Ten Things You Should Know: Royal Ascot
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Originally published on June 14, 2016
2) The first recorded horse races at Ascot came in 1711, when Queen Anne founded the course, putting it among the longest running venues for racing in the world.
3) Ascot Racecourse hosts 24 race days each year, including both flat and jump racing. Up until 1939, Ascot hosted only the Royal meeting. The five days of racing annually in June are designated as the Royal Ascot meeting for their long connection to the British royal family. The reigning Queen of England, Elizabeth II, regularly attends the five-day meet.
4) One of the most well-known features of the course is the Royal Enclosure, a reserved area at Ascot established by and for the royal family and its guests in 1822. The formal dress code of the enclosure requires a top hat for men, which has become one of the iconic looks of the Royal Ascot scene.
5) The Royal Ascot meeting includes a total of 30 races of which 20 are Group races. The meeting hosts eight of the 32 Group 1 races on the UK racing schedule. All but one of the current Group 1 races started in 1868 or earlier. The lone exception is the Commonwealth Cup, a 6-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, established in 2015.
6) The Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup dates all the way back to 1807, making it one of the longest running races in the world. It is run at the unconventionally long race distance of 2 1/2 miles. It is traditionally scheduled as the feature race on the third day of the royal meeting.
7) From 2006 to 2009, Yeats won four consecutive Ascot Gold Cups, becoming the first horse in the long history of the race to accomplish that feat. The previous record of three had been set by Sagaro from 1975 to 1977. Yeats’ trainer Aidan O’Brien won six editions of the race from 2006 to 2014.
8) Legendary jockey Lester Piggott won a record 11 editions of the Ascot Gold Cup. He recorded a total of 116 wins at Royal Ascot, winning his first at the age 12 in 1952 and his last as a 53 year old in 1993.
9) In 2013, Estimate, a filly owned by Queen Elizabeth II, won the Ascot Gold Cup, making her the first to capture the historical race for a reigning monarch.
10) American owners won stakes races at the Royal Ascot meeting for the first time in the late 19th century, including James R. Keene who won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1882 with Foxhall. In 2009 US-based trainer Wesley Ward won the Windsor Castle Stakes with longshot Strike the Tiger. In 2016 US-based trainer Mark Casse kicked off the meet with a win by American racemare Tepin in the Group 1 Queen Anne. In 2017 Lady Aurelia became the first American two-time at Royal Ascot. The Wesley Ward trainee won the Group 2 Queen Mary in 2016 and the Group 1 King’s Stand in 2017.