A guide to Royal Ascot

With the good news that this year’s Royal Ascot will continue on its scheduled dates – June 16-20th – albeit behind closed doors, it’s time to check out Betfair’s advice on horse racing, when it comes to choosing a favourite to back. While it’s believed that there will be a change-up to the order of the races, which are yet to be confirmed, there are also going to be a number of other changes.

We talk about the famous roar which engulfs racecourses as the entry list leaves the start line – it’s bound to be more of a whisper this time around, similar to what we’ve already seen at the likes of Longchamp in Paris. There will be no royal procession, spectators donning suits or fascinators and, for the first time in her 68-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II will not be in attendance.  

But Royal Ascot is a tradition for so many, and it’s Ascot’s centrepiece when it comes to racing, with over 300,000 fans rushing to the Berkshire meeting each year. With eight Group 1 races over the course of five days, let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Queen Anne Stakes

What better place to start than the opening race on opening day? While the race was inaugurated in 1840, it was only promoted to Grade 1 status as recently as 2003, which also saw the minimum age of participating horses raised from three to four. Run over a distance of a mile, the Queen Anne Stakes is named in honour of the former queen, who founded Ascot Racecourse. At six years old, last year’s victor Lord Glitters is the oldest winner of the Queen Anne Stakes, with the overall purse standing at £600,000.

King’s Stand Stakes

A race with an interesting history, which began as a two-miler before being cut to its better-known distance of five furlongs as a result of bad weather, the King’s Stand Stakes was renamed in 1901 – having previously been raced under a different name (and distance). In 2005, the race became part of the Global Spring Challenge series, and regained its Group 1 status three years later. Open to three-year-olds and above, the King’s Stand Stakes is held on opening day and Blue Point has won the last two editions, but won’t be making a hat-trick, having been retired to stud.

St. James’ Palace Stakes

The third and final Grade 1 race of opening day is the St. James’ Palace Stakes. The race which was inaugurated as early as 1834, with the maiden showing a walkover, was promoted to the highest status in 1988. Most runners of the St. James’ Palace Stakes have previously featured in Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas – or its French or Irish equivalent – highlighted by leading trainer Aidan O’Brien who’s won eight times at Ascot (and has 10 victories in the 2,000 Guineas). The purse stands at over £500,000 and unlike the Guineas, the Stakes is only open to three-year-old colts – so understandably, no horse has ever won it more than once.

 

Prince of Wales’ Stakes

The race with the highest prize purse, a handsome £750,000 – believed to be increased to £1m this year – the Prince of Wales’ Stakes is a race open to horses aged four and over and is run over a distance of one mile, one furlong and 212 yards. Held in high regard as the feature race on day two of the meeting, it’s undergone many changes over the years with regards to its grading, restrictions and distance. But since being promoted to Grade 1 status in 2000, the minimum age restriction increased from three to four.  Last year’s race was a memorable one, as it saw Crystal Ocean ridden by Frankie Dettori secure the prize, after edging out the pre-race favourite, O’Brien’s Magical.

Gold Cup

Much older than its Cheltenham namesake, Ascot’s Gold Cup was inaugurated in 1807. Britain’s most prestigious race for stayers is also the first leg of the famous Stayers’ Triple Crown – with Ascot’s Gold Cup followed by the Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup. Held on day three (or Ladies Day) of Royal Ascot, the Group 1 race is run over a distance of two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards. While Stradivarius with Dettori in the saddle has won the last two outings, Yeats is the most successful horse with four consecutive wins between 2006 and 2009.

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Pete White Pete White

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