Ascot is a major British racecourse located in Ascot town, in the South Eastern county of Berkshire. It is owned by the Ascot Racecourse Ltd, but remains a public racecourse as passed by parliament in 1813. It has a royal element to it, based on its proximity to the Windsor Castle and also its history. These elements can be seen in much of the branding during races at the track.
The idea of the course was born in 1711, when Queen Anne was out riding. She noticed an open area, which brought to her the imagination of ‘horses galloping at full stretch.’ Eureka! Her Majesty’s Plate, the first ever race held at the track, took place in August of the same year, pitting competitors in three four-mile heats. The winnings were high even then; a purse of 100 guineas!
The course closed for around two years for a £185 million redevelopment in 2004, and was re-opened by Queen Elizabeth in 2006.
Ascot is mainly a flat racing course, but also has sections of ditches and fences where the National Hunt racing takes place. The costly redevelopments over the years have altered its appearances at every turn, mainly in the spectator sections.
After the 2004 renovation, complaints arose that restaurants and other hospitality facilities had received more attention than race viewing itself, prompting further alterations to improve viewing areas.
In its characteristic royal self, Ascot’s main race is the Royal Ascot, which is held over three days every year. It is attended by the Queen and members of the Royal Family, and records around 3,000 visitors. This race has over time become more of a social event than a racing competition.
For actual racing, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run during the annual Gold Cup in July is the event.
Man O’ War, Arkle, and Red Rum are some of the most famous horses to have graced The Ascot.