Royal Ascot is one of the biggest attractions in the horse racing calendar. Spread over 5 days, the meeting takes place in June and with it includes some of the most prestigious races in the world, with 8 Group 1 races across the entire meeting.
Whilst a horse racing meeting at heart, it’s much more of an event and one of very few that has members of the Royal family attending on each day. The Queen has been a frequent visitor during Royal Ascot over the years with most members having made an appearance at some point over the more recent history.
The meeting is, of course, held at Ascot Racecourse, which can be found in Berkshire, England. The racecourse is as famous as the meeting itself and over the years has seen massive investment, making it one of most recognised and best places to watch horse racing anywhere in the world.
Royal Ascot Major Races
In terms of hype, international flavour, Royal Patronage and sheer quality, there is simply nothing to top Ascot’s annual celebration of equine excellence. Just about every race is a highlight in its own way at what is the classiest flat race meeting in the world. Here we take a look at how the headline acts on each of the five days are shaping up, with a focus on the big Group contests.
|Day||Race||Grade / Length||Last Winner|
|Tuesday||King’s Stand Stakes||Group 1 / 5f||Oxted (2021)|
|Tuesday||Coventry Stakes||Group 2 / 6f||Berkshire Shadow (2021)|
|Tuesday||Queen Anne Stakes||Group 1 / 1m||Palace Pier (2021)|
|Tuesday||St James’s Palace Stakes||Group 1 / 1m||Poetic Flare (2021)|
|Wednesday||Queen Mary Stakes||Group 2 / 5f||Quick Suzy (2021)|
|Wednesday||Prince Of Wales’s Stakes||Group 1 / 1m 2f||Love (2021)|
|Wednesday||Duke of Cambridge Stakes||Group 2 / 1m||Indie Angel (2021)|
|Thursday||Norfolk Stakes||Group 2 / 5f||Perfect Power (2021)|
|Thursday||Ascot Gold Cup||Group 1 / 2m 4f||Subjectivist (2021)|
|Thursday||Ribblesdale Stakes||Group 2 / 1m 4f||Loving Dream (2021)|
|Friday||King Edward VII Stakes||Group 2 / 1m 4f||Alenquer (2021)|
|Friday||Coronation Stakes||Group 1 / 1m||Alcohol Free (2021)|
|Friday||Commonwealth Cup||Group 1 / 6f||Campanelle (2021)|
|Saturday||Hardwicke Stakes||Group 2 / 1m 4f||Wonderful Tonight (2021)|
|Saturday||Wokingham Stakes||Class 2 / 6f||Rohaan (2021)|
|Saturday||Diamond Jubilee Stakes||Group 1 / 6f||Dream Of Dreams (2021)|
About Royal Ascot
There are very few race meetings in the world that offer up 5 days of racing, but Royal Ascot is unique like that. Before 2020 there were 6 races each day, with at least one Group 1 race running on each. In 2020 the schedule was altered, with an additional race on Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and two additional races on the Saturday, upping the total number of races to 36 from 30. The increased schedule proved to be a hit, with the meeting now holding 7 races each day, 35 in total.
Royal Ascot is run over the flat, with races ranging from as short as 5 furlong sprints up to 2m 5f marathons (relative for flat racing). The total prize money on offer at Royal Ascot reached £7.33 million in 2019, making it the most valuable of any meeting within the UK. This was due to increase to over £8 million in 2020, though prize money was reduced as a result of the meeting being staged behind closed doors. The total prize money available in 2021 will be £6 million.
If you compare the prize money with the Cheltenham Festival, the UK’s biggest jumps meeting, of just under £3.5 million (2021), it puts in perspective just how significant Royal Ascot is. But, you do need to bear in mind that Royal Ascot includes an extra day over Cheltenham Festival. However, even breaking the fund down by day, it still tops Cheltenham with £1.2 million average per day, compared to £874,375 at Cheltenham.
Royal Ascot 2021 Schedule
|2:30pm||Tue 15th June||Queen Anne Stakes||£400,000|
|3:05pm||Tue 15th June||Coventry Stakes||£100,000|
|3:40pm||Tue 15th June||King’s Stand Stakes||£350,000|
|4:20pm||Tue 15th June||St James’s Palace Stakes||£350,000|
|5:00pm||Tue 15th June||Wolferton Stakes||£75,000|
|5:35pm||Tue 15th June||Ascot Stakes||£65,000|
|6:10pm||Tue 15th June||Copper Horse Stakes||£65,000|
|2:30pm||Wed 16th June||Queen Mary Stakes||£80,000|
|3:05pm||Wed 16th June||Queen’s Vase||£175,000|
|3:40pm||Wed 16th June||Duke Of Cambridge Stakes||£140,000|
|4:20pm||Wed 16th June||Prince Of Wales’s Stakes||£700,000|
|5:00pm||Wed 16th June||Royal Hunt Cup||£120,000|
|5:35pm||Wed 16th June||Windsor Castle Stakes||£65,000|
|6:10pm||Wed 16th June||Kensington Palace Stakes||£65,000|
|2:30pm||Thu 17th June||Norfolk Stakes||£80,000|
|3:05pm||Thu 17th June||Hampton Court Stakes||£75,000|
|3:40pm||Thu 17th June||Ribblesdale Stakes||£160,000|
|4:20pm||Thu 17th June||Ascot Gold Cup||£350,000|
|5:00pm||Thu 17th June||Britannia Stakes||£75,000|
|5:35pm||Thu 17th June||King George V Stakes||£65,000|
|6:10pm||Thu 17th June||Buckingham Palace Stakes||£65,000|
|2:30pm||Fri 18th June||Albany Stakes||£65,000|
|3:05pm||Fri 18th June||King Edward VII Stakes||£160,000|
|3:40pm||Fri 18th June||Commonwealth Cup||£350,000|
|4:20pm||Fri 18th June||Coronation Stakes||£350,000|
|5:00pm||Fri 18th June||Sandringham Stakes||£75,000|
|5:35pm||Fri 18th June||Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes||£65,000|
|6:10pm||Fri 18th June||Palace Of Holyroodhouse Stakes||£65,000|
|2:30pm||Sat 19th June||Chesham Stakes||£65,000|
|3:05pm||Sat 19th June||Jersey Stakes||£75,000|
|3:40pm||Sat 19th June||Hardwicke Stakes||£160,000|
|4:20pm||Sat 19th June||Diamond Jubilee Stakes||£700,000|
|5:00pm||Sat 19th June||Wokingham Stakes||£120,000|
|5:35pm||Sat 19th June||Golden Gates Stakes||£65,000|
|6:10pm||Sat 19th June||Queen Alexandra Stakes||£65,000|
The course is itself is often something that is overlooked in the lead up to Royal Ascot, but it is arguably one of the best in the world the first thing that really strikes you is the surroundings, with impressive grandstands and huge crowds for events such as Royal Ascot.
The track is a long right hander, which on softer ground can be very tough for horses. In fact, the softer ground often sees a large number of horses withdrawn and even plenty that don’t make it all the way round. But, as Royal Ascot is run in June, the going is often good, good to firm. The added drainage system that Ascot includes means that any water is quickly dealt with and only severe downpours have a telling effect on the track, even in the unpredictable British summer time.
One thing that is noticeable at Ascot is the lack of importance with the draw. Many racecourses you see the draw play a huge roll in the betting and this was once the case at Ascot, but these days, due to the consistency of the ground, the draw actually plays only a very small role, even over the shorter races. Races are usually won from wherever the pace is, be it on the rails or through the middle.
Day by Day Highlights
Day 1 on Tuesday
The start of Royal Ascot is one of the most anticipated days in the racing calendar. Luckily for race goers and punters alike, the calibre of racing doesn’t disappoint. The day kicks off with the Group 1, Queen Anne Stakes, ran over 1m and commanding a prize pool of £400,000, one of the biggest of the entire week.
Two more group 1 races run on the opening day, including the King’s Stand Stakes and the St James’ Palace. The King’s Stand Stakes with a prize pool of £350,000 is run at a startling pace over just 5 furlongs, one of the shortest races of the entire week. The race is part of the global Sprint Challenge, along with the International Sprint and the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
The St James’s Palace Stakes is another Group 1 and also has a purse of £350,000. Run over 7 furlongs this is another rapid race and often includes horses that have performed well in the 2,000 Guineas, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Irish 2,000 Guineas. It’s worth noting that Aiden O’Brien has won this race 7 times, more than any other trainer in the history of the St James’s Palace Stakes. Other races run on the day include the Coventry Stakes, Ascot Stakes, the Wolferton Stakes and the Copper Horse Stakes.
Day 2 on Wednesday
It’s probably fair to say that Day 2 is slightly slower paced than Day 1, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of action on the go. With just one Group 1 race being run, it does seem a little lacklustre compared to other days, but often punters find Day 2 to be the most profitable as picking winners at more favourable odds is a little easier…although not by much!
The highlight of the day comes in the form of the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Ran over 1m 4f, the race has been run as a Group 1 since 2000 and with it has seen some great four-year-old horses race as a result. It’s also worth noting that the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the joint highest prize pool of the entire meeting, with a cool £700,000 purse in total.
Other races on Day 2 include the Windsor Castle Stakes, Queen Mary Stakes, Duke of Cambridge Stakes, Royal Hunt Cup, Queen’s Vase and the Kensington Palace Stakes.
Day 3, Ladies Day, on Thursday
Day 3 – Ladies Day – is all massively focused on one race, the Gold Cup. It’s arguably the highlight of the meeting and is widely regarded as Britain’s most prestigious race for stayers. These horses are ones that are able to race over much longer distances than most flat racing horses, which is imperative as they will need to navigate around the 2m 4f track, the longest contest of the week.
Whilst the Gold Cup is unquestionably the highlight of the day, it does include some of the most competitive races of the week. The main contenders come in the form of the two Group 2 races, the Norfolk Stakes and the Ribblesdale Stakes. The Norfolk Stakes is an out and out sprint over 5 furlongs, whilst the Ribblesdale requires more stamina, raced over 1m 4f. The latter is actually a good feeder race for future Gold Cup horses. On top of that, you get three more races on Day 3 that include the Hampton Court Stakes, Britannia Stakes, King George V Stakes and the Buckingham Palace Stakes.
Day 4 on Friday
The Friday, for us at least, is the strongest days racing across the 5 days of Royal Ascot. You get two fantastic Group 1 races, together with two more Group races, both of which are extremely competitive. What’s great about Day 4 is that it’s not at all ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ following on from the Gold Cup and instead, there is quality racing across the board.
The fillies’ Coronation Stakes probably just pips the Commonwealth Cup in terms of prestige for the Group 1 races for the day, although not by much. The Coronation Stakes has been running since 1840 and has seen some of the true greats win it over its 1 mile distance.
The Commonwealth Cup has only been running since 2015 and with it has already seen a huge prize fund and some of the top three-year-old horses take part. It’s worth noting that this is the only 3-year-old Group 1 horse race in Britain that allows geldings to compete.
Other races on Day 4 include the Albany Stakes, King Edward VII Stakes, Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, Sandringham Stakes and the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes.
Day 5 on Saturday
The quality racing continues to come at Royal Ascot, with Day 5 offering seven more eventful races to pick from. Whilst there is only one Group 1 race, the day does include the Queen Alexandra Stakes which is actually the longest flat race in Britain, measuring 2m 5f 143 yards. The yards inclusion is important as it measures 21 yards more than the previous former longest flat race, the Marathon Handicap held at Pontefract racecourse.
The Group 1 for the day is the Diamond Jubilee and it’s one of the best races of the entire week. It commands a prize pool of £700,000, also making it the equal richest races of the meeting. The 6-furlong sprint is one of the most exiting races that you will see over flat and interestingly enough, the most successful jockeys is none other than that of Lester Piggott, winning an incredible 10 times from 1958 to 1993.
The day also includes other notable races which are the Chesham Stakes, Jersey Stakes, Hardwicke stakes, Wokingham Stakes and the Golden Gate Stakes.
In terms of the jockeys there have been a couple of names that have really stood out over the years. The main one has to the be that of Frankie Dettori, if only for his amazing 7 wins from 7 races in one day back in 1996. Whilst he was already a household name then, he really cemented himself as one of the best jockeys on the planet, a record that has since never been broken.
In more recent years, the likes of Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes are two names that spring to mind, with Ryan Moore winning the Champion Jockey award in 2016 with 5 wins across the week to follow up an incredible 2015 where he won 9 races in total. But, it’s Fred Archer who still holds the record for most wins in a single meeting with 12, way back in 1878.
In the trainer stakes, Saeed Bin Suroor is a name that now goes hand in hand with the meeting. His dominance alongside jockey Frankie Dettori in the Late 90’s and early 00’s was almost unprecedented and really put racing on the map for the Godolphin group.
Other very notable mentions must go to the likes of Sir Michael Stoute, Aiden O’Brien and Richard Hannon Snr. all of whom have excelled records at the Royal Ascot meeting.
The track record is a time recorded by the fastest horse over a particular race and course. Obviously the distance and grade differs for each race, so there isn’t one single record so to speak.
It’s worth noting that the ground plays a huge part in how fast horses will run. Soft ground basically means that the likelihood of any long-standing records won’t be broken as it’s tougher for the horse to travel at speeds. Hard ground means less traction and so the horses can move quickly across the top of the surface, thus increasing speed and reducing times. Below are the 8 track records for each of the Group 1 races across Royal Ascot.
Royal Ascot Group 1 Track Records
|King’s Stand Stakes||5f||Miss Andretti||0:57.44||2007|
|Diamond Jubilee Stakes||6f||Blue Point||1:11.42||2019|
|Coronation Stakes||1m||Alpha Centauri||1:35.89||2018|
|Queen Anne Stakes||1m||Ribchester||1:36.60||2017|
|St. James’s Palace Stakes||1m||Barney Roy||1:37.22||2017|
|Prince of Wales’s Stakes||1m 2f||The Fugue||2:01.90||2014|
|Gold Cup||2m 4f||Rite of Passage||4:16.92||2010|
Moving on the the eight Group 2 races, the track records for which are shown in the table below.
Royal Ascot Group 2 Track Records
|Norfolk Stakes||5f||No Nay Never||0:58.80||2013|
|Queen Mary Stakes||5f||Anthem Alexander||0:59.15||2014|
|Duke Of Cambridge Stakes||1m||Integral||1:37.09||2014|
|Hardwicke Stakes||1m 4f||Doyen||2:26.53||2004|
|King Edward VII Stakes||1m 4f||Father Time||2:27.37||2009|
|Ribblesdale Stakes||1m 4f||Magic Wand||2:28.52||2018|
|Queen’s Vase||1m 6f||Kew Garden||3:00.89||2018|
And finally, below is a table showing the track records for the three Group 3 races at Royal Ascot.
Royal Ascot Group 3 Track Records
|Hampton Court Stakes||1m 2f||Hunting Horn||2:03.02||2018|
Founded in 1711, Ascot Racecourse is not only one of the most prestigious race tracks in the UK, but also the world. The course was opened by Queen Anne and it was she that was a huge lover of horse racing and often attributed with the popularity of the sport within the Royal Family.
The first race ever to be ran at Ascot was Her Majesty’s Plate. The race had a prize pool of 100 Guineas, with 1 Guinea the equivalent to about £1.05 these days. The race was a brutal 4-miler and was comprised of 3 separate heats.
From 1711, the only races that were run at the racecourse were that of Royal Meetings, often lasting 4 days. It wasn’t until 1945 when the racecourse started to host other meetings and now sees several events held throughout the year in order to keep money coming into the course. In 1965 they also ventured outside of flat racing for the first time, introducing National Hunt steeplechasing and hurdles to their set up.
Since then the course has seen several major refurbishments, with one of the largest coming in 2004 with a £185million redevelopment of the course and major grandstands. As a result, the course was actually closed for 24 months before being officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth in 2006. But, the redevelopment actually came under fire stating that viewing platforms and facilities weren’t up to scratch, forcing a further £10million to be invested to to make improvements.
The oldest and probably most prestigious race of Royal Ascot is that of the Gold Cup, first run in 1834. The Group 1 race is widely regarded as the most prestigious horse race for stayers and is one that is viewed by millions around the world. Newer races have also fairly recently been introduced into the mix such as the Commonwealth Cup in 2015.
The Royal precession is one of the most anticipated parts of Royal Ascot, with members of the Royal Family parading up the home straight, past the grand stands to signify the start of the days racing. Over the years the event has been frequented by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Queen Mother and a host of other members of the Royal Family.
Queen Elizabeth II has been visiting Royal Ascot since she was a princess, back in 1947. Her love for horses and for racing has been one of the driving forces of Royal Ascot and as a result has been able to host a number of races and even seen a fair amount of success with her privately trained horses.
One her most recent winners came in 2012 when her horse Estimate won the Queen’s Vase Trophy, presented to the Queen by her husband, Prince Phillip. Estimate also went on to win the Gold Cup in 2013, making it one of the most successfully of the Queen’s horses at the festival. In total, the Queen has won 71 races since her reign as monarch began in 1952.
Henry Cecil was one of the most familar names in British Horse racing. He’s won pretty much everything you can win on the flat circuit, including 8 Epsom Oaks, six 1,000 Guineas, three 2,000 Guineas, four Epsom Derby’s and four St Leger Stakes. As a result of his 25 domestic Classic winners he’s gone on to become Champion Trainer on 10 occasions.
But, it was Cecil’s work at Royal Ascot that really elevated him above his peers. In a career spanning over 50 years he’s won no fewer than 75 Royal Ascot winners and is out on his own in this respect. He’s had many legendary horses in his time, but his biggest success has to be the wonder horse Frankel.
Cecil himself described Frankel as the best horse he had ever seen, and rightly so, winning all 14 of his Group 1 races and never being beaten. At Royal Ascot Frankel was successful at the St James’s Palace Stakes, Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Frankel is also the highest ever rated horse in the history of flat racing, with a rating of 147 from Timeform.
The beauty of the Gold Cup is that you get to see the world’s best horses all running in the same race. It’s seen some amazing winners over the years, but few have been able to match the dominance that Aiden O’Brien’s trained horse, Yeats, has managed to achieve.
From 2006 to 2009, Yeats went on to win 4 consecutive Gold Cup’s, a feat that has never been seen before. O’Brien stated several times that the horse was the most talented that he had trained in his career, with jockeys such as Kieren Fallon, Michael Kinane and Johnny Murtagh, all getting the nod to ride the great horse.
Royal Ascot has many idiosyncrasies, but one of the most notable has to be that of the dress code. In the Royal Enclosure the women are required to wear dresses or skirts of a modest length. They must be wearing a hat or head piece of some sort, with rules that include straps of one inch or greater, trousers of matching material no higher than 1 inch above the ankle and strictly no strapless, off the shoulder or spaghetti straps.
The men must wear a waistcoat and tie, with no cravats, a black or grey top hat and black shoes worn with socks. It’s also worth noting that any customisation of the top hat is strictly prohibited.
Outside of the Royal Enclosure the women must still wear a hat at all times, with midriffs fully covered and shorts strictly prohibited. Men are required to wear a suit with matching jacket and trousers, along with a shirt and tie.