going on at the racecourse during British Champions Day.

The two biggest events in terms of prize pool are the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Champion Stakes. Both events have a handsome seven-figure purse and are designed for horses three years old and older.

You can read more about British Champions Day on the following page.

Another Major Race at Ascot

After discussing the Gold Cup at the Royal Ascot and British Champions Day in the autumn season, you would think there were no other prominent races on the property. Believe it or not, there is another Thoroughbred Group 1 race that is more than worthy of being mentioned.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is considered by many to be THE flagship race at Ascot Racecourse.

There is a special Saturday in July every year at the Ascot Racecourse that has the undivided attention of almost every Thoroughbred owner in the United Kingdom. If you have a horse who is at least three years old and can run 12 furlongs (2,414 meters) on turf, you will do everything you can to qualify for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Yes, the name is long, but that is because it honors two of the most recognizable people in British history. The “King George” race is so highly acclaimed not just because of its more than £1,000,000 purse, but because of the history that has taken place at the event.

The 1975 King George is commonly referred to as “the race of the century.” Few things in sports are better than seeing the two best players going at it head-to-head in a classic finish to the end. Think of two heavyweights slugging it out in the 12th and final round of a title bout. Or when the two best golfers in the world are walking up the 18th fairway on Sunday in a Major tied for the lead. These are the most cherished moments in sports.

reminds us exactly what those described moments are like. Without spoiling the finish, the two favorites, Grundy and Bustino, take this one down to the wire.

The second-richest Thoroughbred event in the United Kingdom (behind the Epsom Derby) was first run in 1951 when Charlie Elliott guided Supreme Court to victory lane. The fastest time recorded in the event came in 2013 at the feet of Novelist. The stallion’s time of 2:24.60 is remarkably more than 2 full seconds faster than the next fastest time.

Not to be left out of the discussion of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, two horses have gone on to win this event twice. Dahlia was the first to accomplish the feat when the broodmare (female horse used for breeding) won back-to-back King George’s in 1973 and 1974. Swain also captured the event in consecutive years in 1997 and 1998.

The following page includes more information on this race.

How to Plan a Trip to Ascot

Are you thinking about scheduling a trip to Ascot Racecourse? Not only can we not blame you, but we want to help you get there. If you are not familiar with Ascot, it is located in East Berkshire. If you have no idea where East Berkshire is, surely you have heard of London. Just 40 km (25 miles) west of London sits the tiny town of Ascot.

The racecourse isn’t the only fancy thing around, as when considering the prices of buying and renting homes, it ranks near the top in all of England. If you are from around the area, this wouldn’t be news to you, and you can probably sleep at home and just drive to the track.

If you are not a local and will be flying in, here is what you should know:

Heathrow Airport in London is your best option, as it will only take you about 15-20 minutes in an Uber or taxi. If you can find cheaper flights into Gatwick in southeast London, expect the route from the airport to the racecourse to take you about 45 minutes. Perhaps you want to rent a car and see some of London on your way.

We won’t get into seeing Big Ben or riding in the London Eye, as we are not tourist buffs on things to do in London. However, we do know there will be no shortage of activities to do and things to see when you get there.

Concluding Thoughts

If you clicked onto this page looking for some details about Ascot Racecourse and what goes on there, we hope we satisfied your needs. All illustrious racecourses in the world are worthy of an in-depth informational page. Certainly, the most esteemed track in all of England makes the cut.

We talked about how it opened back in 1711 under the direction of Queen Anne and how the Ascot Authority has been in charge of the proceedings ever since 1913. Of course, uncovering the particulars about the biggest racing days on the calendar at Ascot was a must when writing this guide.

When considering the magnitude of the Royal Ascot, it is easy to understand why the Gold Cup is so highly regarded. The amount of preparation that goes into the five-day event is unparalleled to anything else in racing we have discovered.

After discussing some facts about British Champions Day and the “King George” race, we thought it was imperative to give our readers a quick reference point for how to get to the Ascot. The town in East Berkshire may not be known by everyone, but surely the two main airports in London are a place that everyone has access to.

Whether you are able to make the trip to Ascot or not, use this guide as your foundation for understanding what makes the racecourse so unique. Whether it is the ungodly amounts of alcohol and food consumed during the Royal Ascot or the extraordinary sums of money on the line, there is something about Ascot Racecourse that makes everyone smile.