Royal Ascot, which has officially been known by that title since 1911, is nowadays a five-day meeting staged annually at Ascot Racecourse, in Berkshire in South East England, in June. In 2002, to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, an extra afternoon of racing with the Queen in attendance replaced the Heath meeting, traditionally held on the Saturday following Royal Ascot.
Royal Ascot features six races on all five days, including eight at Group 1 level, although the Gold Cup, run on the Thursday – also known, unofficially, as Ladies’ Day – is still considered the out-and-out highlight of the week by many observers.
The feature race on day one is the St. James’s Palace Stakes, run over the so-called Old Mile and open to three-year-colts only. Consequently, the race is typically contested by horses that ran in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket or the Irish or French equivalent. Earlier in the day, the Royal Meeting gets underway with the Queen Anne Stakes, run over the Straight Mile and open to horses aged four years and upwards, while the King’s Stand Stakes, run over 5 furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards, regained its original Group 1 status in 2008.
The feature race on day two, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, run over 1 mile 2 furlongs and open to horses aged four years and upwards, returned to the Royal Ascot programme in 1968, before the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, and was promoted to Group 1 status in 2000. The Gold Cup, run over 2 miles 4 furlongs and open to horses aged four years and upwards, is most prestigious race of its kind run in Britain. It is, in fact, the first leg of the so-called Stayers’ Triple Crown, which also includes the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup and was famously won by Double Trigger, trained by Mark Johnston, in 1995.
The feature race on day four, the Coronation Stakes, is run over the Old Mile and open to three-year-old fillies only. Similarly to the St. James’s Palace Stakes on day two, the Coronation Stakes often features fillies that ran in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket or the Irish or French equivalent. In fact, in 2018, the race was won, impressively, by the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Alpha Centauri, trained by Jessica Harrington.
The feature race on the fifth, and final, day is the second top-level sprint of the week, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Formerly the Cork & Orrery Stakes, but renamed as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is run over 6 furlongs and open to horses aged four years and upwards.