Royal As­cot from A to Z

Mar­cus Army­tage takes us through the al­pha­bet of the most im­por­tant race meet­ing in the Flat cal­en­dar

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

A for Queen Anne, who, while out rid­ing from Wind­sor Cas­tle in 1711, came across a patch of heath near East Cote that looked ‘ideal for horses to gal­lop at full stretch’ and for Aus­tralia, whose horses have been suc­cess­ful here this cen­tury. Home sup­port­ers watch­ing a big screen back in Mel­bourne were aghast when their hero­ine, the un­beaten filly Black Caviar, only just squeaked the 2012 Di­a­mond Ju­bilee Stakes due to jockey inat­ten­tion.

B for Brown Jack, a Cham­pion Hur­dler that won a record seven con­sec­u­tive Royal As­cot races (the As­cot Stakes fol­lowed by six Queen Alexan­dras), and Beau

Brum­mell, the Gok Wan of Re­gency Eng­land, who set the dress code for the Royal En­clo­sure. He took five hours to get ready (longer than my wife) and pol­ished his shoes with Cham­pagne. B is also for As­cot’s tra­di­tional bell, which rings for jock­eys to mount and for run­ners en­ter­ing the home straight on the round course.

C for Vis­count Churchill, the first sov­er­eign’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive—let­ters re­quest­ing ad­mit­tance to the Royal En­clo­sure were sorted into three trays: Cer­tainly, Per­haps, Cer­tainly not—and clean­ers, 2,400 of whom will keep the place spot­less on a 24hour cy­cle.

D for divorceés who, un­til 1955, were not al­lowed in the Royal En­clo­sure, and for ebul­lient Frankie Det­tori, who has rid­den 50 win­ners at the meet­ing.

E for Elite Rac­ing, the cheap-as-chips (£17 a month) mul­ti­ple-mem­ber­ship syn­di­cate that owns (and bred) Mar­sha, likely favourite for the King’s Stand Stakes, and late jockey Pat Ed­dery, who rode 73 Royal As­cot win­ners.

F is for Frankel, the great­est horse since rat­ings be­gan—his 11-length vic­tory in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes for a des­per­ately ill Sir Henry Ce­cil was his most im­pres­sive run—flesh (if in doubt, keep it cov­ered) and

fash­ion. As­cot is worth £33 mil­lion an­nu­ally to the rag trade.

G for Gold Cup, the old­est and most pres­ti­gious race run over 21∕2 miles. It was fa­mously—and joy­ously—won by The Queen’s filly Es­ti­mate in 2013.

H for the 400 he­li­copters that will de­scend on the meet­ing, for chief ex­ec­u­tive Guy Hen­der­son and for High­clere, the high-end syn­di­cate run by Harry Her­bert.

I for ITV, which makes its de­but as rac­ing’s ter­res­trial broad­caster.

J for the jump train­ers, such as Nicky Hen­der­son and Wil­lie Mullins, who are usu­ally worth fol­low­ing in the long-dis­tance hand­i­caps, for Joan Collins, who once tried to get away with wear­ing some­one else’s name badge, and for jump­suits, which will be al­lowed in the Royal En­clo­sure for

the first time.

K for King Ed­ward VII Stakes—ef­fec­tively a con­so­la­tion race for the Derby—and for King’s Stand Stakes, the five-fur­long sprint for older horses. The race was orig­i­nally called the Queen’s Stand Plate, but switched for Ed­ward VII.

L for Ladies’ Day, now a ubiq­ui­tous mar­ket­ing strat­egy, but, when started in 1823, was way ahead of its time, for Wil­liam

Lowen, the man cred­ited with lay­ing out the race­course on the in­struc­tion of Queen Anne, for stretch limos (about 1,000 of them) and lob­sters—it’s not a good week for them, with 3,000 on or­der.

M for morn­ing dress—black or grey is com­pul­sory for gen­tle­men in the Royal En­clo­sure un­less they’re in the Ser­vices or for­eign, in which case, uni­form or na­tional dress passes muster— mad hat­ters (be­low, some­one al­ways wears a fruit bowl on their head) and jockey Ryan Moore, who won a record nine races in 2015.

N for the 16th Duke of Nor­folk, who was Her Majesty’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tive from 1945 to 1972, and for The New Stakes, which was named af­ter him in 1973. As­cot must have been a piece of cake; he or­gan­ised two coro­na­tions, Win­ston Churchill’s funeral and man­aged the Eng­land cricket team on an Ashes tour in 1962–63.

O for one (that is, Car Park num­ber 1)—you only get a spot there when some­one dies.

P for Lester Pig­gott—the long fel­low rode 116 win­ners at the meet­ing—and pic­nic. The big in­vite is from a trainer to join his post-rac­ing cel­e­bra­tion in the own­ers’ and train­ers’ car park—as Hugo Palmer is spon­sored by Win­ston Churchill’s favourite Cham­pagne house, it’s worth ex­press­ing an in­ter­est in hav­ing a horse with him pronto.

Q for The Queen, owner of the race­course, Qatar, now a ma­jor force in the blood­stock in­dus­try, quail’s eggs, which will be dain­tily dipped in cel­ery salt, and, al­though it might not be the done thing to talk about money, the new stand cost 220 mil­lion quid.

R for Royal Pro­ces­sion (above), in­au­gu­rated by Ge­orge IV in 1825, by some mar­gin the most stylish way to ar­rive and a huge hon­our, al­though a sheikh’s mother al­legedly took um­brage when she dis­cov­ered she wasn’t rid­ing in the same lan­dau as The Queen and re­turned to Lon­don in a huff.

S for strap­less, which is ab­so­lutely ver­boten in the Royal En­clo­sure, Swin­ley Bot­tom, the fur­thest point of the race­course and in­vari­ably the soft­est part of the track, suc­cess­ful trainer Sir Michael Stoute and the pop­u­lar evening singsong around the band­stand.

T for top hats and tro­phies, of which all bar three have to be re­turned. Win­ning train­ers re­ceive a snuff box and breed­ers get a straw­berry dish, but not un­til a spe­cial lunch in July.

U for um­brel­las, which hope­fully we won’t be need­ing.

V for se­nior vet Dr Svend Kold, who has done 30 years’ duty, and Vil­lage En­clo­sure, new this year, in the cen­tre of the course. It’s the first new en­clo­sure since the ‘Five Shilling Stand’ mor­phed into the Sil­ver Ring.

W for wine, about 40,000 bot­tles of which will be con­sumed, plus 50,000 bot­tles of Cham­pagne, and win­ners’ en­clo­sure, where ev­ery­one dreams of be­ing.

X for X-ray ma­chine to scan in­stantly any horse that pulls up lame.

Y for Yeats, the horse that won a record fourth Gold Cup in 2009, and Yeo­man Prick­ers, whose dis­tinc­tive green liv­ery with gold fac­ings the gate­men wear.

Z for zeit­geist, which Royal As­cot will never lose.

Frankel, one of As­cot’s greats

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