Ascot Racecourse is situated in the county of Berkshire, in southeast England, adjacent to Windsor Great Park and approximately six miles from Windsor Castle. Ascot has long been associated with the British Royal Family and it was, in fact, Queen Anne who founded the racecourse in 1711. The first permanent building was erected on Ascot Heath in 1794 and in 1813 a Parliamentary Act of Enclosure safeguarded its future as a racecourse. A royal party, including King George IV, first made a formal procession up the Straight Mile in 1825 and until 1939 the Royal Meeting was the only meeting of the year. However, National Hunt racing arrived at Ascot in 1965, shortly after the closure of nearby Hurst Park Racecourse and, today, it hosts 26 race days a year. Indeed, Ascot Racecourse accounts for 10% of all race goers in the country, with over half a million visitors each year.
General admission prices at Ascot are £30 for the Premier Enclosure and £20 for the Grandstand Enclosure, although concessions are available for advanced and group bookings and admission is free for accompanied children.
For corporate events, such as exhibitions and meetings, Ascot offers a range of flexible indoor and outdoor spaces capable of accommodating up to 3,000 people. The Grandstand Galleria, for example, offers over 43,000 square feet of floor space, direct vehicular access and purpose-built product display areas. The Exhibition Hall similarly offers over 52,000 square feet of enclosed floor space on the ground floor of the Ascot Pavilion against a backdrop of 179 acres of parkland. In total 300 meeting rooms, including 247 private boxes, are available at Ascot and all of them are supported by a dedicated events team.
What’s Unique about the Course at Ascot?
The round course at Ascot is a right-handed, galloping, testing track with stiff fences and hurdles. The course is triangular and descends from the mile and a half start to Swinley Bottom, at the apex of the triangle, levels out and ascends steadily from the home turn to less than a furlong from the winning post.
The straight course descends from the start to the five furlong marker and ascends to its junction with the round course. The uphill finish makes Ascot a thorough test of stamina on the Flat and over Jumps, especially on soft going.
Noteable Races and Events at Ascot
The Gold Cup, run over 2 miles 4 furlongs on the third day of the Royal Meeting, is the oldest surviving race at Ascot, having first been contested in 1807. The Gold Cup is just one of three races at the Royal Meeting for which the winning owner receives a trophy, presented by a member of the Royal Family, which is theirs to keep. The other two races are the Queen’s Vase, first run in 1838 and the Royal Hunt Cup, first run in 1843.
The most successful horse in the history of the Gold Cup was Yeats, owned by Mrs. John Magnier and Mrs. David Nagle and trained at Ballydoyle, County Tipperary by Aidan O’Brien. Yeats won four consecutive Gold Cups between 2006 and 2009 and now stands at Coolmore Stud.
Ascot was also the site of arguably the best Flat race ever run on British Soil, between Grundy and Bustino in the 1975 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The form book records that Grundy, trained by Peter Walwyn and ridden by Pat Eddery, beat Bustino, trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden by Joe Mercer, by half a length. However, the bare result doesn’t do justice to the titanic duel that took place between them.
Bustino took the lead turning into the home straight and soon went four lengths clear, but was tackled by Grundy at the furlong pole. Bustino rallied and the pair remained locked together until close to home, where Bustino appeared to falter and Grundy forged ahead to win.
Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers
On the Flat at Ascot, Ryan Moore is the leading jockey during the last five seasons with 31 winners from 232 rides, although he’s hotly pursued by Richard Hughes with 28 winners from 227 rides. It’s a similar story in the leading trainers’ table, with Mark Johnston fractionally ahead, percentage-wise, with 23 winners from 249 runners, but tied with Richard Hannon, who has 23 winners from 278 runners, in terms of the absolute number of winners trained. In the leading owners’ table, Hamdam Al Maktoum, with 18 winners from 163 runners has a slightly higher strike rate than Godolphin, with 18 winners from 173 runners.
Over jumps, the situation is much clearer, at least as far as the leading jockey and trainer is concerned. Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson is way ahead of his rivals with 45 winners from 160 runners, while his stable jockey Barry Geraghty is in a similar position with 40 winners from 109 rides. Competition among National Hunt owners at Ascot is lively enough, though, with John Patrick “J.P.” McManus leading the way with 6 winners from 53 runners.