THE US Triple Crown is ‘done and dusted’, four of the British Classics are behind us, as are both Irish Guineas and the Prix du Jockey Club but there is plenty to look forward to in Europe particularly over the next ten days. Chantilly hosts the Prix Diane on Sunday before, two days later, the eyes of the racing world will be focused on a small town in Berkshire when Ascot stages the 2019 royal meeting. With five days of world class racing, eagerly anticipated by all racing fans, including HM The Queen, Royal Ascot is five days marked in many diaries as soon as they are published the year before.
Queen Anne, after whom the first race of the week is named, is attributed with identifying Ascot, at the time open heathland, as the ideal place for “horses to gallop at full stretch”. The heath was promptly cleared of scrub and gorse before the first ever Ascot meeting was staged in August 1711. Such was the success a second fixture was held five weeks later. The inaugural Ascot Gold Cup was staged in 1807 and won by a 3yo, an age group no longer eligible for the week’s official feature. Many changes have occurred over the years, most significantly a major redevelopment beginning in late 2004 which resulted in the 2005 royal fixture moving to York for the renewal under the moniker ‘Royal Ascot at York’.
The Queen does not miss Royal Ascot, weather permitting arriving on the course daily in a procession of horses and carriages. A royal winner is obviously a special occasion and highlighted by the 2013 victory of Estimate in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup with Ryan Moore in the saddle for Sir Michael Stoute. Normally the one to present the Ascot Gold Cup trophy, Her Majesty found herself receiving it from the Duke of York, her second son, Prince Andrew. The Queen’s most recent success at the fixture was also saddled by Stoute with Olivier Peslier performing the steering aboard Dartmouth in the 2016 Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
Hang on to your top hats because, from Tuesday to Saturday next week, we are guaranteed some thrilling racing on Ascot Heath but will Her Majesty be celebrating another winner? Who knows…