Who do they ring a bell at Ascot?
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.