By Duane Fonseca
Racing in Britain may have been affected severely by the Covid-19 pandemic but news of a bigger Royal Ascot will have put the smile back on the faces of connections who were eagerly awaiting the restart.
Major revisions to this year’s schedule were announced yesterday, including the introduction of six extra races, changes to the running order, consolation contests for prestigious handicaps and earlier start times throughout the week.
There has been no racing in Britain since the lockdown came into place on 18 March. The season is set to restart on 1 June and Ascot last month announced the royal meeting would occupy its regular position in the calendar and this year the Royal Meeting will be behind closed doors between 16-20 June if all goes according to plan.
Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, said: “We are of course taking nothing for granted in terms of government’s final approval to permit behind-closed-doors sporting events from 1 June.
“We are announcing the programme today, with the dates of the royal meeting already public as part of the wider schedule for resumption, so that horsemen can begin their detailed planning.”
Chief among the changes are the introduction of six extra races across the five days. There will be seven contests on every day except Saturday, the final day of the fixture, which will host eight races.
The 7f Buckingham Palace Handicap was scrapped from the programme when the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup was created in 2015, but the race returns and will get the entire meeting underway instead of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.
Additionally, three new races have been introduced for this year in the form of the 2,800 Copper Horse Handicap for 4yos and up, the 2,000m Golden Gates Handicap for 3yos and the 1,000m Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap for 3yos. All new race names have been approved by the Queen.
The King Edward VII Stakes and Ribblesdale have been pushed to the first day of the meeting to provide a good amount of break before the Epsom Derby and Oaks on 4 July.
The St James's Palace Stakes, meanwhile, has been moved to the final day of the meeting, along with the Coronation Stakes. The Queen Mary Stakes, Norfolk Stakes and Coventry Stakes have been moved to the end of the royal meeting.
Smith added: “We are most grateful to the BHA’s race planning team for their assistance in framing the additional races for this exceptional renewal of Royal Ascot. We hope these extra opportunities will be welcomed by horsemen, broadcasters and the public at home.
“Under [BHA director of racing] Ruth Quinn, a lot of work has gone into scheduling an appropriate Pattern trials programme, beginning on June 3, alongside an enhanced two-year-old programme."
PROPOSED ROYAL ASCOT SCHEDULE:
Buckingham Palace Handicap (1,400m, 3yo+)
Queen Anne Stakes (1,600m, Group 1, 4yo+)
Ribblesdale Stakes (2,400m, Group 2, 3yo fillies)
King Edward VII Stakes (2,400m, Group 2, 3yo colts & geldings)
King’s Stand Stakes (1,000m, Group 1, 3yo+)
Duke of Cambridge Stakes (1,600m, Group 2, 4yo+ fillies and mares)
Ascot Stakes Handicap (4,000m, 4yo+)
Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap (1,600m, 3yo+)
Hampton Court Stakes (2,000m, Group 3, 3yo)
King George V Handicap (2,400m, 3yo)
Prince of Wales’s Stakes (2,000m, Group 1, 4yo+)
Royal Hunt Cup Handicap (1,600m, 3yo+)
Windsor Castle Stakes (1,000m, Listed, 2yo)
Copper Horse Handicap (2,800m, 4yo+)
Golden Gates Handicap (2,000m, 3yo)
Wolferton Stakes (2,000m, Listed, 4yo+)
Jersey Stakes (1,400m, Group 3, 3yo)
Chesham Stakes (1,400m, Listed, 2yo)
Gold Cup (4,000m, Group 1, 4yo+)
Britannia Handicap (1,600m, 3yo colts & geldings)
Sandringham Handicap (1,600m, 3yo, fillies)
Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap (1,000m, 3yo)
Albany Stakes (1,200m, Group 3, 2yo fillies)
Norfolk Stakes (1,000m, Group 2, 2yo)
Hardwicke Stakes (2,400m, Group 2, 4yo+)
Commonwealth Cup (1,200m, Group 1, 3yo colts & fillies)
Queen’s Vase (2,800m, Group 2, 3yo)
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap (2,400m, 3yo+)
Silver Wokingham Handicap (1,200m, 3yo+)
Queen Mary Stakes (1,000m, Group 2, 2yo fillies)
Coronation Stakes (1,600m, Group 1, 3yo fillies)
Coventry Stakes (1,200m, Group 2, 2yo)
St James’s Palace Stakes (1,600m, Group 1, 3yo colts)
Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1,200m, Group 1, 4yo+)
Wokingham Handicap (1,200m, 3yo+)
Queen Alexandra Stakes (4,400m, Conditions, 4yo+)