Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Royal Ascot

Racing Fit for a King

by Noel Hayes |  Published: Jul 01, 2007

Fifty-one weeks of the year, it is referred to as Ascot, but for one very special and spectacular week, racing folk dress in top hats and tails, bow to history, and welcome Royal Ascot.

There are certain weeks in the year that stick close to the memory of different genres of people: kids remember Christmas, newlyweds their honeymoon, and race goers and socialites recall Royal Ascot. It is the quintessential highlight of both the racing and social calendar alike. Race goers feast on a quality programme of group-class racing and the socialites feast on champagne and caviar. There is something there to tickle all the senses.

Dress to impress
It's not just the horses and nobility that take centre stage at Royal Ascot. No other week of the year is dress code so important. Morning suits and glamorous dresses are the order of the day. Ladies will better themselves with some of the most outrageous hats ever seen by the naked eye. Feathers, frocks, frolics - they are all seen at Royal Ascot. Neckties are a must for gentlemen who seek entry to the Royal enclosure.

Famously, Rod Stewart was refused entry on this basis, and the following day had the pleasure of seeing his picture splashed across the tabloids. I would have thought the lack of a necktie on his part was less offensive than the scanty dress that his then-current squeeze, Penny Lancaster, was wearing.

Betting opportunities are endless. While the antepost markets are generally quite benign from a racing perspective, once the week is upon us, there will be no shortage of chances to squander ones hard-earned cash. Perhaps most curious of all will be the market on the colour of the queen's hat on ladies day. No mortal man is beyond mischief, and in the past, certain punters have got the inside line on this particular market and scooped themselves a handy few quid from the blissfully unaware bookmakers.

History repeating
While the bookies aim to profit, and the punters preen, it is for royalty that this meeting is so lauded among the public and the media. For centuries, Ascot racecourse has been associated with the British royal family, with Queen Anne founding and opening the racecourse in 1711. The first race ever run, Her Majesty's Plate, had a prize pool of 100 guineas and is still commemorated in the modern-day Royal Ascot with the Queen Anne Stakes. Members of the royal family attend racing daily, making their way up the home straight in a horse-drawn carriage to great fanfare. Despite the opulence of the occasion, stylish gowns appear not to factor in the royal wardrobe. Rather, the opportunity is taken to impart that the royal wardrobe includes at least five primary colours.

Historically, the Royal Meeting was the only meeting to take place at Ascot. Subsequent meetings were added to the fixture list, and by way of distinction, the Royal prefix was dropped for these meetings. Today, Ascot hosts 27 days of racing each year. Nor is the course restricted to just flat racing, with jumps racing now well-established at the track.

Located in Berkshire, Ascot is a right-handed track of one mile and seven furlongs. It is a galloping track with long straights, which suits long-striding horses. It gives horses every chance to find their gear up the home straight, and there are rarely tales of misfortune and woe. The course provides a true test of a racehorse and offers a climb of 73 feet from its low point at Swinley Bottom to the winning line.

Royal Ascot has its traditional slot on the racing calendar in the third week of June, and offers up five days of high-class racing action. The fixture is nestled in between The Epsom Derby at the start of June and Glorious Goodwood in late July.

Going the distance
Thirty races take place over the course of the festival, and among these are six Group 1 races, eight Group 2 races, and three Group 3 races, along with a host of listed races and high-class handicaps. It is clear that Royal Ascot provides the stage where current equine greats can do battle. Champions can reaffirm their status, young pretenders rise to the top, and the bluffers get their bets called.

Traditionally, Royal Ascot is the stage for rematches from early-season classics. Guineas, Derby, and Oaks winners will be out to confirm that their victories were not but one moment of brilliance and that they are worthy of their title of classic winners. Many try and many fail, and the ones who repeat the dose are the ones we remember.

This year will be no different. 2000 Guineas winner Cockney Rebel will be out to reaffirm his status as the leading 3-year-old miler as he tackles the St. James Palace Stakes, a Group 1 race for 3-year-old colts. He bids to follow in the footsteps of a host of previous 2000 Guineas winners that went on to further glory at the Royal Meeting, including modern-day greats Rock of Gibraltar and Shamardal.

Outstanding 1000 Guineas winner, the Jim Bolger-trained Finsceal Beo will tackle the Group 1 Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, where she will undoubtedly prove that her victory in the aforementioned race in a record-breaking time is but the tip of the iceberg. Again, she must follow in the footsteps of previous greats Ridgewood Pearl, Attraction, Russian Rhythm, and Banks Hill. Based on evidence so far this year, she is more than capable of stepping up to the mark.

Key Races
Gold Cup:
This year sees the 200th running of this great race, which was once the traditional centrepiece of the meeting. This Group 1 stayers event over two miles and four furlongs certainly has lost none of its charm and prestige, despite the fact that staying races of this nature are no longer in vogue. In the past we have seen racing giants such as Double Trigger, Classic Cliché, and Westener, along with dual winners Kayf Tara and Royal Rebel, secure victory. This year will be no less an affair, as last year's winner Yeats returns in an effort to secure victory for the second time, and along with it collect the winner's purse of £137,000. Also a former winner of the Coronation Cup at Epsoms Derby meeting, Yeats ran away with this race last year in the same fashion as the dish that ran away with the spoon. His preparation this year has arguably been better than last season, and anything other than victory will be a shock to form students.

Kings Stand Stakes:
The Kings Stand Stakes, a Group 2 sprint over the minimum distance of five furlongs will see the speediest of thoroughbreds run flat-out for one minute; don't blink or you'll miss it. Last year the race was plundered by Australian horse Takeover Target, and again this year the expectation is that the race will go for export, as Dandy Man, fourth last year as a 3-year-old, returns now a year older and stronger for the experience to take the title to the Emerald Isle, and along with it, the £114,000 first prize. On this occasion, the home team will be best represented by crack sprinter Reverence.

Queen Anne Stakes:
This is a Group 1 race for 4-year-olds and older, run over one mile, which sees the older brigade lock horns. Trainers Saeed Bin Suroor and Sir Michael Stoute have had this race between them in the past, with winners such as Refuse To Bend and Kalanisi, and again this season they will offer up some of the main protagonists in the shape of Echo of Light and Jeremy. Both will have something to prove, and Aidan O'Brien will also be sending over last year's 2000 Guineas winner, the enigmatic George Washington, who proved to be a flop at stud earlier this year. On his best form, the rest would have to go something to ruffle his feathers.

Prince of Wales Stakes: This inevitably serves up one of the most exciting races of the season, and this year looks to be no different. A Group 1 outing, it is likely to see Team Coolmore direct Dylan Thomas toward this 10-furlong option, where opposition may include last year's Derby victor Sir Percy, Notnowcato, and Red Rocks. This assignment looks to be no more than a formality for the hugely impressive Dylan Thomas. Ouija Board, Azamour, Rakti, and Nayef rank among previous winners of this race, and so far, nothing suggests that Dylan Thomas is not worthy of his place among such a host of great horses.

St. James Palace Stakes: A Group 1 race over one mile for 3-year-old colts, this race has traditionally been the stage for the early-season 2000 Guineas winner to confirm its superiority. Cockney Rebel was a very good winner of this season's classic, but many with leading claims on victory will line up in opposition. Dutch Art, Duke of Marmalade, Vital Equine, and Strategic Prince all finished behind Cockney Rebel in the 2000 Guineas and will be out for revenge. An exciting race is in prospect, so expect another titanic battle to the winning line in a race that promises much.

Coronation Stakes: Classic winner Finsceal Beo will be out to record further success in this Group 1 race over one mile for 3-year-old fillies. This is a real good racehorse, and the others will be running for minor money. Stand back and watch, she is a very special filly the likes of which isn't seen too often. Indian Ink and Arch Swing, who finished behind in the Guineas, will provide the sternest opposition.

Golden Jubilee Stakes:
The second of the week's major sprint races, this is a Group 1 race over six furlongs. Many of the horses that ran earlier in the week in the Kings Stand Stakes will line out again here. Dandy Man and Reverence will again be among the leading contenders. With the benefit of the extra furlong, Assertive and Balthazars Gift should also be considered.

As well as the races for the older horses, Ascot is graced with a multitude of 2-year-old races. The Coventry Stakes, Windsor Castle Stakes, Queen Mary Stakes, Albany Stakes, and Chesham Stakes in the past have provided us with a first real taste of brilliance from some stars of the future, along with some of the earliest pointers toward the following year's classics. Fasliyev, Attraction, Flashy Wings, Damson, Dutch Art, and Johannesburg are some of the leading 2-year-olds that have romped to victory in recent years.

Keep your eyes peeled, as this time around might just catch your first glimpse of brilliance. Some exciting early-season 2-year-olds that will be making their way to Royal Ascot this season are the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Henry the Navigator and Warsaw; both have shown a high degree of promise in their fledgling careers, and whichever engagement they take up at Ascot, they will prove difficult to beat.