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, on Saturday 11th August 1711. It was worth 100 guineas to the winner; that contest took 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 today 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 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 1820s and the reign of King George IV when it was known as the Royal Parade or Royal Drive.
Around this time, 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 meeting’s most important and recognisable aspects.
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 Queen’s 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 galvanised his mount to win by a neck; remarkably, it was the first time in the races’ history a reigning monarch had won it.
That victory followed Dartmouth’s superb performance in the Group 2 Harwicke Stakes in 2016; what a way for Her Majesty to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Last year, Naval Crown concluded Royal Ascot for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin as he took the final day highlight for the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, narrowly beating Creative Force.
2023 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.