With a worldwide reputation for top-class flat and National Hunt racing, Ascot Racecourse is certainly one of the jewels in the crown of British thoroughbred racing. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, the first ever race was held in August 1711 and now hosts nine of the UK’s 32 annual Group 1 horse races.
The centrepiece meeting on the calendar is Royal Ascot in June, when the eyes of the racing world fall onto Berkshire for five days of some of the most competitive flat racing anywhere on the planet.
The Ascot course is a galloping track of up to 14 furlongs, with a brief two-and-a-half furlong run-in. National Hunt jump racing has been held at Ascot since 1965. Prior to this, the only racing that took place at Ascot was the four-day Royal Meeting.
Back in 2004, Ascot Racecourse was closed for almost two years as it underwent a £185 million redevelopment; with its spectacular new grandstand opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in June 2006 marking the beginning of a new era for racing at Ascot.
During the redevelopment the racing surface was also re-laid, along with a couple of tweaks to the configuration of the course itself that we will discuss in greater detail further down the page.
Ascot also plays host to the new climax of the British flat racing season, Champions’ Day. Designed to rival the French Arc weekend and America’s Breeders’ Cup, three Group 1 races are held during the final Saturday of the flat racing calendar, including the Champion Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
GeeGeez says: “Since the relaying of the Ascot course, the ground in the straight tends to drain much quicker than the rest of the course. Subsequently, the going can be soft in places and much faster on the approach to home.
“On the National Hunt course, the stiff uphill finish allied with some rather challenging fences can be the undoing for runners with no form around Ascot. The top rated animals are therefore often favoured here. The reconfiguration of the course has also meant that held-up horses in the early stages of a race are also heavily fancied.”
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