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A Brief History of the Royal Ascot

Anyone who is passionate about horseracing is familiar with the Royal Ascot festival.  The Royal Ascot is the biggest racing event of the year in the UK and the Ascot Racecourse is among the most prestigious tracks in the world.  Interested in learning more about the history of the course and the event?  Read on to find out more!

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Ascot’s remarkable history dates back to 1711.  In those days, it was known as “East Cote.”  Queen Anne was riding near Windsor Castle, and stumbled upon an open area which she said looked “ideal for horses to gallop at a full stretch.”  She founded the Ascot Racecourse that year.  The first race was held that August 11th, and was called “Her Majesty’s Plate.”  It was worth 100 guineas and was open to any horse over six years old.  The race itself had a very different format from any modern race at Ascot, and sadly, we have no idea who won that year.  Every year since, the Royal Ascot opens with the Queen Anne Stakes to honour the racecourse’s royal founder.

William Lowen laid the first racecourse, and the first permanent building went up in 1794.  Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure in 1813 to protect Ascot Health as a racecourse, and a new grandstand opened in 1839.  A decade later in 1913, Parliament created the Ascot Authority to manage the racecourse.  That same entity still is in charge of the racecourse to this day. 

Originally, the only race that happened at Ascot was a four-day event called the Royal Meeting.  No one is entirely sure how this event originated.  The format transformed over time, and didn’t resemble the modern version of the fixture until 1807, when the Gold Cup was introduced.  Since 1939, a number of other fixtures have been added, including the Steeplechase and Hurdles, which were introduced in 1965.  The Gold Cup however remains the main event.  It is generally the busiest day, and is known as “Ladies’ Day.” 

What are some recent landmark events at Ascot?

  • In 2009, a horse named Yeats, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Johnny Murtagh, won his fourth consecutive Gold Cup.  This is an extraordinary achievement, and it will likely be some time before another horse manages it (if any horse ever does)!
  • 2011 was Ascot’s tercentenary.  To commemorate this historic occasion, the racecourse staged the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day.  This event is now the peak of the flat racing season in Europe.
  • 2012 marked another thrilling event.  The world’s four top racehorses ran against each other, and Frankel emerged victorious.  Frankel is now retired and unbeaten.

The Royal Ascot is one of the most exciting events in the world of horseracing, and a visit to the track is well worthwhile to experience the exhilaration firsthand, and also immerse yourself in the racecourse’s amazing history.  If you cannot attend in person, you can always watch the horse racing live streaming services of online bookies or through the live streaming the live coverage on Channel 4!

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