Steeped in history and a part of British culture, Royal Ascot is the horse racing event of the year. Held annually in June, the event takes place over a period of five days and is attended by about 300,000 people, many of whom come for the social event rather than because they’re interested in horse racing!
Where is Royal Ascot?
Royal Ascot takes place at Ascot Racecourse, which is in the village of Ascot in Berkshire, in the south of England. Ascot itself is only a small village with basic amenities including some places to stay, but there are many larger towns in the vicinity including Bracknell, Windsor and Egham where you’ll find plenty of accommodation to choose from.
What is Royal Ascot?
Royal Ascot is one of the major events of the British social calendar. And though it may be a race meeting, for many visitors Royal Ascot is more of a social get together than an admiration for the sport of horse racing!
Despite this, the Royal Meeting (as it’s officially called), hosts some of the most prestigious races in the world. Although it’s often the attendees and what they’re wearing which gets the most media coverage, the races are very important in the racing calendar, with a total prize money of over £3 million on offer.
So if you’re planning on attending Royal Ascot, here’s some useful information about the races!
Ladies’ Day is historically the most popular day of Royal Ascot and takes place on Day 3 (Thursday). This has always been the best attended day because the Ascot Gold Cup is held. It’s not certain why this became known as Ladies’ Day, but the assumption is that traditionally more ladies happened to come to Royal Ascot on this day!
Out of a total of 30 races, Royal Ascot features 16 Group races across the five days, and each day features at least one Group One race. Group One races are held in the highest regard and include ‘Classics’ and other races of major international importance. As already mentioned, there’s the Ascot Gold Cup, plus other Group One races include the King’s Stand Stakes, St. James’s Palace Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Coronation Stakes and Golden Jubilee Stakes.
Other famous races include the Queen’s Vase and the Royal Hunt Cup, and the winners of these, along with the Gold Cup, have their trophies presented by the Queen. Interestingly these three trophies are actually re-made each year so that the winners get to keep them, unlike with the other races where the winners have to give the trophies back after a year.
Royal Ascot is well renowned for being a smart occasion and for some attendees it’s a bit of a fashion show to see who’s wearing the best dress or the best hat!
At Royal Ascot, Women must wear a formal dress with a hat and cannot have their midriffs or shoulders showing. Miniskirts aren’t allowed, and trousers must be full length! Whilst men have to be in a suit.
Less strict than the Royal Enclosure is the Grandstand. Women must be smartly dressed, and although hats aren’t compulsory here, many women like to wear them. Men are required to wear a shirt and a tie and preferably a suit or jacket. And for Silver Ring admission although smart dress is encouraged there isn’t a formal dress code.
A History of Royal Ascot
Ascot has always had a royal connection as it was Queen Anne who came up with the idea of Ascot Racecourse in 1711. Like many royals, Queen Anne was a keen rider and was out riding one day from Windsor Castle when she came across this area of land and thought it would be perfect for horse racing. Not long after, the first race took place on Saturday, August 11, 1711, and now the Queen Anne Stakes are held in memory of Ascot’s founder.
The Royal Meeting apparently evolved over time as it wasn’t an event which had been specifically planned like this. Although there had commonly been royalty at race meetings, the format of Royal Ascot that we know today really came into being with the running of the first Gold Cup in 1807. Royal Ascot has grown in popularity every year since then.