Few sporting venues can match the heritage and history of Ascot Racecourse. A national institution, it hosts Royal Ascot, a centrepiece of the British social calendar, attended by the Royal family, who herald the start of each day’s racing by arriving in a horse drawn carriage. Its associations with royalty go back to Queen Anne who first saw the potential for a race course here, back when it was called East Cote.
Whilst riding near Windsor Castle she came across an area of open heath that looked in her words ‘ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch’. She founded Ascot Racecourse in 1711, the first race being ‘Her Majesty’s Plate’, offering a purse of 100 guineas to the winner. The nature of that race, open to any horse, mare or gelding over 6 years of age carrying a weight of 12 stone, bares little resemblance to the speedy thoroughbred racing seen there now. Today her contribution to racing is celebrated in the opening race of Royal Ascot, The Queen Anne Stakes.
It stages a total of 26 days of racing over the year, comprising nine flat meetings between May and October and also a further six important jump racing throughout the winter months.
Other notable races are the Gold Cup, the highlight of the Royal Meeting. Its most prestigious races, the King George V1 and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes are run in late July.