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Royal Ascot

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Royal Ascot

For the private housing development named Royal Ascot in Hong Kong, see Royal Ascot, Hong Kong.
Ascot Racecourse
Location Ascot, Berkshire
Coordinates

51°24′58″N 0°40′37″W / 51.41611°N 0.67694°W / 51.41611; -0.67694

Owned by Ascot Racecourse Ltd
Date opened 11 August 1711
Screened on At The Races (From Jun 2014 Racing UK)
Course type Flat
National Hunt
Notable races The Gold Cup

Ascot Racecourse /ˈæskət/ is a famous English racecourse, located in the small town of Ascot, Berkshire, used for thoroughbred horse racing. It is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 9 of the UK's 32 annual Group 1 races. The course is closely associated with the British Royal Family, being approximately six miles from Windsor Castle. It is owned by Ascot Racecourse Ltd.[1]

Ascot today stages twenty-six days of racing over the course of the year, comprising eighteen Flat meetings held between the months of May and October inclusive. It also stages important jump racing throughout the winter months. The Royal Meeting, held in June, remains a major draw, the highlight being the Gold Cup. The most prestigious race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run over the course in July.

History

Ascot Racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne. The first race, "Her Majesty's Plate", with a purse of 100 guineas, was held on 11 August 1711. Seven horses competed, each carrying a weight of 12 stones (76 kg). This first race comprised three separate four-mile (6437 m) heats.

In 1813 Parliament passed an act to ensure that the grounds would remain a public racecourse. A new grandstand was opened in 1839 at a cost of £10000[2]

In 1913 Parliament passed an act (Ascot Authority Act 1913 c.lxxxiv) creating the Ascot Authority, an entity that manages the racecourse to this day. From its creation until 1945 the only racing that took place at Ascot was the Royal Meeting, a four-day event. Since that date, more fixtures have been introduced to the grounds, notably the Steeplechase and hurdles in 1965.


Ascot racecourse closed for a period of twenty months on 26 September 2004, for a £185 million redevelopment funded by Allied Irish Bank and designed by Populous and Buro Happold. As owner of the Ascot estate, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth reopened the racecourse on Tuesday 20 June 2006.

Upon re-opening the new grandstand attracted criticism for failing to provide sufficiently raised viewing for patrons to watch the racing, and devoting too much space to restaurants, bars and corporate hospitality facilities. At the end of 2006 a £10 million programme of further alterations was announced to improve the viewing from lower levels of the grandstand using an innovative steel composite product ("SPS" sandwich plate system) to reprofile the existing concrete terraces. However, the upper levels provide far less accommodation for the everyday racegoer than was present in the former stand.

In March 2009 it was confirmed that the main sponsors of Ascot, William Hill would be ceasing their sponsorship deal, citing that the decision by the BBC to reduce live race coverage as the main reason in its decision making process.[3]

In July 2009 Ascot Racecourse also hosted the third round of the UAE President's Cup.[4]

Royal Ascot

The centrepiece of Ascot's year, Royal Ascot is one of Europe's most famous race meetings, and dates back to 1711 when it was founded by Queen Anne. Every year Royal Ascot is attended by HM Elizabeth II and various members of the British Royal Family such as The Prince of Wales, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place at the start of each race day and the raising of the Queen's Royal Standard. It is a major event in the British social calendar, and press coverage of the attendees and what they are wearing often exceeds coverage of the actual racing. There are three enclosures attended by guests on Royal Ascot week.


The Royal Enclosure is the most prestigious of the three enclosures, with recent visits from the Queen and Royal Family members. Access to the Royal Enclosure is restricted, with high security on the day. First-time applicants must apply to the Royal Enclosure Office and gain membership from someone who has attended the enclosure for at least four years. For existing badgeholders, an invitation is sent out by Her Majesty's Representative to request badges. The badgeholder's name is written onto the badge and can be used only by that person; the colours of the badges vary each day for one-day applicants. Those in the Royal Enclosure have the options of fine dining and hospitality, and a selection of bars. The dress code is strictly enforced. For women, only a day dress with a hat is acceptable, with rules applying to the length and style of the dress. In addition, women must not show bare midriffs or shoulders. For men, black or grey morning dress with top hat is required.

Over 300,000 people make the annual visit to Berkshire during Royal Ascot week, making this Europe’s best-attended race meeting. There are sixteen group races on offer, with at least one Group One event on each of the five days. The Gold Cup is on Ladies' Day on the Thursday.

Royal Ascot for the first time in 2013 will feature prize-money of £5,000,000. A total increase in the prize-money purse of £500,000 for the meeting representing an 11% increase from 2012. Total prize money at Ascot throughout the 2013 season will be just above £10,000,000. This amount excludes the £3.4M on offer during the Qipco British Champions Day, an industry joint venture.

Prize money for The St James's Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes has been increased by £100,000 to £350,000, which puts each race on equal footing with the Queen Anne Stakes, King's Stand Stakes and Gold Cup.

The Windsor Forest Stakes has been renamed, with the Queen’s consent, The Duke of Cambridge Stakes, recognising the new title given to Prince William, and has seen a 25% increase in its value to £125,000.

Key races

The Royal Ascot 2013

Day 1 – Tuesday 18 June

Day 2 – Wednesday 19 June

Day 3 – Thursday 20 June

  • The Norfolk Stakes – Group 2
  • The Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2
  • The Gold Cup – Group 1
  • The Britannia Stakes – Class 2 Heritage Handicap
  • The Tercentenary Stakes – Group 3
  • The King George V Stakes – Class 2 handicap

Day 4 – Friday 21 June

Day 5 – Saturday 22 June

Other races

Champions Day

Main article: British Champions Day

Another feature racing meeting outside Royal Ascot since the British Champions Series was established in 2011, it includes the five final stages of the British Champions Series:

Other flat races

Other major races in Ascot are

National Hunt races

Champions' Day

Ascot now stages the new climax of the British flat racing season, designed to increase the sport's public profile and to rival the Arc weekend and Breeders' Cup to attract the best horses. The first Champions' Day was staged on 15 October 2011 and was generally regarded as a success, though overshadowed by controversy over tough new regulations on the use of the whip. The meeting includes the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Champion Stakes moved from Newmarket, the British Champions Long Distance Cup won by Gold Cup winner Fame and Glory, the British Champions Sprint Stakes won by Deacon Blues (also a Royal Ascot winner) and the British Champions Fillies' and Mares' Stakes won by Epsom Oaks winner Dancing Rain.

Family day at Ascot Racecourse

Royal Ascot Cricket Club & Ascot United

The racecourse is also home to Royal Ascot Cricket Club, which was founded in 1897 and their ground is situated in the middle of the racecourse. Ascot United F.C. are located towards the eastern side of the site.[5] A new clubhouse, stand and floodlighting have recently been erected.

Trivia

The racecourse is the setting for a scene in the musical My Fair Lady and the subject for the song "Ascot Gavotte".

The racecourse was used as a filming location in the James Bond film A View to a Kill in 1985, where Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) was beginning his mission to defeat the villainous Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), whose horses were competing in a race there.

James Bond filming and production crews returned to Ascot Racecourse during filming for the twenty third James Bond Film Skyfall, where it stood in for Shanghai Pudong International Airport.[6]

Some Doctor Who fans insist that his and River Song's first date was a picnic at Ascot (probably Royal Ascot), Ascot's being, after all, a real place. The general opinion is that it was Asgard, the mythical home of the Norse Gods.

Gallery

Laing O'Rourke

References

Horse racing portal

External links

  • Main Ascot website
  • Royal Ascot website
  • BBC Royal Ascot interactive guide
  • Course guide on GG.COM
  • Royal Ascot Guide

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