Ascot Racecourse was founded in 1711, by Queen Anne, who declared an area near Ascot, or ‘East Cote’, village ‘ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch’. The first race, Her Majesty’s Plate, was staged in August that year and, for a short time, Ascot Races was a highlight of the Court social calendar. However, Queen Anne died in August, 1714 and, thereafter, support for Ascot Racecourse dwindled, until its fortunes were revived by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, during the reign of his nephew, King George III, over five decades later. The first Royal Meeting, in a recognisable modern form – that is, a four-day meeting – was staged in 1768, with the first Royal Stand, which later became the Royal Enclosure, erected in 1790, and the first Royal Procession taking place in 1825, by which time King George IV was the ruling monarch.
Foaled on April 12, 1997, Fugaichi Pegasus was bought, as a yearling, by Japanese businessman Fusao Sekiguchi for a little over £3 million. Three years later, after a glittering racing career, which included victory in the Kentucky Derby in 2000, Fugaichi Pegasus was sold to Coolmore Stud, in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, for £53.7 million, making him the most expensive racehorse in history.
Indeed, Fugaichi Pegasus beat the previous record held by Shareef Dancer – a son of Northern Dancer, one of the most iconic sires of the twentieth century – who was bought, as a yearling, in 1981, by the late Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Emir of Dubai, for £2.5 million, but syndicated for £24 million at the end of his racing career.
The most expensive ever sold at auction was The Green Monkey, who was bought for £325,000, as a yearling, by Florida pinhookers Randy Hartley and Dean de Renzo in 2005, but knocked down to Demi O’Byrne, representing Coolmore Stud, for £12 million as a two-year-old in 2006.
Ascot Racecourse, in Berkshire, South East England maintains a tradition of ringing a bell when, in races run on the Round Course, horses turn into the short finishing straight. Of course, Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and, for centuries afterward, racegoers were allowed to walk on the course. Indeed, spectators encroaching on the racecourse before the whole field had passed caused a series of dangerous incidents during the nineteenth centuries, as the result of which horses were hampered and jockeys thrown and, in some cases, seriously injured.
Historically, the ringing of the bell served as a warning to anyone still on the track that the field was approaching. However, even today, with a running rail to define the racing surface, a crowd barrier and security personnel to prevent anyone from distracting horses or jockeys, let alone walking on the track, whilst a race is in progress, the tradition endures. As a footnote, it is worth noting that, while it is unlikely to cause any confusion, a bell also sounds at Ascot Racecourse to notify racegoers that all the jockeys for the upcoming race have weighed out and are about to mount their horses and leave the parade ring on their way to the start.
Depending on its pedigree, physique and, if it has raced, its performance on the racecourse, a racehorse can cost anything from several thousand to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds. The typical initial purchase price is around £15,000. Of course, the initial purchase price is just the start; thereafter racehorse owners incur annual costs for training, insurance, veterinary care, registration, entry and transport. According to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the annual cost of owning a racehorse is, on average, approximately £23,000 for a horse that races on the Flat and approximately £17,000 for a horse that races under National Hunt Rules.
The prohibitive cost of outright, or sole, ownership is one reason why many British racehorses are owned by syndicates or, in other words, groups of people who band together, under the auspices of a licensed trainer, or syndicate manager, to share the cost of owning one or more horses. Each member of the syndicate owns a small share – typically 2.5%, 5% or 10% – in the syndicated horse(s) and either pays a one-off fee, or an upfront fee, plus ongoing monthly training fees.