History of Ascot Race Course
You may be surprised to learn that Ascot horse racing today has changed an awful lot from when the sport first officially took place here. The track is right-handed with a downhill descent into Swinley Bottom in the back straight and an uphill finish. Queen Anne, the last British monarch of the House of Stuart, founded Ascot Race Course in 1711 and was hugely passionate about horses. Handicaps are said to have taken place here since 1791.
As you can see, its connections to the royal family go right back to the origins of Ascot horse racing and the tradition is one that has been kept up by Queen Elizabeth II. Royal Ascot was transformed into a five-day meeting in 2002 to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. The track is very close to the Windsor Castle – a residence of the monarchy. Ascot was renovated between September 2004 and June 2006 when the Queen reopened the track with a brand new grandstand.
National Hunt horse racing moved to this track in 1965 following the closure of Hurst Park three years earlier. A dual purpose venue for more than half-a-century now, Ascot hosts the most Group or Grade 1 horse races of anywhere in the UK. Its storied history mainly surrounds the Flat, but jumps racing slotted in seamlessly during the winter and ensures the course is used virtually all year round for sport.
You can’t mention Ascot without putting royal in front of it! This meeting held over five days in the middle of June is the highlight of the year at this racetrack. As Royal Ascot betting and events are so important to the sport globally, because of international entries and the interest they bring with them, here at Horsebetting.com we pay special attention to this gala of Flat racing.
It is the premier meeting of the British summer, even more prestigious than Glorious Goodwood or the Ebor Festival at York! Eight Group 1 Royal Ascot horse racing events are held during the meeting. These are:
- Queen Anne Stakes for older horses over the straight mile
- St James’s Palace Stakes for three-year-old colts on the round mile
- King’s Stand Stakes for sprinters over 5f
- Prince Of Wales’s Stakes for older horses over 1m 2f
- Ascot Gold Cup for stayers over 2m 4f
- Coronation Stakes for three-year-old fillies on the round mile
- Commonwealth Cup for three-year-olds over 6f
- Diamond Jubilee Stakes for sprinters over 6f
Supported by a raft of juvenile black type races, other Group contests and handicaps that attract huge fields and big betting interest, this really does showcase Ascot horse racing at its very best. The action comes thick and fast, so we can help to put you in the picture. If you want to know more about this meeting, then we have the full Royal Ascot schedule laid out on a dedicated page.
Other Flat Meetings at Ascot
There is plenty more going on at Ascot Race Course during the spring, summer and autumn than just the royal meeting. Royal Ascot Trials day on the last Wednesday in April or first in early May gives potential runners the chance to have a prep run on the actual track where the big events take place. Races on this card include the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes – a 2m test for stayers that could go on to contest the Ascot Gold Cup. Commonwealth Cup hopefuls put their credentials on the line in the 6f Group 3 Pavilion Stakes.
The Group 2 Summer Mile on the round course for older horses is another highlight and staged on the Saturday halfway between Royal Ascot finishing and King George day towards the end of July. That latter race is the first time that Classic horses from the Epsom Derby and Oaks can take on their elders over a mile-and-a-half. This is one of the reasons why the feature Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes is so compelling.
For handicap lovers, the Shergar Cup team event is held in August. That is always competitive. Outside of Royal Ascot though, there is one more huge day of Flat horse racing action in mid-October in the form of British Champions Day. The Champion Stakes (1m 2f), Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (straight mile) and British Champions Sprint (6f) all hold Group 1 status and are end of season targets for many top thoroughbreds.
National Hunt Horse Racing at Ascot
If you think Ascot Race Course is just for Flat horses, then think again! During the winter months – specifically in November, December, January and February – there is absorbing action over jumps. The 3m Sodexo Gold Cup, a Grade 3 handicap chase, is the first National Hunt meeting of the season, followed by Coral Hurdle day. That latter card also boasts the 1965 Chase over 2m 5f as the feature steeplechase. Just like the Coral Hurdle (also called the Ascot Hurdle), this is a Grade 2 race.
On the weekend before Christmas, Ascot horse racing should get you in the festive mood! There are two fabulous days with the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle acting as a trial for the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival on the Friday alongside the Noel Novices’ Chase over 2m 5f. The Long Walk Hurdle headlines the Saturday card here and is a Grade 1 test for staying hurdlers. There is also the Ascot Silver Cup – a Listed handicap chase over 3m – and a 2m Grade 3 handicap hurdle run here.
In January, the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase can be the last time that Queen Mother Champion Chase contenders run before Cheltenham. Supporting this feature 2m contest is the Grade 2 Warfield Mares’ Hurdle that tests the stamina of female horses over 3m. By far the most prestigious National Hunt race currently run at Ascot, though, is the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 2m 5f in February. That is held on the same day as the 3m Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. There really is something for everyone, so look into Ascot horse racing today!