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10 Unexpected Facts about Ascot

As Royal Ascot 2023 approaches, we take a look at some unexpected facts about the prestigious racecourse.

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Ascot Racecourse is one of the most illustrious horse racing courses in the UK and is a firm favourite among the royal family, given the fact it is located just six miles away from Windsor Castle. The racecourse plays host to numerous esteemed meetings and jump racing events throughout the year. Royal Ascot – which, this year falls on Tuesday 20th to Saturday 24th June – is known as being the highest value meeting in Britain. It’s loved as much for its horse racing credentials as it is for the fashion and millinery creations that accompany the racing.

Ascot is the place to see and be seen, as well as to have a flutter and enjoy a day out while rubbing shoulders with royalty. To celebrate the summer ahead of racing at Ascot, we’ve unearthed some of our favourite unexpected facts about the racecourse.

1. Queen Anne established Ascot Racecourse in 1711 as she was looking for a place for her “horses to gallop at full stretch”. She also inaugurated a race of three heats which were four miles long, which meant the horses competing needed immense stamina. By comparison, races at Royal Ascot these days tend to be one or two miles long in total!

2. The Greencoats – who form part of the ceremonial guard for the Queen – have been an integral part of Royal Ascot since the 1700s. Their distinctive green velvet clothing is said to have been originally made of leftover material from curtains at Windsor Castle!

3. King Edward VII passed away just before Royal Ascot in 1910 and as a result, all visitors dressed in black that year. That particular event is now referred to as ‘Black Ascot’.

4. Nowadays, the grounds of Ascot are kept in pristine condition by a swathe of groundsmen. However, up until about 1920, it was a flock of up to 400 sheep who did the job! They were brought onto the grounds in between each and every race meeting.

5. Lester Piggott is the most successful flat racing jockey in Royal Ascot’s history. His career spanned 41 years from 1952 to 1993, during which time he rode 116 Royal Ascot winners. Throughout his career, he enjoyed a total of 4,493 wins!

6. Royal Ascot has had a strictly upheld dress code since the 19th century, which has helped to make it the sartorial destination it is today. It was Beau Brummel – a notable fashion influencer of the time – who started fashion trends at Royal Ascot. He said that “men of elegance” must wear perfectly tailored waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons to the event. So committed was Beau Brummel to fashion, he apparently took five hours a day to dress and urged people to polish their boots with champagne!

7. Royal Ascot didn’t actually take place at Ascot Racecourse in 2015. The prestigious meeting moved to York Racecourse while Ascot underwent a £200 million redevelopment.

8. A horse called ‘Estimate’ won the Gold Cup in 2013. The horse was owned by Her Majesty The Queen, and this was the first time in the history of the race that it was won by a reigning monarch.

9. In 2018, Royal Ascot organisers made an important new addition to its dress code. The guidelines stated that all men must now wear socks to the event and if they don’t, they will be refused entry!

10. Ascot Racecourse has some fascinating statistics under its belt. Prize money at the racecourse hit a new high last year at £13.45 million, with more than £7 million paid out at Royal Ascot alone. Each year, around 400 helicopters and 1,000 limousines descend on the venue for Royal Ascot. Visitors to the famous race meeting are a hungry lot too – 240,000 afternoon tea cakes, 60,000 finger sandwiches and 8,000 Cornish crabs are eaten each year at the event!

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