Introduction to Ascot Racecourse, founded in 1711 is the world’s most famous racecourse.
It was Queen Anne who first saw the potential of a racecourse for Ascot, which in those days was known at East Cote. Whilst out riding she came across an area of open heath, not far from Windsor Castle, that looked an ideal place for “horses to gallop at full stretch.” The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place on Saturday, August 11, 1711. Her Majesty’s Plate, worth 100 guineas was the inaugural event, open to any horse, mare or gelding over the age of six. Each horse was required to carry a weight of 12st and seven runners took part. The contest bore little resemblance to racing seen at Ascot today. The seven horses were all English Hunters, quite different to the speedy thoroughbreds that race on the flat now. The race consisted of three separate heats, each four miles long, so the winner would have been a horse with tremendous stamina.
Racing at Ascot became very popular and, in 1813 Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure. This act ensured that Ascot Heath, although property of the crown, would be kept and used as a racecourse for the public in the future.
Today the racecourse is managed by the Ascot Authority, created by an Act of Parliament passed in 1913. His Majesty’s Representative became Chairman of the Authority with the Clerk of the Course acting as secretary.
Today Ascot retains both these positions, but with the additional appointment of a Chief Executive and departmental directors under him.
The fantastic Royal Ascot is a week of celebration in June of each year. Whilst the course has been closed for redevelopment for 2 years, next year’s 2006 Ascot Week will be all the better. And what better place could you choose to enjoy some pre-race or end-of-day food and beverages than the Duke of Edinburgh – just 1/2 mile from the famous racecourse.
The Royal Enclosure
The first reference of a Royal Stand at Ascot Racecourse dates back to the 1790’s, when a temporary stand was established during the Royal Meeting. Entrance to this exclusive area was strictly by invitation only from King George III himself. However, according to our records it was not officially named the Royal Enclosure until May 1845. The Royal Enclosure was originally established to provide the Royal Family and their selected guests with privacy, security and exclusivity, allowing them to enjoy their day in comfort and style. This was deemed as essential following an incident that occurred in June 1832 When William IV was hit by a stone thrown by former Sailor, Dennis Collins.
Racing at Ascot today
Up until 1945 the only racing to take place at Ascot was the four day Royal Meeting. Since then the number of fixtures has steadily increased, with the introduction of the steeple chase and hurdle course in 1965, allowing National Hunt fixtures to be held during the winter months.
Today Ascot stages 25 days of racing throughout the year, 16 Flat meetings between the months of May and October and 9 National Hunt meetings between November and April. The Royal Meeting, held in June is undoubtedly the most famous of these, where top class racing is combined with tradition, pageantry and style. Other highlights include Diamond Day, featuring the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, The Blue Square Shergar Cup, racing’s only team competition and the BETDAQ Festival of racing, featuring The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Ascot Racecourse welcomes some 500,000 racegoers through the gates each year and continues to offer unbeatable racing action. Queen Anne would surely be very proud of her sporting legacy to the nation.