Ascot Racecourse

Ascot Racecourse, located in Ascot, Berkshire, is steeped in tradition and synonymous with high society and royalty. The racecourse is most famous for its annual Royal Ascot meeting, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors, including the British Royal Family, every June. With a blend of rich history, top quality races, and a vibrant social scene, Ascot Racecourse is an icon of the international racing scene.

The Ascot Flat Racing Course

The flat racing course at Royal Ascot, also known as the Swinley Course, is a triangular right-hand circuit running a length of approximately 1 mile and 6 furlongs. The course is notorious for the final uphill stretch of the race which follows in the wake of a downhill section in the longest side of the racecourse.

The New Mile course extends the Ascot flat racing course with a mile-long uphill section for all races up to one mile. The Old Mile course, in contrast, offers an alternative extension route with an L-shaped course extension.

Like all flat racing courses, the challenge for jockeys taking on the Ascot flat racing course is to pace the race to perfection whilst balancing racehorse stamina with speed. The uphill gradient at the finish requires racehorses to demonstrate formidable stamina in longer races in order to gain on leaders or build on a lead in the final stretch.

The Ascot National Hunt Racing Course

The Ascot National Hunt racing course runs parallel to the Ascot flat racing course, taking up the inner part of the racecourse. The length of the Ascot National Hunt racing course is equivalent to the Ascot flat racing course at approximately 1 mile and 6 furlongs, with a 2-furlong uphill run-in. The Ascot national hunt racing course comprises ten fences and six flights of hurdles. The design of the Ascot national hunt racing course encourages racehorses to run races at a gallop.

History of Ascot Racecourse

Ascot Racecourse has a fascinating history that dates back over three centuries. Here are some of the most interesting highlights:

Early Beginnings

The racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, who was out riding near Windsor Castle when she came across an area of open heath that seemed perfect for horse racing. She established the first race, known as Her Majesty’s Plate, with a prize of 100 guineas. The race, open to any horse over six years old, was run in three heats, each four miles long.

Royal Patronage

From its inception, Ascot Racecourse has enjoyed the patronage of the British Royal Family. The tradition of Royal Ascot, held every June, began to take shape in the 19th century under the influence of King George IV. This meeting has become one of the most important in the British social calendar, combining the highest level of racing with a distinct sense of occasion.

19th Century Developments

Throughout the 19th century, Ascot underwent several significant changes. In 1813, an Act of Parliament ensured that the course would remain a public racecourse. The Victorian era saw the construction of the first permanent grandstand in 1839, enhancing the spectator experience and cementing Ascot’s status as a premier racing venue.

20th Century to the Present

The 20th century brought further advancements and challenges. During both World Wars, the racecourse was used for military purposes, disrupting the regular racing schedule. Post-war, Ascot continued to evolve, with major redevelopment projects in the 1960s and early 2000s. The latest redevelopment, completed in 2006, introduced state-of-the-art facilities and a new grandstand, ensuring Ascot’s place at the forefront of world racing.

Notable Races and Events

Ascot hosts several notable races throughout the year, including the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Ascot Gold Cup, and the Queen Anne Stakes. Each race has its unique history and significance, contributing to Ascot’s rich tapestry of horse racing excellence.