Royal Ascot 2020 Guide: History, info and race schedule
All you need to know ahead of Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot is always one of the highlights of the racing calendar, but it’s going to be very different this year.
It’s usually the best-attended race meeting in Europe, with over 300,000 usually in attendance across the festival. But the Ascot centrepiece will be held behind closed doors for the first time in its history this year.
That means there will be no spectators, with only a select group allowed on site, including trainers and a small ITV Racing crew.
There will also be no royal presence, with the Queen set to watch from Windsor Castle rather than the Royal Enclosure. Even the usual formal dress code has been relaxed, in a further break from tradition.
However, there’ll still be plenty of great racing. This year sees a packed 36-race card, and you’ll find all the key info right here.
Royal Ascot History
Ascot’s long association with the Royal Family dates back to its very inception. Queen Anne came across a clearing that she thought would be ideal for racing in 1711. The equestrian fan bought the land for the equivalent of £558 and ordered it to be prepared for racing. The first race, Her Majesty’s Plate, had a purse of 100 guineas.
King George IV initiated the first royal carriage procession on the track in 1825, a tradition that still continues in modern times. However, the first Royal Ascot wasn’t held until 1911, when the week of races in the third week of June became known as a Royal Week.
Still going strong over 100 years later, Royal Ascot is arguably the main event on the flat racing calendar.
Last year’s meet had a total of £7.3m on offer in prize money. That was due to rise to a record £8.1m this year, before the recent upheaval saw it cut to £3.7m.
Royal Ascot Course
Ascot’s course is a right-handed triangle, just over 1m 6f round, with a 2 ½ furlong. It can pose a real test for any horse, with the highest point on the galloping course coming just past the post. That means that there is an uphill climb almost the entire length of the straight.
The round course sees its lowest point at the Old Mile start, which can offer respite ahead of the straight in longer races. On the other hand, the bend into the home straight is very tight for round-course races, which can cause congestion.
Royal Ascot Schedule
Tuesday 16th June: Royal Ascot Day 1
With no royal procession or any crowds, this is going to be a very different opening day. But there are still seven races to enjoy, starting with the Buckingham Palace Handicap. Having been cut when the Commonwealth Cup was introduced in 2015, it now opens the meeting.
Day 1 also features five Group contests in a row – the Queen Anne Stakes, Ribblesdale Stakes, King Edward VII Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes and the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
As exciting as that line-up is, particularly the potential showdown between King Of Change, Circus Maximus and Benbatl in the Queen Anne, the King’s Stand Stakes looks set to be the highlight of the day.
Having finished as runner-up in 2018 and 2019, Battaash will hope to take first this time around, but he faces challenges from the likes of Hello Youmzain and last season’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner Glass Slippers.
Ascot 13:15 – Buckingham Palace Handicap
Ascot 13:50 – The Queen Anne Stakes
Ascot 14:25 – The Ribblesdale Stakes
Ascot 15:00 – The King Edward VII Stakes
Ascot 15:35 – The King’s Stand Stakes
Ascot 16:10 – The Duke of Cambridge Stakes
Ascot 16:40 – The Ascot Stakes
Wednesday 17th June – Royal Ascot Day 2
There are another seven races to enjoy on Day 2, including the newly-added Silver Royal Hunt Cup, for horses who didn’t qualify for the main race. However, as ever, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the most eagerly-anticipated race of the day.
Having seen Sir Michael Stoute triumph in the last two renewals, Aidan O’Brien will hope that Japan can deliver for him. Barney Roy, Ghaiyyath and Headman could also be in the mix for the 1m 2f renewal.
The aforementioned Royal Hunt Cup is the first big Handicap of the meet. It can always throw up a surprise, with last year’s winner Afaak going off at 20/1.
Ascot 13:15 – The Silver Royal Hunt Cup
Ascot 13:50 – The Hampton Court Stakes
Ascot 14:25 – The King George V Stakes
Ascot 15:00 – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes
Ascot 15:35 – The Royal Hunt Cup
Ascot 16:10 – The Windsor Castle Stakes
Ascot 16:40 – The Copper Horse Handicap
Thursday 18th June – Royal Ascot Day 3
Ladies Day is another Ascot tradition that will be disrupted this year, though the action on the track should catch the eye.
It’s Gold Cup day, with Stradivarius looking to follow his 2018 and 2019 successes to make it three wins in a row. If he wins again, John Gosden’s star will only be one win away from Yeats’ record tally of four.
His work will be cut out for him though, with Kew Gardens looking to repeat October’s Long Distance Cup victory, and Anthony Van Dyck another credible threat.
Day Three also sees the cream of the two-year-old crop duke it out in the Chesham Stakes, with the Britannia and Sandringham Stakes a very nice way to close the card.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on Frankie Dettori. He won four races in a spectacular Ladies Day showing last year. Will he shine again?
Ascot 13:15 – The Golden Gates Handicap
Ascot 13:50 – The Wolferton Stakes
Ascot 14:25 – The Jersey Stakes
Ascot 15:00 – The Chesham Stakes
Ascot 15:35 – The Gold Cup
Ascot 16:10 – The Britannia Stakes
Ascot 16:40 – The Sandringham Stakes
Friday 19th June – Royal Ascot Day Four
The Commonwealth Cup is one of five Group contests on Day Four, with Pierre Lapin leading the market ahead of Earthlight, Golden Horde and Mums Tipple. Wesley Ward will also be representing the States with Kimari, who came second in last year’s Queen Mary.
There’ll be more talented two-year-olds in the Albany and Norfolk Stakes, while three-year-old stayers will be looking to follow the example of Stradivarius, Kew Gardens and more by winning the Queen’s Vase.
13:15 – The Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes
13:50 – The Albany Stakes
14:25 – The Norfolk Stakes
15:00 – The Hardwicke Stakes
15:35 – The Commonwealth Cup
16:10 – The Queen’s Vase
16:40 – The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
Saturday 20th June – Royal Ascot Day 5
Royal Ascot wraps up with a bumper eight-race card on Saturday. It starts with the Silver Wokingham, for those horses who miss out on the main race at 16:10 – that’s shaping up to be one of the most closely-fought races of the week.
The St James’s Palace brings together the season’s standout three-year-old colts again, just two weeks after the 2,000 Guineas. Having lost for the first time at Newmarket, will Pinatubo get back to winning ways?
That’s followed by the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – will any horse match Blue Point’s famous double of the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee from last year? James Doyles’ mount became the first horse to pull it off since Choisir in 2003.
Ascot 12:40 – The Silver Wokingham Handicap
Ascot 13:15 – The Queen Mary Stakes
Ascot 13:50 – The Coronation Stakes
Ascot 14:25 – The Coventry Stakes
Ascot 15:00 – The St James’s Palace Stakes
Ascot 15:35 – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Ascot 16:10 – The Wokingham Stakes
Ascot 16:40 – The Queen Alexandra Stakes
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication