Royal Ascot - all you need to know for five fantastic days of flat racing

The grand surroundings of Ascot / Picture by Malcolm Wells
The grand surroundings of Ascot / Picture by Malcolm Wells

One of the highlights of the flat racing season - Royal Ascot - begins on Tuesday and there is plenty of interest in this part of the world.

Plenty of Sussex racing connections will be present - while Goodwood bosses will keep a keen eye on Tuesday's two prestigious one-mile races, where the leading contenders could go forward to the £1m Sussex Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.

Below, courtesy of the Racing Post, is your complete guide to this week's five days of top-class action

The Royal Ascot fashion bible

Experts at horse racing's authority, Racing Post, give you a rundown of the essential do's and don'ts and latest trends for budding fashionistas in Berkshire this week

* 2019 is the first year racegoers are welcome to dress as they identify - visitors have been told to dress how they “feel most comfortable”, meaning ladies are permitted to dress in gentlemen’s clothes - and vice versa - as long as the strict rules are not broken.

* The key things to bear in mind when avoiding a style snafu in the prestigious Royal Enclosure include skirt and dress hemlines just above the knee or longer, straps of one inch or wider, and a hat or headpiece with a base of four inches. Fascinators are a big no-no. As of 2017 jumpsuits are AOK, as are trouser suits.

* In the Queen Anne Enclosure, women's attire must still “be befitting a formal occasion”, including a hat, headpiece or fascinator, trouser suit and jumpsuit hemlines below the knee, no shorts and covered midriffs. No strapless or sheer numbers - including off the shoulder, Bardot and one shoulder.

* For men in the Village Enclosure chinos are omitted from the 'banned' list, which is now comprised of just jeans and trainers.

* And whatever the enclosure, don't forget that national dress for overseas visitors and service dress for military personnel is allowed.

Commenting on the most recent Ascot fashion changes, RacingPost.com's resident fashion expert Katherine Fidler said: "Depending on your view, the Royal Ascot dress code is either a charming, quintessentially British tradition serving an annual reminder of our roots or an outdated, archaic nightmare, a five-day cavalcade of the country's inequality in fashion show form.

"If you want to join the thousands of racegoers enjoying the action live, then the dress code is non-negotiable. Even beginning to tread this sartorial tightrope is daunting enough!

"Most importantly though, remember - it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it. Don't be intimidated by the four-figure price tags on show in Ascot's official guide, high-street style holds up just as well. Of course, those more up with the zeitgeist than Oliver Brown or Victoria Beckham might wish to go vintage, saving a few pennies and the planet simultaneously."

Royal Ascot in numbers

How long is the meeting? 5 days Tuesday-Saturday

How many races? 30

How many racegoers? 300,000

How much prize money is on offer? £7.3 million

How many countries are represented with horses runing? Eight – France, Australia, Hong Kong, USA and of course Britain & Ireland

When did the first race first take place here? 1711

How many years has The Queen attended the meeting? 67

How many Royal Ascot winners has The Queen owned? 23

The Queen at Royal Ascot - a right royal show

Her runners this week:

Wednesday 5.00 - Elector & Seniority

Thursday 3.05 – Eightsome Reel

Friday 4.20 – Magnetic Charm

Friday 5.35 – Sextant

Royal Ascot and Ascot racecourse have been closely associated with the royal family from the very beginning, the track having been founded by Queen Anne in 1711 after she came across the site while out riding. The first race, Her Majesty’s Plate, took place on August 11.

Close to Windsor Castle, the track is very much a local course for the royal family and Royal Ascot has received patronage from many monarchs since Queen Anne, including the current Queen Elizabeth II, who has attended every Royal Ascot during her 67-year reign.

The Queen does not just enjoy Royal Ascot as a spectator - she has had 23 winners at the big meeting as an owner. The first to carry her famous purple and red colours to victory was Choir Boy in the 1953 Royal Hunt Cup, just one year after the Queen ascended to the throne, and the most recent was Dartmouth, who won the Hardwicke Stakes in 2016.

However, the Queen’s greatest moment at Royal Ascot was provided by the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Estimate. She is the only horse owned by the Queen to have won twice at Royal Ascot, having landed the 2012 Queen’s Vase and the following year’s Gold Cup. But, far more importantly, her Gold Cup victory was a first for a reigning monarch in the 212-year history of the oldest race at Royal Ascot.

The most celebrated association between Royal Ascot and the royal family is the royal procession, a cavalcade of horse-drawn carriages in which the royal party enter the racecourse each day before racing.

The tradition was established by King George IV in 1825 and originally the carriages carried the royal party all the way from Windsor Castle on to the racecourse. But today the Queen, her guests and other members of the royal family are first taken by car from the castle to Windsor Great Park. There they are transferred to the awaiting carriages in order to continue their journey to the racecourse, which they enter via a gate at the start of the straight mile before proceeding down the track in front of racegoers at 2pm each day to the parade ring.

The majority of the race titles at Royal Ascot reflect the royal family’s enduring relationship with the meeting. The opening race of Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes, commemorates the founder of Ascot racecourse, while the Queen’s Vase was established in 1838 to mark Queen Victoria’s first visit to Royal Ascot as monarch. The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was initiated in 1862 to mark the death the previous year of Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, after which she stopped attending Royal Ascot having withdrawn from public life.

The most recent race to be named after a member of the royal family is the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, which had previously been the Windsor Forest Stakes but was renamed in honour of Prince William in 2013.

Royal Ascot – the top horses to watch from Racing Post’s tipping experts:

Tuesday

King’s Stand Stakes – Battaash – Sprinter attempts to establish himself as fastest in the world over 5 furlongs. 2/1

Wednesday

Royal Hunt Cup – New Graduate – Romped home by 5 lengths last time out and looks primed to win the contest with one of the biggest fields of the week. 5/1

Thursday

Gold Cup - Stradivarius – Red hot favourite to retain race he won last year arrives in top form. 6/4

Friday

Albany Stakes – Nayibeth – American trainer Wesley Ward's best chance of a Royal Ascot triumph. 5/1

Saturday

Diamond Jubilee Stakes – City Light – Looks the pick of the French runners and has strong course form. 8/1