The Origins of Royal Ascot
When you are talking about a day at the races then Ascot and in particular Royal Ascot is one of the first things that pops into your head. Everything about this unique event is steeped in British culture, but it has become a truly international event embraced by all who attend.
The first race to take place at Ascot was called Her Majesty’s Plate, taking place on Saturday 11th August 1711. It was worth a 100 guineas to the winner, that contest place across three heats, each four-miles long so the winner required great stamina. Very different to the races held at the track nowadays.
The origins of modern day Royal Ascot can be traced back to 1807 and the inaugural running of the Gold Cup. That race still survives to this day and is the feature event of Royal Ascot Ladies Day, one of the most popular afternoons in the British sporting calendar.
Royal Ascot is now an important part of British culture and combines the very best elements of sport, fashion, tradition and pageantry to create a five day event like no other. Each day is opened with the famous Royal Procession which dates back to the 1820’s and the reign of King George IV, when it was known as the Royal Parade or Royal Drive.
It was around this time that the famous dress code, which all guests inside the Royal Enclosure are required to wear, was brought into effect by Beau Brummell. The dress code is now one of the most important and recognisable aspects of the meeting.
Those attending the earliest days of Royal Ascot could not have imagined that the event would grow to the size it is today. It is estimated that around 300,000 guests descend upon Ascot for the five day racing bonanza; making it the best attended race meeting anywhere in Europe.
The meeting also remains an important part of the year for the Royal Family with the Queen’s passion for horse racing evident. Since taking the throne she has owned 22 horses who have entered the winners’ enclosure at Royal Ascot including Estimate who won the Queens Vase in 2012 before following up in the Gold Cup in 2013.
Estimate’s Gold Cup win drew one of the biggest cheers of the week as Ryan Moore galvanized his mount to win by a neck, remarkably it was the first time in the races long history it had been won by a reigning monarch.
That victory was followed Dartmouth’s superb performance in the Group 2 Harwicke Stakes in 2016, what a way for Her Majesty to celebrate her 90th birthday.
2021 certainly promises to be another fabulous occasion. For the upcoming event yet more memories will be cherished as horses, jockeys, trainers and owners look to leave their mark on the long and illustrious history of the world’s greatest race meeting – Royal Ascot.