The history of the Royal Ascot festival

Horse racing remains quite a popular sport in the United Kingdom, and within this, the Royal Ascot races are the most prestigious and famous on the calendar. There is good reason for this, as they are over 300 years old, and have a close association with the Crown, as the Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, with a race called Her Majesty’s Plate, where the winner was awarded a huge sum of 100 guineas. Of course, today, the prize money for the races is in the millions of pounds, with many more being wagered at the venue itself as well as online – you can check out this Betway review to find the best online bookmakers for the Royal Ascot event.

Greencoats and Gold cups

Ascot quickly became a tradition and by the early 19th century, it was considered a place ‘to be seen’ already, with a formal dress code having been established by this time as well – a tradition that is in place till today. The Gold Cup, which is the blue riband race at Royal Ascot, was first run in 1807, and it has become the most anticipated race of the festival since then. It was at this inaugural Gold Cup race that the first Royal Enclosure was established as well, for King George III and his guests to view the race. The origin of two other of Royal Ascot’s major traditions, meanwhile, can be traced to the 1820s. 1823 saw the first mention of a Ladies’ Day at the meeting, and now on Ladies’ Day Ascot is as much about fashion and style as it is about racing. Two years later, in 1825, came the first Royal Procession which has grown to become another of Royal Ascot’s most beloved traditions.

Another long tradition is that of the Greencoats, who have formed the ceremonial guard for the Monarch since 1744. Their green uniforms have become iconic and are as much a part of the Royal Ascot festivities as anything else. Their role was developed in the early nineteenth century to include crowd control – they used their prickers to move racegoers off the course. Today, Greencoats offer their unrivalled experience to assist guests throughout the Royal Meeting.

The height of decadence

The Royal Enclosure has the strictest dress code, with men wearing morning dress and a top hat, and women in dresses and hats as well. There are strict colour requirements for these, while it is also extremely difficult to make it into the Enclosure in the first place – first-time applicants must apply to the Royal Enclosure Office and gain sponsorship from someone who has attended the Royal Enclosure for at least four years. Until 1783, jockeys were permitted to wear whatever they liked when racing. This caused a great deal of confusion when attempting to pin down the winners of each race. Jockeys were thus instructed to wear the colours of their horse’s owners. Each jockey’s colours are unique to the owners of each horse. The BHA states that there are 18 colours to choose from when creating a new racing colour, and keeps a register of those combinations already used.

Lester Piggot has the record for the most winning rides at Royal Ascot with an incredible 116. The equally iconic Sir Henry Cecil, meanwhile, trained a record 75 Royal Ascot winners, including a Queen Anne Stakes for ‘horse of a lifetime’ Frankel. In terms of horses, Brown Jack was one of the earliest equine phenomena to grace Royal Ascot. A former Champion Hurdle winner, the horse switched codes to the flat and went on to make a winning appearance at seven straight royal meetings between 1928 and 1934. In more recent times, the legendary Yeats also made the Royal Ascot turf his own by winning four consecutive Gold Cups between 2006 and 2009.