Ascot Racecourse – Venue of the Month
25 April 2017
Few sporting venues can match the rich heritage and history of Ascot Racecourse.
Over the past 300 years, Ascot has established itself as a national institution; with Royal Ascot becoming the centrepiece of the British social calendar and the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world. We wanted to provide you with an insight into the very special history that surrounds this prestigious venue.
- It was Queen Anne in 1711 that first saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot (in those days called East Cote). Whilst out riding near Windsor Castle she came upon an area of open heath that looked, in her words, “ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch”.
- The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place later that year, on Saturday 11th August. The inaugural event was Her Majesty’s Plate, worth 100 guineas and open to any horse, mare or gelding over six years of age.
- The nature of the contest also bears little resemblance to modern day racing at Ascot. That race consisted of three separate heats, each four miles long – about the length of today’s Grand National course. Queen Anne's gift to racing, founding the Royal Racecourse, is marked by the tradition of opening Royal Ascot with the Queen Anne Stakes.
- The racecourse was laid out by William Lowen, assisted by a team including a carpenter, a painter, and a racing administrator. The first permanent building was erected around 1794 by a local Windsor builder. Holding 1,650 people, it was used for almost fifty years. In 1813, Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure, which ensured that Ascot Heath, would be kept and used as a racecourse for the public in the future. Racing at Ascot was now secure.
- The precise origins of the Royal Meeting are unclear, as the event evolved from the first four-day meeting that took place in 1768. The meeting as it’s known today only started to take shape with the introduction of the Gold Cup in 1807. Royal Ascot was the only race meeting held at Ascot until 1939.
- The Gold Cup remains the feature race of the third day of Royal Ascot, traditionally the busiest day of the week and colloquially known as “Ladies’ Day”.
- Although founded by a Queen and located on Crown property, the administration of Ascot is handled on behalf of the Crown by a representative appointed by the Monarch.
- As an owner and breeder of racehorses, Her Majesty The Queen takes a keen interest in the races, and has had great success with her own horses over the years. The jockeys riding Her Majesty's horses can be identified by The Queen's racing colours: purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves, and black velvet cap with gold fringe – the same as those of King Edward VII and George IV as Prince Regent.
- During Royal Ascot, The Queen traditionally presents the Gold Cup and The Diamond Jubilee Stakes. New versions of these trophies are made each year and presented to winners to keep.
- Ascot Racecourse closed for a £200-million redevelopment in 2004. It was reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on 20th June 2006.
- In 2011, Ascot celebrated its tercentenary and staged the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day, now the climax to the European flat racing season.
- Ascot was at the heart of the country’s celebrations to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, with the Golden Jubilee Stakes renamed the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and won by Australian legend, Black Caviar.
- In 2012 the world’s four top horses on official ratings ran at Ascot, something no other venue could claim and king of them all, of course, was the mighty Frankel.
For any enquires to host your event at Ascot Racecourse, please contact their very helpful Events team:
+ 44 (0) 844 346 3611