With the flat racing season well and truly underway now, thoughts naturally turn to the biggest and most prestigious race meeting of the season: Royal Ascot. This year, Royal Ascot takes place from Tuesday 20th June to Saturday 24th June and promises five days of racing action, as well as a plenty of opportunity for socialising and people-watching.
The five days each have their own highlights to offer, with at least one Group One race taking place each day.
On Opening Day, the highlights will be the Queen Anne Stakes, the St James’s Palace Stakes and the King’s Stand Stakes.
The Queen Anne Stakes is a one-mile Group One race for 4 year olds and older. This race has a long history; first run in 1840 and in 1930, it was named after the founder of Ascot racecourse, Queen Anne. Last year’s winner, the American horse Tepin, is only the second mare to have won the race in the last 50 years (Goldikova was the first, winning in 2010). The race will be remembered as one of Tepin’s career highlights as she has now been retired from racing. If you’re wondering which horse to back for this year, you may decide to choose Frankie Dettori’s ride – the jockey has won the race six times so far.
The King’s Stand Stakes is the first UK leg of the Global Sprint Challenge and a Group 1 race for 3 year olds and older. First run in 1860 when heavy rain prevented the running of the two-mile Royal Stand Plate, this five furlong race became Ascot’s main sprint race.
Obviously, a huge amount of betting takes place throughout Royal Ascot week, but the races that are particularly popular for betting are all of those that are televised, like the Gold Cup, and the large handicap races such as the Wokingham and the Royal Hunt Cup. At this early stage of the season, it may be worth reading up on those horses tipped to be running well on the flat this year, such as Making Light and Kimberella.
On the Wednesday at Ascot, The Royal Hunt Cup and the Prince of Wales Stakes take centre stage. At 1 mile 2 furlongs, the latter is a Group 1 race for four-year-olds and older that was first named after the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. After World War II, when there was no Prince of Wales, the race was discontinued, but it returned in 1968, in the year preceding Prince Charles’s investiture.
Ladies’ Day not only features in the Ascot Gold Cup, but it’s also a highlight in the fashion calendar, too. Before racing begins on Ladies’ Day, there’s also the Royal Procession, where the Royal family travel the one-mile course next to the grandstand in horse-drawn carriages. The Gold Cup is another Group 1 race, over 2m 4f, for four-year-olds and older. The 2016 race was won by Order of St George. Looking at the history books, there’s only one horse that has won this prestigious race four times – Yeats, who won in consecutive years, 2006-2009. The leading jockey in Gold Cup history is Lester Piggot, who had 11 wins in the period 1957 to 1982.
Friday’s feature race is the Coronation Stakes, a one mile Group 1 race for three-year-old fillies. Like the Queen Anne Stakes, it was first introduced in 1840 to mark the coronation of Queen Victoria two years earlier. The record held for leading own for the coronation Stakes is Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor, who had seven wins between 1910 and 1936.
On the final day, racegoers get to enjoy the spectacle of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the Queen Alexandra Stakes and the Wokingham Stakes. The Diamond Jubilee Stakes is the second UK leg of the Global Sprint Challenge and the joint most valuable sprint in the UK, along with Newmarket’s Darley July Cup. A Group 1 race over six furlongs for three-year-olds and older, it was won last year by Twilight Son.
Whatever day you attend Royal Ascot, you’re guaranteed to witness some amazing races. This year’s Royal Ascot promises to be as exciting as ever and if you haven’t got tickets already, you’d better get organised quickly!