From a sporting point of view, Royal Ascot is like horse racing’s Olympics in that the quality of competition is second to none and of course it brings in competitors from various territories around the globe.
Apart from the fact that the five-day, 30-race meeting is jam packed full of quality, evidenced by the £7million in prize money the owners, trainers and jockeys have to fight for, the meeting is about so much more than that.
A Very Royal Meeting
Much to the chagrin of pure horse racing fans who only want to watch and hear about the horses, Royal Ascot is about fashion, it’s about the Royal Family, it’s about being a huge social occasion and all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it and these things are televised about as much as the sport itself.
The first race of the meeting is the Queen Anne Stakes, named after the founder of Ascot Racecourse who declared the amazing venue open back to 1711 and that royal association with this track has never waned.
This meeting, which takes place in mid-to-late June, has been attended by Queen Elizabeth II every year without fail since 1945, her carriage making its way down the home straight just before racing starts on each and every day with people even able to bet on what colour she will be wearing!
Fully 200 years after the inauguration of the track, this week in 1911 became known as Royal Week and so in essence Royal Ascot as we know it was born 108 years ago and has gone from strength to strength since then to become probably the most important and significant part of horse racing history, certainly as far as flat racing in Great Britain is concerned.
Although 300,000 people attend this event over the five days of brilliant action in various parts of the course, including within picnics areas and such, in the Royal Enclosure a strict dress code is enforced.
For those lucky enough to be in this exclusive part of the track morning suits and top hats the order of the day for gentleman, and measurements are enforced upon ladies regarding headpieces and dresses as very high standards are maintained.
Ascot’s Media Appeal
On most British racecourses most days of the week, there are plenty of empty spaces and the need only for a satellite TV channel and the usual bunch of racing reporters and handicappers, but such is the global appeal of the Royal meeting that accreditation is incredibly difficult to get hold of.
The world’s racing and sporting media descend on Ascot during these five days and as such, experienced press people who have left it too late to gain accreditation have been known to be outright refused entry to the track during the most important week of action anywhere on the flat racing calendar.
Participants in races can and often do come from the USA, France, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan as well alongside the usual British and Irish competitors and with that comes television and online interest from each of those territories and far beyond.
In 2019 authorities agreed to move Wednesday’s feature race, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, forward by 40 minutes simply to accommodate Japanese television viewers as they had a representative in the race and Ascot wanted them to be able to see it before midnight local time to maximise exposure, while Australian audiences have been known stay up overnight in order to watch horses such as Black Caviar do their thing.
Royal Ascot Betting Turnover
The millions both generated and churned out by Ascot don’t stop with the prize money, the TV rights or the 300,000 people spending small fortunes on Champagne and lobster, as the track and more importantly the industry as a whole rely on betting turnover and Ascot’s contribution from the Royal meeting is huge.
Across the five days of action, these 30 races will generate in excess of £150million in betting revenue and while a lot of that goes into the private coffers of the bookmakers, it does mean continued levy money for the sport’s governing body, something that with the current betting model in Britain the sport definitely needs.
Despite the Group 1 races being the main draw for true lovers of the sport, the various 20+ runner handicap races are the real betting events with the Royal Hunt Cup, the Britannia Stakes and the Wokingham Stakes among the best supported races of the whole year in Britain in betting terms.
Horse racing betting sites are rife with information about Ascot, the top online bookmakers and all the latest news on the sport as we move through another wonderful and Royal week of top class racing at Ascot.