It’s easy to get carried away when you visit Royal Ascot. This is the premier flat racing meeting in the world where the food and drink is plentiful, the worlds of fashion and high society combine and each of the five days provides punters with at least seven world class races to get their teeth stuck into.
Although spectators will be absent, you don’t have to visit Royal Ascot to get involved in all the excitement it provides. People thousands of miles away from the Berkshire course will follow along with the action and try to make the most of the betting opportunities Royal Ascot provides.
Day One: Tuesday
|1.15||Buckingham Palace Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|1.50||Queen Anne Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|2.25||Ribblesdale Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.00||King Edward VII Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.35||King’s Stand Stakes||Group 1||5f|
|4.10||Duke Of Cambridge Stakes||Group 2||1m|
|4.40||Ascot Stakes||Class 2||2m4f|
Royal Ascot without fans would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago. Horse racing has quickly come to terms with the fact that it must continue in empty racecourses though and the calibre of racing we’ve seen in Britain and Ireland over the last few weeks has not been adversely affected by the lack of fans in attendance.
Strange as it will feel when Royal Ascot gets underway on Tuesday without the Queen or any other racing fans watching on, the huge numbers tuning in from around the world will quickly focus on the racing whilst punters will do all they can to sniff out the best bets across a bumper five days of action starting with an opening day that is packed with races from the top drawer, including no fewer than five Group affairs, in an amended card which includes the return of the Buckingham Palace Handicap.
1.15 Buckingham Palace Handicap
Royal Ascot, Class 2, 7f
The first major change to Royal Ascot 2020 comes in the opening race. The Buckingham Palace Handicap has been reintroduced to the meeting having been phased out in 2015 and the high calibre of entries for this seven furlong handicap event suggests that it’s been missed by big name trainers and owners.
A total of 24 horses will head to post for the Royal Ascot opener so there is a wide choice of options from a betting perspective. Daarik will righty get a lot of support at the head of the betting after a battling win against a strong field at Newcastle just 10 days ago. However, he has not been missed by the bookies and it is a horse who finished back in midfield in that contest, Kaeso, who looks the best bet to us at odds of 8/1.
Nigel Tinkler’s six year old was unable to cope with top weight in that Newcastle run but is five pounds better off compared to Daarik at Ascot. He has come on well for his first run of the season before, will relish the rain in the forecast adding a bit of ease in the ground so this consistent performer can get Oisin Murphy’s Royal Ascot off to a winning start.
Kaeso to Win at 10/1
1.50 Queen Anne Stakes
Ascot, Group 1, 1m
The Queen Anne Stakes is the first Group 1 race of Royal Ascot and has been won by some incredibly strong milers over the years including the best of them all, Frankel. This year’s renewal has a slightly weak feel about it in terms of quality but that opens it up very nicely as a betting heat.
Indeed, there is a case to be made about one of the rank outsiders in the betting, Bless Him. The fact that he’s a 33/1 shot shows that he is in unchartered waters against some of these but David Simcock’s six year old was better than ever when winning a couple of very competitive handicaps towards the end of last season and will not weaken in the closing stages.
The second of those wins for Bless Him came at Ascot. He is very suited to the galloping style of the course but just may not enjoy the ground if it rains. An each way bet is in order but the favourite, Circus Maximus, is another strong galloper with winning form at Ascot. That came at the very top level in last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes and he can win again on his return to Berkshire at a price of 11/4.
Circus Maximus to Win at 11/4
2.25 Ribblesdale Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 1m44
The early stages of the new flat racing season have confirmed one thing which everybody already expected: John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien each have a seriously strong selection of fillies. Such are the options at their disposal that it is tough for the two powerful trainers to avoid campaigning fillies against others from their yard and they both have multiple options for the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Of all of the entries from the Gosden and O’Brien yards it is Frankly Darling who can prove to be the pick of the bunch. She was beaten by the classy Cabaletta on debut towards the end of last season before returning with a bang this year, beating a couple of decent horses over this trip at Newcastle. That win marked her out as an Oaks contender (she’s currently priced at odds of 10/1 for Epsom) and she can take another step forward in the Ribblesdale where 7/4 looks a fair price.
Frankly Daring to Win at 7/4
3.00 King Edward VII Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 1m4f
Mogul is one of the strongest favourites of the first day of racing at Royal Ascot. On the face of it, it is a big ask to win a Group 2 over a distance of a mile and a half at Ascot for a horse who has never gone further than a mile before but Mogu comes from a yard run by people who very much know what they are doing.
The news out of Ballydoyle is that Mogul has wintered well and has put the babyish tendencies that we saw from him last season firmly in the past. Aidan O’Brien was happy with the way that the competed over a mile in his first taste of Group 1 action in the Vertem Futurity Stakes despite his immaturity and the fact that he finished fourth is no great disappointment given that the winner of that rearranged race, Kameko, went on to win the 2,000 Guineas.
Everything in Mogul’s breeding says that his best days will come when he is tested over the middle distances. Punters are expecting big things from him as evidenced by his prominent position in the betting for the Epsom Derby. We think he can make the most of this season’s strange schedule by using the King Edward VII Stakes as a warm up for the Derby and earn a Royal Ascot win in the process at odds of 5/6.
Mogul to Win at 5/6
3.35 King’s Stand Stakes
Ascot, Group 1, 5f
The betting for the King’s Stand Stakes suggests that the 2020 renewal of this incredibly prestigious sprint is all about one horse. Battaash stands alone at the top of the betting, at odds of 4/6 he is an even stronger favourite than Mogul in the previous race.
Being the favourite for this race is nothing new to Battaash. He was the bookies’ favourite 12 months ago and went off at 9/4 the year before but on both occasions he was bested by Blue Point. His old rival is now enjoying retirement leaving the coast clear for Charles Hills’ six year old to finally earn the win that his legion of fans have been waiting for for so long.
The calibre of this race means that Battaash will need to produce something close to his very best if he is to win. Amongst his challengers are Glass Slipper who is even faster as a four year old then she was at three, and Liberty Beach who kicked the season off with a Listed win at Haydock. They, and the rest of the field, will need something we’ve yet to see from them to get the better of Battaash though.
Battaash to Win at 9/4
4.10 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 1m
The Duke Of Cambridge Stakes is a chance for older fillies and mares to take centre stage at Royal Ascot. This year’s renewal is shaping to be a very interesting one with the market suggesting that Nazeef and Jubiloso are set to do battle for the win. John Gosden’s filly, Nazeef, has been backed into favouritism thanks to a good win against a strong field in a Listed contest at Kempton at the start of the month.
In contrast, Jubiloso heads to Ascot without the benefit of a run under her belt and that may just tilt the race in favour of Nazeef. In truth though, this could go to either of the top two and therefore, it may be worth watching how that battle unfolds and supporting another horse each way. The filly who stands out is Queen Power for Sir Michael Stoute. The Stoute team were delighted to get Queen Power back for another season and she made a pleasing enough return when second to Terebellum at Newmarket. Victory in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes is by no means impossible whilst even a place would secure a decent return at 7/1.
Queen Power Each Way at 7/1
4.40 Ascot Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 2m4f
The first day of Royal Ascot 2020 ends with the sort of race that you do not see very often in the flat season. The Ascot Stakes is a 20-runner handicap which takes place over 2m4f and it is no surprise to see some National Hunt trainers with entries. Nicky Henderson is one such trainer. He hasn’t had too many favourites at Royal Ascot over the years but does so for the Ascot Stakes with Verdana Blue receiving plenty of support at odds of 4/1.
Although Verdana Blue will garner much of the attention amongst the punters, for us it is Moon King who catches the eye at odds of 8/1. Ralph Beckett’s four year old lacks the class for the most prestigious long distance races on the flat but there is no doubt at all that he is an out and out stayer who will be plugging on at the line. Moon King has gone up three pounds for his win at Haydock a week ago but is good enough to run another screamer off a mark of 94.
Moon King Each Way at 8/1
Day Two: Wednesday
|1.15||Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|1.50||Hampton Court Stakes||Group 3||1m2f|
|2.25||King George V Stakes Handicap||Class 2||1m4f|
|3.00||Prince Of Wales’s Stakes||Group 1||1m2f|
|3.35||Royal Hunt Cup Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|4.10||Windsor Castle Stakes||Listed||5f|
|4.40||Copper Horse Handicap||Class 2||1m6f|
By the time the second day of Royal Ascot 2020 rolls around racing fans watching on from home on the TV will be used to the eerie atmosphere created by a lack of spectators at the track itself and will be intent to focus solely on the racing. There is certainly a lot of high quality racing to enjoy on Wednesday with the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes being the highlight in terms of prestige. There are more Group level races, some ultra-competitive handicaps and a high class juvenile contest that also bear close examination though.
1.15 Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap
Ascot, Class 2, 1m
For the first time, Royal Ascot has a consolation race for the Royal Hunt Cup. The Silver Royal Hunt Cup gives horses who fail to earn a spot in the 3.35 something to aim at during the Royal meeting. A full field of 24 is expected to compete for a first prize of £22,642.
Maydanny is going to need to win much more than that over the course of his career to return on the huge investment that was made on him as a yearling, but hopes remain that he is finally going to start justifying that outlay.
The Mark Johnston-trained four year old has run just three times so far. The latest of those runs came at the start of June when he won his handicap debut with consummate ease. The handicapper raised him 10 pounds for that win at Yarmouth but he looks to have more room for improvement than that. If, as expected, he remains some way better than his official rating, Maydanny can dot up again at odds of 8/1, a price which will likely come in the closer we get to the off.
Maydanny Each Way at 8/1
1.50 Hampton Court Stakes
Ascot, Group 3, 1m2f
This year’s renewal of the Hampton Court Stakes is shaping up to be a cracking race. There are all sorts of high quality horses in the running with cases to be made about them.
Starting at the top of the betting, Juan Elcano returns to the track just over a week after his excellent run in the 2,000 Guineas in which he placed fifth. Next comes First Receiver, the Queen’s horse who won in impressive style on his seasonal reappearance and could have more improvement under the guidance of Sir Michael Stoute. Russian Emperor, Aidan O’Brien’s beautifully bred colt is sure to run another big race whilst Berlin Tango, for the in-form trainer/jockey partnership of Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy, must carry a penalty but beat some useful horses on his first run of the season.
Of all of those main protagonists for this Group 3, it is First Receiver who gets the nod at odds of 11/4. Yes, this is a fairly big step up in class but he is the sort who should take several forward steps this season and has every chance competing at level weights even given the calibre of his opposition.
First Receiver to Win at 11/4
2.25 King George V Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f
The King George V Stakes is a very welcome opportunity for some potentially quality three year olds to show what they are capable of over a distance of a mile and a half. Chances have been few and far between for those in the field, many of whom could go on to have successful careers even if they lack the class of their contemporaries who will go on to contest the Derby and Oaks on the 4th of July.
There are several tempting options in the betting for this one so an each way bet looks in order. In that regard, the odds of 12/1 available about Arthurian Legend’s chances deserve serious consideration. Brian Meehan’s colt showed a very likeable attitude last time out when just missing out by a short head in a decent handicap at Newmarket. Although this is a higher calibre of opponent, the way he rallied having looked beaten and the suggestion that 1m4f could bring the best out of him means that Arthurian Legend is the one to support in the King George V Stakes.
Arthurian Legend Each Way at 12/1
3.00 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 1m4f
The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is one of the highlights of the mile and a quarter season across Europe and always attracts a stellar field to Royal Ascot. Despite the absence of Enable, who racing fans the world over want to see throw down a challenge in this one, we have a fascinating race ahead of us.
The obvious place to start is right at the top of the betting where Japan looks strong at 10/11 across the board. There’s little doubt that Aidan O’Brien’s four year old holds the most convincing claim to win this race given how impressive he was last year. The fact that much of his best work – winning the King Edward VII Stakes, the Grand Prix de Paris and equipping himself well in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – came over a mile and a half is nothing to be overly concerned about as he proved he has ample speed when winning the Juddmonte International Stakes against a star-studded field at York last season.
Backing odds-on favourites always comes with something of a warning but Japan does look a fair price. That is not to say that he will have things all his own way. Barney Roy is a very interesting option as a couple of wins in Dubai earlier this year confirmed the suspicion that he is back to his best having returned to racing after a failed stud career. The Godolphin six year old is the main danger at a price of 5/1, but it’s the favourite who most deserves the support.
Japan to Win at 10/11
3.35 Royal Hunt Cup
Ascot, Class 2 Heritage Handicap, 1m
The Royal Hunt Cup will be shorn of some of the madness that makes it so popular with racing fans this year as the maximum field size is reduced from 30 to 24. That still leaves ample space for some high level performers to sneak under the radar and for punters to sniff out some great value.
The pick of the top of the market is Bell Rock at odds of 9/1. Andrew Balding has started the new season in tremendous form and he was very much taken with the way that his four year old fought to edge out Ouzo and win a very competitive handicap at Newmarket earlier this month. He gets a three pound penalty for that win but is still improving so can defy his mark and run another storming race.
Heading a little further down the betting market and Kynren looks a good price at 14/1 for David Barron. The six year old is used to competing in this sort of big field handicap and has shown an aptitude for running well at Ascot before so is one to be on board each way.
Kynren Each Way at 14/1
4.10 Windsor Castle Stakes
Ascot, Listed, 5f
The Windsor Castle Stakes is the first chance that two year olds get to strut their stuff at Royal Ascot. As is usually the case for this Listed contest, Wesley Ward looks to hold a strong hand with a couple of options who have made the trip over from America. Sheriff Bianco is Ward’s colt in the race but it’s his filly, Sunshine City, who has Frankie Dettori on board. That could prove to be a valuable insight as whilst Ward has admitted that he is not yet sure about just how promising Sunshine City is, he has a great partnership with Dettori and is sure to give him what he believes to be the best ride.
Sunshine City may well shorten from the 9/2 currently available and could challenge Chief Little Hawk for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore for favouritism. At the opposite end of the market and Muker is tempting at 25/1 as an each way option after making all to hold off Significantly and win on debut for Phillip Makin.
Muker Each Way at 25/1
4.40 Copper Horse Handicap
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m6f
This is one of the new handicaps introduced to Royal Ascot for this year. Younger horses have been prioritised so far in the early part of the season but this is a chance for experienced horses to run over a testing trip of 1m6f.
Hugo Palmer’s five year old, Collide, is currently vying for favouritism with Fujaira Prince and it is the latter who is the one to have onside. The two last met in last year’s Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes but thanks to Collide’s recent win at Chelmsford, Fujaira Prince is now five pounds better off. He has run well off the back of a break before so the lack of a warm up run is no concern and the lightly raced six year old can make more improvement at 9/2.
Fujaira Prince to Win at 9/2
Day Three: Thursday
|1.15||Golden Gates Handicap||Class 2||1m2f|
|2.25||Jersey Stakes||Group 3||7f|
|3.35||Ascot Gold Cup||Group 1||2m4f|
|4.10||Britannia Stakes Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|4.40||Sandringham Stakes||Class 2||1m|
The start of Royal Ascot has shown that top class horses can provide top class sporting action even without fans in attendance. Racing fans and punters have learned to deal with the strange feeling that racing has at the moment just as trainers and jockeys have while the horses get on a do what they do best.
We’ve seen a combination of well-backed favourites do the business for punters and some long shots land surprising results already at Royal Ascot and there are lots more chances to beat the bookies on Thursday where Stradivarius is ready to play a starring role by trying to complete a hat-trick of Gold Cup wins.
1.15 Golden Gates Handicap
Royal Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m2f
The Golden Gates Handicap is one of the new races created for this year’s Royal Ascot. The lack of any previous renewals adds yet another level of difficulty for punters trying to work out a race which is open to three year olds, all of whom are liable to show significant improvement from their best so far.
If Global Storm makes another step forward then he will surely justify his position as the favourite for the Golden Gates Handicap. He confirmed suggestions that he’ll be best suited to the 1m2f trip of this race when winning a strong handicap at Newmarket last time out. Global Storm will need to show all of the battling quality he showed that day to see off the field but he could be a very smart horse and is rightly getting support at odds of 5/1.
Global Storm to Win at 5/1
1.50 Wolferton Stakes
Ascot, Listed, 1m2f
There is another race being run over a distance of a mile and a quarter next in the shape of the Wolferton Stakes. This Listed race has long been the target of some smart types over the years but it has had a significant boost in recent years and every trainer in the race would be delighted were their horse to kick on and win at the very top level just like Addeybb who built on his win in last year’s renewal.
You can make a case for the top three in the betting as they have all performed with credit in Group 1 company. They are all covered between the odds of 3/1 and 4/1 though which looks short enough and there is more value about the Winter Derby winner, Dubai Warrior.
John Gosden’s four year old was very strong in the betting that day at Lingfield, suggesting that there is room for improvement over at least the remainder of this season. Whilst there is a feeling that he is best suited to the all-weather, he has the stamina to cope with the stiffness of the track at Ascot and can run into a place at a decent price of 10/1.
Dubai Warrior Each Way at 10/1
2.25 Jersey Stakes
Ascot, Group 3, 7f
The Jersey Stakes is a race that usually attracts two different types of three year old: sprinters trying being tried out at the longer trip of seven furlongs and milers who are dropping back in trip. It is the latter group which has had the better of things in recent years and that trend can continue in this year’s renewal with King Leonidas being supported right at the top of the betting.
The son of Kingman kicked his season off with an impressive win at Newmarket a fortnight ago. He held off the challenge of the potentially smart Eastern World over the one mile trip that day and should be just as strong over the stiff seven furlongs at Ascot. As much as this is a big step up in class, King Leonidas could be a top level performer very soon and is the worthy favourite at odds of 7/2.
King Leonidas to Win at 7/2
3.00 Chesham Stakes
Ascot, Listed, 7f
The Chesham Stakes is another chance for some of the most exciting two year olds in racing to show what they can do on the biggest stage. The size of the field is a tad disappointing but it is a case of quality over quantity with some very promising types set to do battle.
In terms of the battle in the betting, Modern News is a fairly clear favourite at a price of 11/4. Charlie Appleby’s colt did exactly what he needed to do to get the win on his debut, keeping on well to get the better of Noble Dynasty by a neck.
As good as Modern News could be, the market may just be overinflating his chances of winning compared to Battleground who is sure to take a step forward from his first run for Aidan O’Brien. Ballydoyle have an excellent record in this race and the fact that he is the only horse carrying their colours tells you that they believe the step up to seven furlongs and the experience he earned at Naas will see him go on to win the Chesham Stakes at odds of 4/1.
Battleground to Win at 4/1
3.35 Ascot Gold Cup
Ascot, Group 1, 2m4f
Each year at Royal Ascot racing fans get excited about the huge amount of top quality horses turning up to compete. The other side of that coin is the disappointment that comes when a leading contender for a big race is withdrawn and the confirmation that Kew Gardens would miss the much hyped rematch with Stradivarius was a real blow to the Gold Cup.
The absence of Kew Gardens means that Stradivarius is the odds-on favourite to win the Gold Cup for the third year in a row. As much as the John Gosden/Frankie Dettori partnership was upset that Stradivarius lost his unbeaten record at the end of last season, there is little doubt that he remains the best stayer in the business. He got a good run in the Coronation Cup last time out when Dettori just eased down a bit in the closing stages when it was clear he wasn’t going to win but the return to a genuine staying trip will see the best of Stradivarius who is available at odds of 4/7.
If you fancy an each way option who can capitalise should Stradivarius fail to fire on all cylinders, Nayef Road is the one to back at 12/1. Last year’s third place finisher in the St Leger won the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes at Newcastle earlier in the month and providing that hasn’t left too much of a mark he’ll surely be in the mix in the closing stages.
Nayef Road Each Way at 12/1
4.10 Britannia Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m
The Britannia Stakes is the first of two handicaps for three year olds which ends Thursday’s card at Royal Ascot. This race, in particular, could feature horses who improve to be competitive against Group company. Indeed, Starcat heads to the race having run well in the 2,000 Guineas and should be able to follow that run up with victory on his handicap debut.
Starcat’s Classic run built on a decent debut where he won at Kempton, showing plenty of natural ability. He will face some very good opponents, most notably Enemy and Finest Sound, but his mark of 94 may look far too low come the end of this one so back Starcat to win at a price of 8/1.
Starcat Each Way at 8/1
4.40 Sandringham Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m
We have another potentially high class horse who is running off a generous looking handicap mark in the Sandringham Stakes. African Dream was beaten by only a nose by Stylistique when they met earlier in June in a strong novice at Newbury. There is almost certainly more between those two horses than that one result suggests but you can’t shake the feeling that 80 is far too low a handicap mark for a horse of African Dream’s quality. The market certainly thinks so as she’s been backed in to a best price of 2/1.
African Dream to Win at 2/1
Day Four: Friday
|1.15||Palace of Holyrood House Handicap||Class 2||5f|
|1.50||Albany Stakes||Group 3||6f|
|2.25||Norfolk Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|3.00||Hardwicke Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|3.35||Commonwealth Cup||Group 1||6f|
|4.10||Queen’s Vase||Group 2||1m6f|
|4.40||Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes||Class 2||1m4f|
Friday at Royal Ascot brings many more high class racing with Group level races sandwiched by a couple of very competitive handicaps. Punters have had quite a tough time of it in the earlier part of the meeting and there is a combination of favourites who look vulnerable and those who should justify their support.
We have picked through each race on the card below to work out which favourites should get your support and where it could pay to take a look further down the betting markets to pick out some tasty prices.
1.15 Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 5f
Friday at Royal Ascot begins like the first three days, with a handicap race which has been added to the schedule especially for this year. The Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap has attracted many entries with 22 potentially smart three year old sprinters making up the field.
Based on the fairly limited evidence that we have seen so far, the horse with the highest potential is the horse at the very top of the betting: Art Power. Trained by Tim Easterby, Art Power cost King Power Racing €110,000 and has already started to repay that outlay with a couple of wins. The most recent of those came at Newcastle at the start of the month where he appeared stronger the longer the six furlong race went on.
The drop back in trip to five furlongs for this race shouldn’t be an issue given how stiff the finish is at Ascot so Art Power deserves his billing as favourite at 3/1. Another horse who will appreciate the tough challenge of Ascot is Dancin Inthestreet. This tough filly has the speed and stamina to kick for home up the hill so represents a good each way option at odds of 12/1.
Dancin Inthestreet Each Way at 12/1
1.50 Albany Stakes
Ascot, Group 3, 6f
The Albany Stakes is a Group 3 race for two year old fillies which has produced some high level performers over the years. Racing fans will make sure to tune into this one for hints about next season’s 1,000 Guineas and the field does include a number of well-bred fillies who have already shown glimpses of their quality.
Willabell is one of those, having missed out on a debut win by just a short head. John Gosden’s well bred filly deserves nothing but praise for a run that did not pan out as she’d hope. She was the only horse who came out of the stalls well and was therefore forced into making the pace. Frankie Dettori never seemed comfortable in that position and it was only when Kapupul came to challenge that Willabell really switched on. She had just done too much and narrowly missed out and can come on for that run to win the Albany Stakes at odds of 7/1.
Willabell Each Way at 7/1
2.25 Norfolk Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 5f
There’s another high class juvenile race up next with the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes. As with all of the two year old races at this year’s Royal Ascot there isn’t a lot to go on in terms of stats due to the late start of the season. Most of the 14 horses in the field for the Albany are entitled to come on for their first runs but one who really stood out on debut was Eye Of Heaven for trainer Mark Johnston and owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
Frankie Dettori clearly knew that he was on board a classy individual in that debut at Newmarket. He was content to sit just off the pace before Vedute kicked on to make an early dash for home. That’s when Dettori sent Eye Of Heaven for his closing run and he was able to pull away to win in impressive form. He knew his job very well on debut and Johnston has suggested that his big horse will be even better at Ascot so he is the one the others have to beat at 11/4.
Eye Of Heaven to Win at 11/4
3.00 Hardwicke Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 1m4f
The Hardwicke Stakes looks to be one of the most competitive races of the day at Royal Ascot. This Group 2 features several classy horses who have run very well at the very top level and it is especially easy to make a case for the top two in the betting: Anthony Van Dyck and Elarqam.
Anthony Van Dyck got his season off to an impressive start when bagging second place in the Coronation Cup. That he was unable to finish closer to Ghaiyyath is no concern given the quality of the winner’s performance and he deserves to be favourite. Elarqam also finished second on his first run of the campaign which would surely have been a win had he just set a stronger pace.
The two principles are very good and will take some beating but at a bigger price, Defoe might just be up to the task. Like Anthony Van Dyck, Defoe was no match for the winner in the Coronation Cup and the way he tailed off towards the end suggested that he was in need of the run. As last year’s winner of this race he has proven that he is well suited to Ascot and can raise his game for a successful defence at a nice price of 8/1.
Defoe Each Way at 8/1
3.35 Commonwealth Cup
Ascot, Group 1, 6f
Battaash was the talk of Royal Ascot when he justified his position as the bookies’ favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes and we may see the same result with a winning favourite of Friday’s big sprint, the Commonwealth Cup.
There are certainly a lot of punters happy to back Pierre Lapin, who is the 7/2 favourite for the race. That price is much bigger than the 10/11 generally available about Battaash which reflects the fact that Roger Varian’s horse has had only two runs so far. Both of those runs were very encouraging for connections, especially the relative ease with which he won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes.
If you’re not put off by the price, Pierre Lapin looks sure to run a big race at least. The same is likely to be true about Golden Horde though at twice the price. The 7/1 shot has some very good form to his name including a decent fifth place finish in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. The Richmond Stakes winner looks a very good each way option.
Golden Horde Each Way at 7/1
4.10 Queen’s Vase
Ascot, Group 2, 1m6f
The Group 2 Queen’s Vase could prove to be a very important stepping stone for the bookies’ joint favourite, Berkshire Rocco. He has run very good races at both the Group 3 and Listed levels without being able to earn the win but the market expects things to go better for him for the in-form duo of Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy. He certainly has the class to take this but will need his best run to date.
Those who remain unconvinced by Berkshire Rocco have plenty of others to consider around the same price. The 9/2 available about Born With Pride’s chances look worth thinking about, for instance. The William Haggas-trained filly has been rerouted to the Queen’s Vase from the Ribblesdale Stakes and take can advantage of the fillies’ allowance to push the market principles all the way.
Born With Pride to Win at 9/2
4.40 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f
We end Friday at Royal Ascot with the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, a 19 runner handicap which takes place over a distance of a mile and a half. This looks the sort of race that is readymade for each way betting and there are a couple of particularly interesting options in that regard.
The first horse to consider supporting is El Misk who runs for John Gosden and has Frankie Dettori in the saddle. He does have to carry second top weight but this is such a competitive affair that he’s only nine pounds worse off than bottom weight so can use his class to run into a place at odds of 10/1.
Second, Johnny Drama deserves small stakes each way support at 16/1. He had another good season last year full of battling performances in big field handicaps and there is still room for improvement.
El Misk Each Way at 10/1
Day Five: Saturday
|12.40||Silver Wokingham Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|1.15||Queen Mary Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|1.50||Coventry Stakes||Group 2||6f|
|2.25||Coronation Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|3.00||St James’s Palace Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|3.35||Diamond Jubilee Stakes||Group 1||6f|
|4.10||Wokingham Stakes||Class 2||6f|
|4.40||Queen Alexandra Stakes||Class 2||2m5½f|
Nobody knew quite what to expect from Royal Ascot 2020. Flat racing’s biggest meeting has been strangely quiet and serene without 50,000 fans pouring through the gates every day but the quality of the racing on the track has thankfully remained undiminished. Indeed, punters have had extra chances to win thanks to some specially created races and that is very much the case on the final day of the meeting which includes no fewer than eight races.
12.40 Silver Wokingham Handicap
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 6f
The final day of Royal Ascot 2020 begins with the Silver Wokingham Handicap which is a consolation race for the big handicap to be run later in the day. This is a great opportunity for horses, jockeys and trainers to pick up a Royal Ascot win but, just like the Wokingham itself, this is a fiendishly difficult betting puzzle.
You would have to be very confident about the chances of any of those at the head of the market to support them outright in the betting. The best way of tackling this race is by supporting a couple of longer odds options who should give you a good run for your each way money.
The first horse to consider backing each way is Hyperfocus. You have to go back to June of 2019 for the last time that Tim Easterby’s six year old won a race, but he comes alive on soft ground so the rain that’s fallen over the last few days makes the 25/1 available about his chances look like very good value. Another horse who should relish conditions underfoot is Louie De Palma. He carries six pounds more than when winning a soft ground handicap over this trip at Ascot but has run some excellent races around his current rating and rates a good each way shot at odds of 12/1.
Louie De Palma Each Way at 12/1
1.15 Queen Mary Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 5f
The Queen Mary Stakes has been used by many of the most powerful trainers to test their most promising two year old fillies against high class opposition. Wesley Ward is one trainer who usually makes particularly good use of this Group 2 contest and although he isn’t able to make the trip over from America this year, he will be very keenly watching how Frankie Dettori gets on with his leading contender for the race, Campanelle.
Campanelle could well prove to be a star of the future but on Saturday she may just find More Beautiful to be a little bit better. Aidan O’Brien’s name is conspicuous by its absence in the list of successful trainers in the Queen Mary but that may be about to change with this half-sister to Saxon Warrior.
More Beautiful certainly won her maiden at Naas in the style of a horse who has a real chance of success at Royal Ascot and it is clear that she is very highly regarded by team Ballydoyle. She made headlines for being the first winner of an Irish horse race for 76 days earlier in the month and can make more headlines with a Royal Ascot win at 2/1.
More Beautiful to Win at 2/1
1.50 Coventry Stakes
Ascot, Group 2, 6f
Just like in the Queen Mary Stakes, the partnership of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore has an excellent chance of winning the Coventry Stakes. The trainer/jockey duo are looking to add to the success they’ve already had this week at Royal Ascot with Admiral Nelson who won his debut performance every bit as impressively as More Beautiful.
The first thing that you notice about Admiral Nelson is just how big he is. He used that extra physicality compared to his rivals to win easily at the Curragh under a hands and heels ride from Wayne Lordan which won’t have taken much out of him at all. If he can travel as well at Ascot as he did at the Curragh and there is enough in the tank for the testing final furlong and a half, Admiral Nelson can confirm his position as one of the leading juveniles in training and return for his backers at 11/4.
Admiral Nelson to Win at 11/4
2.25 Coronation Stakes
Ascot, Group 1, 1m
The Coronation Stakes is a chance for leading three year old fillies, many of whom have already been tested out at the very top level, to take a step forward and claim a Group 1 win. As in the 1,000 Guineas, Quadrilateral is the bookies’ favourite for the Coronation Stakes but she may well suffer the same fate.
There are some much more appealing options in the betting with the best value arguably found in the 10/1 available about So Wonderful’s chances. It would really be something were this high calibre Group 1 to go to a maiden, hence her price. So Wonderful isn’t just any maiden though.
She showed once again that she is fully deserving of her place competing against the best of the three year old cohort with a highly creditable third place in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. She did look a little one paced coming home and her pedigree suggests she could get better for stepping up beyond a mile but the extra challenge of the closing straight at Ascot should be to her advantage so 10/1 looks a very good price indeed.
So Wonderful Each Way at 10/1
3.00 St James’s Palace Stakes
Ascot, Group 1, 1m
The St James’s Palace Stakes is to three year old colts what the Coronation Stakes is to three year old fillies. Many of the leading contenders from the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket will do battle in this including the odds-on favourite, Pinatubo. There was a general sense of deflation when Pinatubo failed to kick on from his all-conquering two year old campaign but he doesn’t become a poor horse for one defeat and Charlie Appleby’s colt is being well backed for his second Royal Ascot win after winning the Chesham Stakes last year.
Pinatubo is sure to run another good race but it is questionable whether he has as much scope for improvement as Wichita. Aidan O’Brien’s charge reversed the form with Pinatubo from last year’s Dewhurst Stakes, beating him into second place by over a length in the 2,000 Guineas. There is no reason to suggest that the Newmarket form will be changed and after that impressive step forward there is every chance he’ll improve again to land this important Group 1 prize.
Wichita to Win at 2/1
3.35 Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Ascot, Group 1, 6f
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes features one of the biggest Irish hopes for the whole of Royal Ascot and many people’s pick of the week’s best, Sceptical. Denis Gerard Hogan’s four year old had already impressed enough to become Ireland’s top rated sprinter ahead of his run at Naas earlier in June but the nature of his win that day confirmed him as a genuinely top class performer.
The fact that he was only joint favourite at Naas reflected the feeling that he still had something to prove but the way he left the field for dead in the final furlong was all the proof you could need about his quality. Factor in just how fast he travelled for the majority of that race and you have a horse who should be able to cope very well with a stiff six furlongs at Ascot, even on soft ground. Sceptical will face some very good rivals on Saturday but another performance of the class of that Naas run will surely be too much for them so back him to win at a generous looking price of 5/2.
Sceptical to Win at 5/2
4.10 Wokingham Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 6f
The Wokingham Stakes is one of the gems of Royal Ascot. The sight of a large field all charging along to the line is what the handicaps at this meeting are all about. Despite a cap on the number of runners, the full complement of 24 horses allowed to compete will head to the start in what is always a thrilling race and a betting heat full of tempting options.
From those at the top of the betting it is Mubakker who makes the most appeal at odds of 6/1. He made a step forward from his three year old form with his first run as a four year old just a couple of weeks ago and may still be ahead of his handicap mark. The most tempting bet, however, is Mr Lupton at a very generous 33/1. The strength he showed in the closing stages of the Group 3 Abernant Stakes suggested that he has returned this season in very good shape. His extra sharpness compared to many of his opponents and his experience marks Mr Lupton out as the best each way selection.
Mr Lupton Each Way at 33/1
4.40 Queen Alexandra Stakes
Ascot, Class 2 Handicap, 2m5½f
The curtain is brought down on Royal Ascot 2020 with the Queen Alexandra Stakes. This is about as long a race as you’ll see in the entire flat racing season and with all the rain that’s fallen in the area and the wear and tear of a full five days of racing, it’s fair to say that this is an almighty test of stamina.
The 11 strong field includes Who Dares Wins who made his last appearance at the Cheltenham Festival. The eight year old has all the stamina required to tough it out up the closing climb at Ascot even if the ground comes up soft so if he is able to cope with running in warmer weather than he is used to, Alan King could pick up another Royal Ascot winner after Coeur De Lion won the Ascot Stakes at the start of the week.
Who Dares Wins to Win at 3/1
About the Meeting
Held every June at Ascot Racecourse, Royal Ascot is the number one Flat racing festival anywhere on the planet. Each year the best horses, jockeys and trainers from Britain, Ireland, Europe and even farther afield flock to the Berkshire course for five days of top class and highly lucrative horse racing action.
Each of the thousands of fans who come through the gates every day have their own reasons for attending Royal Ascot. For some it’s the chance to enjoy themselves in the sunshine with their friends, some are attracted by the style, the pomp and the pageantry of Royal Ascot whilst for others it’s a pilgrimage that simply must be completed. Whatever they’re there for, every single fan is guaranteed some world class racing to savour and several opportunities to beat the bookies.
There is so much top quality racing at Royal Ascot that it can be a little overwhelming for unseasoned punters. Some races stand out above the rest though so here is the list of the meeting’s very biggest races for those looking only to get involved in the pick of the action.
Queen Anne Stakes
The organisers of these sort of big meeting like to get things going with a bang. Royal Ascot’s bang is provided by the Queen Anne Stakes which is the top target for milers aged four and older. The easiest way to tell the class of this race is by looking at the horses who turn up every year and go on to win this Group 1, mile long race.
Four-year-olds of this class often have room for improvement left in them so whilst previous impressive form is a prerequisite, many recent winners could be considered late bloomers. That said, the majority of Queen Anne Stakes winners since it became a Group 1 in 2003 had already had success at that level. Specifically, running well in a Guineas and/or at the previous year’s Royal Ascot are strong indicators of success.
2018 winner, Accidental Agent, provided the biggest shock of all time in the Queen Anne Stakes. He was largely ignored at 33/1 but a couple of shrewdies commented that his performance in the Lockinge Stakes – a key race in the lead up to the Queen Anne – was impressive. It remains to be seen whether improving horses will have more of a say in years to come or if the tried and tested options at the head of the market will reassert their dominance.
King’s Stand Stakes
The King’s Stand Stakes is about one thing and one thing only – speed. This Group 1 is one of the highlights of the opening day of Royal Ascot and sees the fastest horses aged three-year-old and upwards sprint to the line from 5 furlongs out. It’s a real blink and you’ll miss it affair over the minimum distance which rarely lasts longer than a minute.
Although three-year-olds regularly contend, it’s rare for one of the youngest horses to win. At that age sprinters tend to still be developing so it takes a very special horse (like 2017 winner, Lady Aurelia) to hack the pace at three. From a betting perspective, favourites have a pretty poor record and it isn’t rare to see a winner go off at double figure odds.
The international aspect of Royal Ascot has been very much in evidence in the King’s Stand Stakes. Recent years have seen winners from Australia, Hong Kong and the USA as well as European and Irish victors. That makes it tough for punters to properly assess the form but the key British races to pay an interest to include the Temple Stakes at Haydock and the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket.
St James’s Palace Stakes
Royal Ascot doesn’t host any of the Classics but it always plays host to most the leading contenders from those races. The St James’s Palace Stakes is a good example of this as many of the leading runners from both the British and Irish 2,000 Guineas face off over 1 mile. As that suggests, this Group 1 is open only to three-year-old colts.
The 2018 winner, Without Parole didn’t contend either Guineas races but eight of the 10 winners before him won at either of those, whilst 2017 winner, Barney Roy, finished second at Newmarket. Moreover, Guineas winners finish inside the top three with great regularity.
The strength of the field that always contends the St James’s Palace Stakes means that winners can come from fairly low down in the betting but that is the exception rather than the rule. Favourite backers have only been obliged infrequently in recent years but more often than not the market has it right with the top three in the betting providing most recent winners.
Prince of Wales’s Stakes
The prize fund for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes has swelled significantly to the point it reached £750,000 for the 2018 renewal. That tells you a lot about the importance of this race for older horses. Four-year-olds and older are eligible for this Group 1 which is run over a distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs and has resonance far beyond Berkshire.
The way that the Flat racing season is scheduled in Britain means that the best Irish and French horses tend to have had an earlier crack at a Group 1 over a mile and a quarter than their British-trained counterparts. That is one reason why the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is held in such high regard in European racing.
There is plenty to consider when looking for a Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner. Most recent champions already had Group 1 success under their belts so whilst there are important warm up races at Group 2 and 3 level, making the step up is no mean feat. Stepping up in terms of the trip is not such a worry, whilst history shows us that it takes a very special horse aged six or older to win.
Ascot Gold Cup
The range of different races held over the five days is one of the key strengths of Royal Ascot and there really is something for everyone in an equine sense, as well as off the track. Race goers are treated to everything from 5 furlong sprints to the Ascot Gold Cup which stretches out to 2 miles 4 furlongs. This Group 1 is the number one target for every trainer with a high class stayer and also one of the most popular races among horse racing fans as it produces drama year on year.
Perhaps as a by-product of the regular close finishes, the Ascot Gold Cup is a race that produces heroes. Big Orange, Order Of St George, Yeats, Royal Rebel, Kayf Tara, Drum Taps; the names of previous Gold Cup winners include some bona fide Ascot legends. The lack of elite level staying races means that the leading contenders tend to have faced each other a couple of times before which only adds to the narrative in the lead up.
As so much is known about the best stayers, the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup tends to come from the top three or four places in the betting. Younger winners are increasingly common which, in turn, means that several recent winners were scoring at the 2m4f trip for the first time, although a lack of winning form over 2 miles should be a cause for concern.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes doesn’t quite bring the curtain down on Royal Ascot but it is the final Group 1 of the meeting. This 6 furlong sprint was first run all the way back in 1869 but it’s undergone a serious change in recent years. After the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup – a sprint for three-year-olds only – the Diamond Jubilee Stakes became a race of four-year-olds and above.
There are a few sprints for connections to choose between at Royal Ascot but it usually comes down to a choice between this or the King’s Stand Stakes. The uncertainty in terms of the field, the number of high class performers over shorter trips and the unpredictable nature of sprinting means that there is always some very good value in the ante post betting for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. In terms of starting prices, double figure winners are almost the norm, whilst favourites have a poor strike rate.
The obvious exception to the rule of favourites struggling was Black Caviar, who survived a terrible jockey error to win at 1/6 in 2012. The superstar Australian mare is just one of several international raiders to have won the Diamond Jubilee. At six she was older than most winners since it became a Group 1 in 2002, whilst some UK and Irish winners had also contested big international races such as the Caulfield Cup.
Royal Ascot is about much more than the biggest races on the card, although it doesn’t always seem that way given the huge number of those. There is an incredible selection of races to enjoy ranging from Group 1s to handicaps, sprints to 2m4f tests of stamina and from juvenile contests to those for the older contingent. Whatever floats your boat in the world of Flat racing, punters are sure to find top class entertainment from the other big races below.
The Coventry Stakes provides racing fans with a glimpse into the future. It’s the first real chance for the most promising two-year-olds in training to face off against each other and many winners have gone on to have incredibly successful careers.
Just one previous run has been enough for most recent winners of this 6 furlong, Group 2 contest. That, obviously, is not a great amount of recent form to go on but the amount of information in terms of breeding and performances at home is usually enough for the bookies to call the Coventry Stakes well as winners tend to come from the top two in the market.
Duke of Cambridge Stakes
The Duke of Cambridge Stakes is a Group 2 race for fillies and mares held over a straight mile. Four is the minimum age for entrants and it’s the younger cohort who have had the better of things since the race was introduced relatively recently, in 2004.
There have been winners aged five and six but each of them was a top class mare. In fact, it is vital to back horses who have already claimed a Group level race with most winners achieving that feat over a mile. The other thing to keep an eye on is the Group 1 penalty that applies to winners at the top level after August 31 of the year before.
Queen Mary Stakes
The Queen Mary Stakes is a chance for two-year-old fillies to claim a Group 2 win early on in their career. It’s run over the minimum distance of 5 furlongs but the stiff pace set by these keen fillies often means that many of those who go off early find that their race is run before the kick for home.
Obviously, a certain amount of pace is needed to win the Queen Mary but it’s no coincidence that most winners since it was introduced in 1978 had at least a degree of stamina in their breeding. The winners list also paints a picture of the international nature of this race with the American trainer and sprint king Wesley Ward, having a particularly impressive record.
Day three at Royal Ascot begins with the Norfolk Stakes, another high class contest for juveniles. Like the Queen Mary Stakes, this is also run over 5 furlongs but is open to both fillies and colts. Although some winners have kicked on to have success at the very top level, for whatever reason, the Norfolk Stakes does have a habit of producing winners who fade into obscurity.
Whatever the future holds for the winner, more often than not they’ve already done enough to come to the attention of the bookies as longer odds victors are far from the norm. Don’t worry about a lack of experience as one win (and sometimes just one performance) has been enough for many.
The Oaks is the obvious race to look at when assessing the chances of the contenders in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Open to fillies from the Classic generation and run over 1 mile 4 furlongs the Ribblesdale is arguably a more interesting race because it is a Group 2 rather than a Group 1.
There are bigger targets for the best three-year-old fillies so the Ribblesdale offers a shot at redemption for those who failed at the top level and a chance for those who are still improving to show how good they are. One thing to note from recent winners is the impressive record of Irish-trained horses.
King Edward VII Stakes
Many of the races at Royal Ascot have parallels with the Classics but few are as close to each other as the King Edward VII Stakes and the Derby. This Group 2 is still known as the Ascot Derby and, like its more famous equivalent at Epsom, is run over 1 mile 4 furlongs. There are only three weeks between the two races but that doesn’t stop many of the leading contenders from Epsom having a crack at the King Edward.
Even with such a good amount of recent form to go on this is not typically a great race for punters as favourites have a poor record. The number of winners who came from handicaps rather than going down the Derby or established trial routes makes the King Edward even trickier to predict.
As alluded to earlier, the Commonwealth Cup was only introduced into the Royal Ascot schedule in 2015 as part of a shake up of the European sprinting division. The idea was to give three-year-olds the chance to contest a Group 1 against each other rather than being thrown into the pool against their elders at this early stage of their career. It’s fair to say that connections of the leading young sprinters have enjoyed the changes as some truly top class sprinters have claimed this race.
It will be a while before punters have enough data to form a proper opinion on the trends. The picture has been further muddied by a mixture of winners at odds-on and double figures odds against.
Just like the St James’s Palace Stakes, punters take a long hard look at the Guineas form when picking their bets for the Coronation Stakes. This is the main target for trainers of three-year-old fillies at Royal Ascot and, fittingly, has been won by some of the very best milers in the history in racing.
This Group 1, 1 mile contest is far too good for horses to win having shown little previous form at the top level. As well as the various 1000 Guineas races it’s well worth taking a look at the juvenile form of the leading contenders in the betting.
Connections of the very best horses often have a tough decision to make with their biggest stars. Do they keep them in training or retire them to stud? That is not a worry shared by winning connections of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
This 1 mile 4 furlong contest may be open to four-year-olds and older but it is viewed as a springboard for future success. It’s a vitally important race for late bloomers who find their best stuff once they’ve fully matured. Therefore, many winners had failed in the biggest three-year-old races, whilst the view that it is a shot at redemption is borne out by the number of four-year-old winners recently.
Handicaps play an important part in the make up of Royal Ascot and the Wokingham Stakes is one of the best of the lot. It’s tough to imagine that so much can happen over just 6 furlongs but the 30 odd horses that take part in the Wokingham mean it is a very tactical race, even if it has the appearance of a cavalry charge!
Many punters will pay close attention to the draw but it’s far from the deciding factor in this race. Rather, it pays to focus on horses carrying between 8st 12lb to 9st 3lb and who are aged either four or five, with strong trends a great help in narrowing the market down at least a little.
The history of Royal Ascot begins with Queen Anne in 1711. Legend has it that she spotted a patch of land in the Ascot area that was perfect for “horses to gallop at full stretch” and the first race, Her Majesty’s Plate, was run soon after. The racing has changed significantly from that first contest – back then it involved three separate heats of four miles each! – but the popularity of racing at Ascot has remained constant.
The foundations of the meeting that we now know as Royal Ascot were laid in 1807 with the inaugural running of the Ascot Gold Cup. That was also the year that the course really started to take shape as an arena befitting the standard of racing on show, although it wasn’t until 1813 that an act was passed in Parliament to ensure the public would be able to watch racing at Ascot for years to come.
Racing has continued to evolve and grow at Royal Ascot and the facilities at the course have improved alongside that growth. The meeting is one of the richest and best-attended in Europe, attracting real stars both on and off the track.
Whilst the crowd is increasingly egalitarian, Royal Ascot remains a key event within the British social calendar and you can expect to hear plenty of champagne corks popping over the five days. The pageantry of the British royal family remains an important part of Royal Ascot too and the Queen is still a regular visitor to the festival.
A Complete History of Royal Ascot
Summer race meetings simply do not get any bigger than Royal Ascot, the undoubted sporting and social highlight of the entire flat season. Many of the highly recognised events that make up part of the five-day festival have roots dating back to the early 19th century, giving it an incredibly history.
Although Ascot has long held racing in June, sometimes with royalty in attendance, 1911 stands as the official start date of Royal Ascot. Only then did it become a royal occasion but apart from a little added glamour and prestige, it was largely business as usual in Berkshire. Since then the festival has continued to expand with more and more fantastic races creating a past that makes for fascinating reading.
1744 – Greencoats Called In
For the first time at Ascot, the Greencoats, or rather Yeoman Prickers if you want to use their more traditional name, formed a ceremonial guard. Their distinctive green coats with gold trim are a familiar site at Royal Ascot. In the earlier days their role was to use their prickers to keep racegoers off the course but today they merely help ensure guests have a top class Royal Ascot experience and add to the sense of occasion.
1790 – Top Hats Become a Requirement
Although the precise year isn’t known, towards the end of the 18th century Ascot demanded that any man coming into the Royal Enclosure must don a top hat. The silk hats made from hatters’ plush commonly worn then are now so rare that you could well spend tens of thousands of pounds to find one that fits a modern day head. Or you could spend your cash on something more fun!
1807 – Ascot Gold Cup Created
Royal Ascot’s oldest race appears on the scene for the first time, awarding prize money of 100 guineas to its inaugural champion, Master Jackey. The three-year-old horse won while in the presence of King George III and Queen Charlotte who were both in attendance at Ascot. Today the Gold Cup remains just one of three perpetual trophies during the Royal meet, along with the Royal Hunt Cup and Queen’s Vase, which can be kept by the winner’s owners.
1807 – Royal Enclosure Debut
Although the famous and highly exclusive Royal Enclosure as we know it wasn’t established until the mid-nineteenth century, its roots date back earlier. In 1807, Ascot reserved a space exclusively for King George III, his family and his esteemed guests. In one sense this can be seen to be the birth of Royal Ascot, although as stated, officially it didn’t commence until later on…but some argue it began much earlier!
1813 – Wokingham Stakes Follows
Not long after the creation of the Ascot Gold Cup, the Wokingham Stakes enjoys its first ever appearance. A horse named Pointers, owned by the Duke of York, won the inaugural running of the race which is named after the market town located just a few miles from Ascot.
1823 – Duke of York Joins Race
Usually high profile figures arrive in plenty of time for Royal Ascot but the Duke of York was caught being exceptionally tardy this year. The Duke was so late that he had to gallop up the course as a race took place, arriving at the Royal Stand only moments before the winner crossed the line.
1825 – The Royal Procession Begins
It’s hard to imagine Royal Ascot without the Royal Procession and it’s a tradition almost two hundred years old. King George IV led the first ever procession, followed by four other horse drawn coaches featuring members of the royal party. They paraded down the Straight Mile with spectators commentating that the “whole thing looked very splendid.”
1834 – Walk Over in First St James’s Palace Stakes
Racing experts at the time regarded Plenipotentiary as one of the finest of his generation but he didn’t have to show off his talent in the inaugural St James’s Palace Stakes. Initially set for a re-match with Lord Jesery’s Glencoe, the hotly anticipated battle never occurred with the colt withdrawn from the race late on. Facing no other challengers, Plenipotentiary was able to canter along the course by himself before claiming a walk over victory.
1834 – King Edward VII Stakes Debuts
Alongside the St James’s Palace Stakes, spectators at Ascot also caught a glimpse of the new King Edward VII Stakes. Originally called the Ascot Derby, the name change occurred in 1926 in memory of Queen Victoria’s predecessor. Epsom Oaks champion Pussy won the first ever edition of the event but fillies are no longer able to compete in the one and a half mile test.
1838 – Queen’s Vase Begins
There’s a good reason why the Queen’s Vase is called what it is. On its inaugural appearance, Queen Victoria kindly donated a gold vase which became the race’s trophy. For the first two years, only three-year-old horses could compete but organisers opened the door to older horses after this point. The broader entry criteria remained until 1987 when it returned to being a strictly three-year-old affair.
1840 – Queen Anne Stakes & Coronation Stakes Founded
Ascot launched a new race by the name of the Trial Stakes, originally open to horses three and above. It’s a contest we now know as the Queen Anne Stakes, as, in 1930, the named changed to honour the monarch who founded Ascot Racecourse in 1711. There was more honouring taking place in 1840 as the Coronation Stakes also launched, two years after the coronation of Queen Victoria.
1840 – 11 Year Old Races in the Wokingham Stakes
During these times there were no rules regarding who could ride at Ascot. Taking full advantage of the lack of regulation was an 11-year-old boy who rode a horse in the Wokingham Stakes. Later on he revealed it was his first ever race although he had taken horses out on the gallops before.
1843 – Royal Hunt Cup & Norfolk Stakes Introduced
The first running of the Royal Hunt Cup proved to be quite the memorable one. Knight of the Whistle got himself to the line first but further back there was a triple dead-heat for second place involving Bourra Tomacha, Epaulette and Garry Owen. During the very same year the Norfolk Stakes, then titled the New Stakes, also made its debut at Ascot.
1844 – Nicholas I of Russia Attends
During a state visit to England, Nicholas I of Russia drops by Ascot to spectate at the Gold Cup. The winning horse ran without a name but after his win, in order to honour Nicholas I, he was given the name of ‘The Emperor’. At the same time the Russian guest donated a new trophy for the race which led to the event changing its name to the Emperor’s Plate. It reverted back to the Gold Cup nine years later though following the outbreak of the Crimean War.
1856 – Railway Comes to Ascot
For the first time, keen festival goers could ride the train directly to Ascot. This was a particularly fantastic development for more wealthy guests who had previously been at great risk of being robbed when travelling up by carriage. Many that made the journey, including those that continued to make the long walk there, camped out at Ascot for the entire four-day (as it was then) meet.
1860 – Rain Leads to King’s Stand Creation
Ascot had been preparing to run the two mile Royal Stand Plate this year but heavy rainfall waterlogged much of the track. Only the final five furlongs remained in a race-worthy condition so organisers opted to use this part to host a sprint. Initially called the Queen’s Stand Stakes, the five furlong name reverted to its current title in 1901 following the ascension of King Edward VII.
1862 – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes Founded
Carisbrook claims glory in the first ever running of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. To begin with the race only featured three-year-olds and those involved raced over a distance of one miles and five furlongs, three furlongs longer than today’s trip.
1868 – All-Aged Stakes & Alexandra Plate Added
The All-Aged Stakes became the latest race to feature at Ascot’s summer schedule although it spent more time known as the Cork and Orrery Stakes. Further name changes followed this side of the century, first to the Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2002 and then with obvious logic to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes a decade later. For a long time it had been somewhat true to its original name with all horses aged three and above able to compete but the creation of the Commonwealth Cup saw the minimum age upped to four.
The other new recruit at Ascot was the Alexandra Plate, a race we now know as the Queen Alexandra Stakes. For much time it stood as Britain’s lengthiest flat race despite being cut by 110 yards during Ascot’s track realignment in 2005.
1879 – Hardwicke Stakes Inaugurated
Honouring men who served as Master of the Buckhounds is a common theme among Royal Ascot races as you’ll discover. In this instance the race gets its name from the 5th Earl of Hardwicke who took up the role between 1874 and 1880. It started open to horses aged three and above but following a rule change, the last three-year-old champion was Helioscope in 1949.
1884 – Tristan Wins Third Hardwicke Stakes
Shortly after the Hardwicke Stakes got itself up and running, Tristan set a record in the contest which as of 2019, remains unmatched. The three-time Champion Stakes winner also claimed three Hardwicke victories despite the difficulties jockeys often had riding him. Unless the race reopens itself to three-year-olds, it’s very hard to see anyone ever matching Tristan’s accomplishment.
1890 – Coventry Stakes Created
Honouring the 9th Earl of Coventry, former Master of the Buckhounds, was the Coventry Stakes which made its inaugural appearance this year. The Deemster won the first ever running of the race and three years later it was Ladas, owned by future Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, who rode to glory.
1901 – Lord Churchill Takes Control
After his appointment as first official Representative of His Majesty, Lord Churchill, got to work personally vetting applications for the Royal Enclosure. When doing so he ordered them into three orderly piles, ‘Certainly’, ‘Perhaps’ and ‘Certainly Not’. Was Churchill the world’s first bouncer?
1910 – Black Ascot After Death of King Edward VII
The death of King Edward VII, an avid racing supporter, a month before this edition of Royal Ascot made it a most mournful one. All racegoers dressed in black throughout the festival while ladies in the Royal Enclosure also featured contrasting white flowers or strings of pearls.
1914 – Bessborough Stakes Begins
For many of you the Bessborough Stakes may still ring a vague bell. The name initially was attached to a five furlong race for two-year-olds at Royal Ascot but it was later bestowed on a mile-and-a-half handicap. Since 1999 we’ve known the very same handicap as the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, not to be confused with a two-year-old race ran in autumn by the same name, a contest once won by the incredible Sea Pigeon.
1915 – WWI Disruption
Due to World War I, Ascot had no choice but cancel much of its racing. Many of the races that form today’s Royal Ascot were simply put on hold as a result. Newmarket Racecourse did however manage to rehouse a couple of the events such as the Coventry Stakes and the Gold Cup while the conflict was ongoing.
1919 – Three New Races Added
Prior to World War I, Ascot had held a race called the Triennial Stakes which compromised a race for two, three and four-year-olds over five furlongs, seven furlongs and two miles respectively. Although it received the axe immediately after the war, the second leg continued to live on via the Jersey Stakes. The title is derived from the 4th Earl of Jersey who served as Master of the Buckhounds in the late 1700s.
Joining the Jersey Stakes as a debutant event in 1919 was the Ribblesdale Stakes, a race named in honour of the 4th Baron Ribblesdale who also served as – you guessed it – Master of the Buckhounds. Originally a one mile race open to three or four-year-olds of either sex, it first ran under its current format shortly after World War II. The final race to be added this year was the Chesham Stakes, which replaced the first leg of the aforementioned Triennial Stakes.
1920 – Helen Vernet Becomes First Female Bookmaker
Since its inception, bookies at Royal Ascot had exclusively been men. That was until 1920, when Helen Vernet became the first female offering to take hopeful punters’ cash. Her social connections no doubt helped her pass the ‘fit and proper’ character test which was then required to obtain a bookmaker’s license.
1928 – Britannia Stakes Introduced
The Britannia Stakes once stood as the only one mile handicap at Ascot but following changes to the Royal Hunt cup in 1956 the pair have taken place over the same course and distance. In more recent years the Britannia winners have caught the eye among Hong Kong yards with Roca Tumu (2013), Born In Bombay (2014) and Defrocked (2016) all later exported to the former British colony.
1934 – Brown Jack Proves Unstoppable
No horse has enjoyed more success in a single event at Royal Ascot than Brown Jack. This year the specialist stayer won the Queen Alexandra Stakes for an unbelievable sixth time. His success made him a hugely popular figure at Ascot so it’s only fitting that a bronze stature of the thoroughbred, produced by Alfred Munnings, soon featured at the course.
1940 – World War II Disruption
War again leads to mass cancellations at Ascot. Many races didn’t appear at all between 1940 and 1945 as a result, although there were a few exceptions. The Royal Hunt Cup moved to Newbury for one year for instance, while the St James’s Palace Stakes and Gold Cup moved to Newmarket for one and four years respectively.
1964 – Wet Weather Issues
This year’s Royal Ascot had begun without any problems but for the final two days wet weather led to the cancellation of the procession. So strong did the downpours become that officials later had to call off the Ascot Gold Cup due to waterlogging.
1968 – Prince of Wales Returns
With nobody serving as the Prince of Wales, organisers at Ascot discontinued the Prince of Wales’s Stakes immediately after World War II. This remained the case for over two decades before the event eventually made its return in 1968, a year before the investiture of Prince Charles. From this point on the race has been contested over its current distance of one mile and two furlongs.
1970 – The Bandstand First Plays
Now an unmissable tradition, the Bandstand only started playing British classics at Royal Ascot sometime in the 1970s after the Clerk of the course’s wife helped organise it. When first hitting the scene they played the same iconic songs we still hear today such as Jerusalem and Rule Britannia.
1972 – Rock Roi Denied Again
In the history of Royal Ascot you’ll struggle to find any nag as luckless as Rock Roi. The chestnut horse got himself first past the line in the 1971 edition of the Gold Cup but a failed drugs test saw the title snatched from him. Returning the following year as clean as a whistle, Rock Roi once again won the race but this time the stewards awarded the race to Erimo Hawk after the two had engaged in a bumping match.
1974 – Brook Promoted From Fourth to First
Disqualifications are not an incredibly uncommon sight in racing but how about three in the same race? That’s precisely what happened in this incredible 1974 edition of the Queen Anne Stakes which saw Confusion, Gloss and Royal Prerogative claim the top three places. For various reasons the stewards disqualified the trio, resulting in fourth placed Brook being handed the most unlikely of victories.
1982 – Piggott Cements Gold Cup Legacy
Many of the 4493 races Lester Piggott won during his illustrious career came at a high level but there’s not a single elite race he won more than the Ascot Gold Cup. So regularly able to produce the goods in this historic event, the legendary jockey made it win number 11 on the back of Ardross in 1982. That’s a record that may prove unbeatable, much like his scarcely believable total of 116 Royal Ascot victories that spanned 41 years.
1988 – Coronation Stakes Upgraded
Today the Coronation Stakes is one of the most prestigious races on the continent for three-year-old fillies but it’s not always boasted quite such a big reputation. For many years the one mile event had been classified as a Group 2 race but this changed following an upgrade in 1988.
1992 – Yet Another Prince of Wales’s Disqualification
No Royal Ascot race has seen the winner disqualified on more occasions than the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. The first came in 1902 and a second followed in 1976 as Trepan tested positive for a banned substance. Making it number three was initial winner of the 1992 running, Kooyonga, disqualified after causing interference with third place Young Buster. Trainer Michael Kauntze had few arguments with the call but did add it was unlucky as his horse was clearly the best on the day.
2000 – Prince Of Wales’s Changes
The Prince Of Wales had been open to horses aged three and above but a rule change this year meant horses needed to be at least four years old to qualify. Alongside this, the now lucrative event moved from being a Group 2 race to Group 1.
2002 – Royal Ascot Extended to Five Days
As a way of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II, organisers at Ascot added another day to the Royal schedule. Ascot had previously hosted five consecutive days of racing in June but the final day, Saturday, had been what was known as the Ascot Heath meeting, unrelated to Royal Ascot. It offered a fairly low quality card, acting very much as a warm down from the showpiece event.
Some of the Ascot Heath races, such as the Hampton Court Stakes and Sandringham Handicap received a makeover as they joined the Royal meet. Others such as the Buckingham Palace Stakes, Albany Stakes and the Wolferton Stakes were brand new races making their debuts.
Organisers also rescheduled some existing events to the final day, for instance the Hardwicke Stakes and the Cork & Orrery Stakes (now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes). To begin with the plan was to include this extra day for just one year but the it ended up remaining thereafter.
2003 – Queen Anne Promoted to Group 1
Having initially received Group 3 status when the Horse Racing Authority issued the current system of classification, the Queen Anne enjoyed promotion to Group 2 three years later. A further step up in class followed in 2003 when the one mile contest became a Group 1 race for the very first time. In the same year, the race, previously open to three-year-olds and above, increased the minimum age of participants to four.
2003 – Wokingham Stakes Dead Heat
The crowd at Royal Ascot witness a rare dead heat and the first ever to occur in the Wokingham Stakes. Some commentators initially thought Ratio on the far side had just nicked it but replays showed there was absolutely nothing between him and Fayr Jag. Quite incredibly it almost looked as though we might have a dead heat for third place too but closer inspection revealed that last year’s winner, Capricho, missed out by a short head.
2004 – Duke Of Cambridge Added
As part of a continental push to increase the number of valuable races for older fillies, Ascot rolled out the Windsor Forest Stakes, or since 2013, the Duke of Cambridge Stakes. As a new addition to the Royal Ascot schedule, one event had to make way and the dropped race ended up being the Balmoral Stakes, a five furlong handicap.
2005 – Royal Ascot Moves to York
Due to the relocation of Royal Ascot, swathes of spectators travelled in their numbers to York on a scale not seen since the times of Viking invasions. Maybe! For one year and one year only York took up the great responsibility of hosting the action while its usual home went under some extensive refurbishment work. This was not only a great honour for York Racecourse but by holding the five-day long event, the local economy enjoyed a boost thought to be worth around £50m.
2008 – King’s Stand Re-Joins the Elite
The King’s Stand Stakes enjoyed 15 years at Group 1 level before being downgraded to Group 2 in 1988. It returned to former highs this year however, shortly after its inclusion to the Global Sprint Challenge in 2005. As one of the founding races of the scheme, the King’s Stand quickly attracted top class names from overseas, leading to the restoration of its Group 1 classification.
2009 – Yeats Scores Fourth Ascot Gold Cup
Over the course of its long history, many horses have managed to win the Ascot Gold Cup twice. Going further than that seemed an impossible task until Sagaro’s spectacular hat-trick in the mid-1970s. As impressive as this is, it’s a record now overshadowed by Yeats’ stunning four-time triumph. The Aidan O’Brien-trained horse only won one race in 2009, his final season racing, but what a race to win it was.
2013 – Henry Cecil Tribute
Racing waved goodbye to a legendary figure, Sir Henry Cecil, just a week before Royal Ascot 2013 got underway. In order to pay tribute to the trainer who had saddled 75 Royal Meeting winners, the Queen’s Vase was renamed as a special one-off to the Queen’s Vase In Memory of Sir Henry Cecil. It was an appropriate race to choose to with the 10-time Champion Trainer claiming victory in the race a record-breaking eight times.
2013 – Estimate Wins Ascot Gold Cup for The Queen
Queen Elizabeth II has been an ever present figure at Royal Ascot, never missing a single meeting since taking to the throne in 1952. She’s had her fair share of winners over the years but the most memorable of the lot came in 2013. Estimate, the 7/2 favourite, edged out a fantastic battle with Simenon to provide a reigning monarch with a first ever Gold Cup winner.
2015 – Commonwealth Cup Unveiled
As part of a shake-up to the state of sprint racing across Europe, the Commonwealth Cup made its first appearance in Royal Ascot 2015. It replaced the rather short-lived Buckingham Palace Stakes, only founded in 2002. Although some responded poorly to the axing of the handicap, the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup rapidly became a valued addition to the five day meet. Muhaarar became our first ever winner of the race, seeing off 17 other runners during a well-attended opening edition.
2016 – Significant Funding Increase
A meeting as popular as Royal Ascot will continue to offer more and more prize money but it received a particularly large boost in 2016. An extra £1m was up for grabs this year, representing an 18% increase on the previous year. The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was one of the largest benefactors with its purse leaping up to £750,000 from £525,000.
2017 – Queen’s Vase Reclassified Once Again
Since the present system of race grading emerged, the Queen’s Vase has moved between being a Group 3 and a Listed contest. In 2014 it was on the receiving end of a downgrade but three years later the European Pattern Committee promoted it to Group 2 after recognising the importance of having more high quality flat staying races. They also took the decision of reducing the contest two furlongs in distance.
2018 – Norfolk Stakes Joins Breeders’ Cup Challenge
The Norfolk Stakes becomes the latest event added to the popular Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, serving alongside four other races as a “Win and You’re In” contest for the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Wesley Ward’s Shang Shang Shang won the first Norfolk renewal following the change but unsuitable ground ruled him out of the contest at Churchill Downs.