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2019 Royal Ascot FAQ: What you need to know

By Vance Hanson

What is Royal Ascot?

One of the annual highlights of the English social calendar, Royal Ascot is a five-day fixture held at Ascot Racecourse outside London which offers a mixture of unparalleled, high-class racing, royal pageantry, and high fashion. Memorably depicted in the Oscar-winning musical “My Fair Lady,” Royal Ascot is a highly formal affair where attendees adhere to a strict dress code. In all enclosures, ladies are required to wear hats or headpieces while suits with ties are required of gentlemen. Black or gray morning dress with top hats are required for gentlemen in the famed Royal Enclosure.

When is Royal Ascot and how many people attend?

Royal Ascot runs from Tuesday, June 18 through Saturday, June 22. The racecourse estimates that 300,000 racegoers will attend across the five days.

What’s important to know about the racecourse itself?

Racing has been held at Ascot since 1711, when Queen Anne chose the site as an ideal spot for racing while on a drive from her nearby residence at Windsor Castle. The current grandstand, considered among the finest in the world, opened in 2006 with a budget of £220 million.

The course is right-handed and triangular-shaped with a circumference of approximately 1 3/4 miles. One mile races begin from one of two chutes. The Old Mile starts from a chute near Swinley Bottom, while mile races are also held over a straight course that extends beyond the head of the stretch. All races contested at seven furlongs or less are run over a straight course.

What time do the races start and how many are there?

Post time each day is 9:30 a.m. (EDT) (2:30 p.m. local time). Six races are held daily with total prize money of more than £7.33 million, or more than $9.3 million based on current exchange rates. That’s an average of $310,000 per race.

What is the Royal Procession?

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a lifelong devotee of Thoroughbred racing, rarely misses a day at Royal Ascot. Approximately 30-40 minutes before the first race each day, she and her Royal party are driven down Ascot’s one-mile straight in horse-drawn carriages to the cheers of those in attendance. The procession ends when The Queen disembarks from her carriage in the saddling ring.

Horses owned by The Queen have won 23 races at Royal Ascot since 1953.

Is Royal Ascot an international event?

Technological innovations in communications and the continued ease in transport of horses have made Royal Ascot an increasingly global event. Enticed by its prestige and prize money, Royal Ascot has attracted leading Thoroughbreds from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, and the United States to compete against the very best from England, Ireland, and France.

Trainer Wesley Ward has been a trailblazer among American horsemen pointing for Royal Ascot, primarily with juvenile runners. He’s trained 10 Royal Ascot winners since 2009. The most prominent American-based horse to win a race at Royal Ascot was the two-time champion turf mare Tepin, who beat the boys in the 2016 Queen Anne (G1).

What kind of races are held at Royal Ascot?

Of the 30 races, 22 are Group or Listed stakes. Eight of these 22 are Group 1s. The remainder are long-standing handicaps, most of which have been Royal Ascot features for decades. They tend to attract disproportionately large fields.

What are the highlights of Day 1?

Arguably the classiest of the five racing days with three Group 1 events. The Queen Anne, for older milers, is always the first race of the meet. Three-year-old colt milers compete in the St James’s Palace, while the King’s Stand is a premier five-furlong sprint. The Coventry (G2) is traditionally the first stakes of the week for two-year-olds, while the Ascot Sakes (handicap) is one of the longer races of the meet at 2 1/2 miles.

What are the highlights of Day 2?

The Prince of Wales’s (G1), weight-for-age over 1 1/4 miles, is the richest race held at Royal Ascot with a purse of £750,000. The Duke of Cambridge (G2) for filly-and-mare milers, the Queen Mary (G2) for two-year-old fillies, and the Queen’s Vase (G2) for three-year-old stayers are the other Group offerings. The Royal Hunt Cup (handicap) is a figurative stampede over the straight mile course.

What are the highlights of Day 3?

The largest crowd of the week (Ladies Day) is in attendance for the centerpiece of every Royal Ascot meet, the famed Gold Cup (G1) over 2 1/2 miles. The Ribblesdale (G2) is an historic middle-distance test for three-year-old fillies over 1 1/2 miles, while the Norfolk (G2) attracts some of the more precocious two-year-olds to dash five furlongs.

What are the highlights of Day 4?

The Coronation (G1) for three-year-old fillies milers is the traditional highlight but now shares the day with the Commonwealth Cup (G1), a relatively new race for three-year-old sprinters run over six furlongs. The King Edward VII (G2), for three-year-olds over 1 1/2 miles, is colloquially known as the “Ascot Derby.”

What are the highlights of Day 5?

A fifth day of Royal Ascot was added in 2002. The most lucrative race is the Diamond Jubilee (G1), a six-furlong sprint, while the 1 1/2-mile Hardwicke (G2) often attracts top-notch middle distance performers. Two-year-olds are featured in the Chesham Stakes, while the meet-closing Queen Alexandra Stakes (conditions) over 2 3/4 miles remains the longest race run under Flat racing rules.

Are there are any Breeders’ Cup Challenge races at Royal Ascot?

The Queen Anne (Mile) on Tuesday, the Prince of Wales’s (Turf) on Wednesday, the Norfolk (Juvenile Turf Sprint) on Thursday, and the Diamond Jubilee (Turf Sprint) on Saturday are all Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge preps.

Where can we watch Royal Ascot races and what bets are offered?

In addition to the daily coverage available on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and NBC’s flagship network (on Saturday), you can watch and wager on all 30 Royal Ascot races at TwinSpires.com. Win, Place (first three or four, depending on field size), Exacta, Trifecta, and Omni (pick two of the top three finishers in any order) wagering are available on virtually all races. There is also one Pick 4 offered daily.

Where can we find more Royal Ascot information and past performances?

Check out the TwinSpires blog throughout Royal Ascot week for opinions and analysis. FREE Brisnet Past Performances are also available here.


Photo courtesy of ascot.co.uk

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