Sport | Horse Racing

Superstars descend on Royal Ascot for its 300th birthday

Stage set for a truly international race meeting

  • By Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing and Special Features Writer
  • Published: 00:00 June 14, 2011
  • Gulf News

A general view of the Royal Ascot racecourse
  • Image Credit: AP file
  • A general view of the Royal Ascot racecourse.

Dubai: The statistics are staggering.

Seven Group One races, 500 horses from 11 countries, £4 million (Dh24.13 million) in prize money, 300,000 fans and 210 chefs.

Whichever way you look at it Royal Ascot is one of the most exhilarating, perplexing and well-watched sporting events.

This year's meeting is extra special as it commemorates 300 years of racing since Royal Ascot was founded by Queen Anne in 1711.

Greatest flat racing

Over the years is has become uniquely synonymous in the sporting and social worlds as fashion and style combine with the greatest flat racing over five days.

Over 300,000 race-goers attended the five days of Royal Ascot in 2010, of which close to 20,000 were entertained. To make this possible Ascot used 7,945 service staff over five days, along with 220 managers and 210 chefs to prepare the food in 39 kitchens.

World-famous turf

Johnny Weatherby, Chairman of Ascot Racecourse, puts it in perspective in his welcome address: "As we look back at generations of history-makers on our world-famous turf, it is interesting that the most recent years at Ascot have been among the racecourse's most exciting due to the remarkable growth in international competition and the development of our race programme.

"Nowhere in the world is there a race meeting to compare with Royal Ascot for sheer depth of quality. Eighteen of the 30 races staged during the week are run at Group level, following the promotion of the Hampton Court Stakes to Group Three this year. That race has now been renamed the Tercentenary Stakes as part of our celebrations."

He added: "We expect almost 500 horses to run in the 30 races this year, watched by close to 300,000 people at the racecourse during the week and millions more on television. A total of 24 races are shown live on television while pictures from Royal Ascot are distributed to nearly 200 countries."

Leading jockey

In 2010, the leading jockey honours went to Ryan Moore, who scored a final race victory in the Queen Alexandra Stakes to seal his triumph with four winners. Richard Hannon with three winners, headed by the brilliant Canford Cliffs in the St. James's Palace Stakes, was the leading trainer.

"Competition for these accolades is sure to be as intense as ever this year," said Weatherby.

"Last year, the formerly Australian-trained Starspangledbanner landed the Golden Jubilee Stakes for Aidan O'Brien. That race saw participation from no less than six nations, including an excellent third for the American-trained Kinsale King. International competition at the highest level is what Royal Ascot is all about in the 21st century."

The racecourse has welcomed runners from Australia, New Zealand, America, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa and all over Europe in recent years.

Dubai's ruling Al Maktoum family

The globe-trotting Godolphin stable, owned by Dubai's ruling Al Maktoum family, has been a major participant since it was formed in 1994 and has had over 200 runners competing in the Group races alone. They have enjoyed 29 wins, 18 seconds and 26 thirds.

In 2005, Ascot set up a sprinting series, the Global Sprint Challenge, with Racing Victoria and the Victoria Racing Club in Australia and the Japan Racing Association. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Newmarket Racecourses and the Singapore Turf Club have subsequently joined and the series now features nine races from February to December.

The series has been a huge international hit with 35 horses trained outside Europe having participated in the two sprint races at Royal Ascot — the King's Stand Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Bigger purses

In 2005, the King's Stand Stakes was worth £140,000 and the Golden Jubilee Stakes £250,000. Both have increased significantly in value to mirror their growing international significance. The Golden Jubilee Stakes now offers prize money of £400,000, with the King's Stand Stakes valued at £300,000.

More records are set to be broken at this year's meeting with horses from 11 countries entered in the seven Group races, amongst them a record-breaking 10 from the USA.

Additionally, Australia — whose Choisir landed the King's Stand Stakes/Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2003, paving the way for wins for compatriots Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Scenic Blast in subsequent years — has four entries, three doubly engaged in both sprints.

Hong Kong have sent three entries, with one doubly engaged, while Singapore has two entries, with one doubly engaged. Japan is represented by three entries, one each in the St. James's Palace Stakes, Coronation Stakes and the Gold Cup.

Gulf News
Quick Links

  1. Business

  2. The latest Entertainment news

  3. The latest Lifestyle stories

  4. Blogs

  5. Opinion

In Sport

  1. Cricket

  2. Football

  3. Motorsport

  4. Basketball

  5. Boxing

  6. Horse Racing

  7. Athletics

  8. Golf

  9. Rugby

  10. Sailing

  11. Tennis

Latest In Sport

  1. Made in Denmark a welcome addition to calendar

  2. Al Ain beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 2-0

  3. Right move to give ‘A’ team coaches a chance

  4. De Kock equals record in South Africa win

  5. West Indies look to prolong Bangladesh’s run

  6. Broad rested from ODI series