Royal Ascot starts today, and it is racing’s most prestigious meeting. It takes place every year in June, although when Ascot racecourse, which is owned by the Queen, was being redeveloped in 2005, that year’s race meeting was held at York Racecourse.
Two highlights of Royal Ascot are Ladies Day, and the Gold Cup, both on Thursday. On Ladies Day, bets are traditionally placed on which colour hat the Queen will be wearing. The Gold Cup was dominated in the late 2000s by the horse Yeates, who had four consecutive wins in that race before retiring in 2009.
The Queen has owned 21 winning horses at Ascot and last year was presented with The Queen’s Vase by the Duke of Edinburgh after her horse, Estimate, won that race by five lengths.
The Queen usually attends every day of Ascot, and each day she hosts a lunch for her guests at Windsor Castle before leaving in cars at 1.35pm and driving to the Ascot Gate of Windsor Great Park. They then transfer to horse drawn carriages for the procession down the course to the Royal Box.
Last year, among the Queen’s guests were Carole and Michael Middleton, parents of the Duchess of Cambridge. The Duchess is not due to attend Royal Ascot this year, as she is expecting the imminent birth of her first child. The Duke of Edinburgh is not expected to attend Royal Ascot as he recovers from surgery days after being released from hospital.
Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and the Royal Procession was started in the 1820s in the reign of George IV. At that time, it was referred to as the Royal Parade or Royal Drive. The Royal Family will be in the Royal Enclosure. Entry to this enclosure is strict – one must be sponsored by an existing member who has attended for four years previously. The dress code in this enclosure is equally exacting with men required to wear morning dress (top hat and tails) and ladies must be in formal dresses or matching trouser suits and hats with a substantial brim (no fascinators).
The Queen first went to Royal Ascot in 1945 and has attended every year since.