A SHORT HISTORY OF ASCOT
Few sporting venues can match the rich heritage and history of Ascot Racecourse. Over the past 300 years, Ascot has established itself as a national institution; with Royal Ascot becoming the centrepiece of the British social calendar and the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world.
It was Queen Anne in 1711 that first saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot (in those days called East Cote). Whilst out riding near Windsor Castle she came upon an area of open heath that looked, in her words, “ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch”.
THE FIRST RACE MEETING
The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place later that year, on Saturday 11th August. The inaugural event was Her Majesty’s Plate, worth 100 guineas and open to any horse, mare or gelding over six years of age. Each horse was required to carry a weight of 12 stone and the seven runners were all English Hunters, rather different to the speedy thoroughbreds that race on the flat today.
The nature of the contest also bares little resemblance to modern day racing at Ascot. That race consisted of three separate heats, each four miles long – about the length of today’s Grand National course. The winning horse would have required tremendous stamina, but sadly there is no record of who claimed that first Plate.
Queen Anne’s gift to racing, founding the Royal Racecourse, is marked by the tradition of opening Royal Ascot with the Queen Anne Stakes.
THE FIRST RACECOURSE
The racecourse was laid out by William Lowen, assisted by a team including a carpenter, a painter, and a racing administrator. The first permanent building was erected around 1794 by a local Windsor builder. Holding 1,650 people, it was used for almost fifty years.
In 1813, Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure, which ensured that Ascot Heath, would be kept and used as a racecourse for the public in the future. Racing at Ascot was now secure.
The precise origins of the Royal Meeting are unclear, as the event evolved from the first four-day meeting that took place in 1768. The meeting as it’s known today only really started to take shape with the introduction of the Gold Cup in 1807. Royal Ascot was the only race meeting held at Ascot until 1939.
The Gold Cup remains the feature race of the third day of Royal Ascot, traditionally the busiest day of the week and colloquially known as “Ladies’ Day”. In 2009, Yeats, ridden by Johnny Murtagh and trained by Aidan O’Brien, won his fourth consecutive Gold Cup – a magnificent achievement, and one that is unlikely to be repeated.
Although founded by a Queen and located on Crown property, the administration of Ascot is handled on behalf of the Crown by a representative appointed by the Monarch.
What to wear in Royal Ascot.
What not to be wearing!!