Royal Ascot’s iconic races – daily programme, TV schedule and race histories
In olden times (pre-2020), 30 races were run over the five days of Royal Ascot, from 5f to 2m6f, spearheaded by eight Group 1s. For Royal Ascot 2021, The Racing Hub looks at the history of the 30 iconic races, and those newly introduced.
This year’s Royal Ascot programme will feature seven races each day, with the Copper Horse Stakes, the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and the Golden Gates Stakes, which were added to the programme last year, and the Buckingham Palace Stakes, reinstated last year, all retained. These races have all been retained. The ‘Silver’ versions of the Royal Hunt Cup and the Wokingham Stakes have not been retained and there will not be eight races on Saturday as there were in 2020.
All races are on ITV/ITV4 and Sky Sports Racing.
Day 1: Tuesday
2.30 – The Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) One Mile, Four Year Olds and Upwards (ITV)
Founded in 1840, the Queen Anne Stakes commemorates the monarch who established racing at Ascot in 1711. Run as the Trial Stakes until 1929, the Queen Anne Stakes was ﬁrst awarded Group 3 status in 1971, becoming Group 2 in 1984.
The race, attracting Europe’s top older milers, achieved the highest three-year average rating of any Group 2 race in Britain from 1999 to 2002 according to the then International Classiﬁcations and was subsequently elevated to Group 1 status in 2003.
At that time, it moved from the traditional opening race on the card to the fourth race. However, in 2008 it reverted to its traditional slot, opening the meeting.
3.05 – The Coventry Stakes (Group 2) Six furlongs, Two Year Olds (ITV)
First run in 1890, the race was named after the ninth Earl of Coventry, Master of the Buckhounds between 1886 and 1892. This is the ﬁrst Group contest of the year for juveniles.
Many top-class horses win this race before going on to achieve greatness and, in 2004, the race was promoted to Group 2 status.
3.40 – The King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) Five furlongs, Three Year Olds and Upwards (ITV)
A Stand Plate was ﬁrst run on the round course in 1837, becoming the Royal Stand Plate in 1858. The race was re-named the Queen’s Stand Plate in 1860 for two-year-olds, over the sprint distance of four furlongs, ﬁnally becoming the King’s Stand Plate in 1901.
Today the race remains a sprint, although now run over the minimum trip of ﬁve furlongs for three-year-olds and upwards. In 2008 it was promoted to Group 1 status.
4.20 – The St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) Old mile, Three-Year-Old Colts (ITV4)
Named after the Tudor Royal residence, the inaugural running of the St James’s Palace Stakes in 1834 was a walkover for the Derby winner Plenipotentiary.
This race features the best male milers from the Classic generation, often attracting horses that have run in the English, French and Irish 2,000 Guineas.
5.00 – The Ascot Stakes (Handicap) Two miles, four furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards (ITV4)
First run in 1839, the Ascot Stakes is run over two-and-a-half miles. Like the Gold Cup and Queen Alexandra Stakes, this race provides a thorough test of stamina. It is one of just four races at the Royal Meeting in which the ﬁeld passes the winning post twice.
5.35 – The Wolferton Stakes (Listed) One mile, two furlongs, Four Year Olds & Upwards (ITV4)
First run in 2002 as part of the ﬁve-day Royal Ascot meeting to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, this is a Listed race over 10 furlongs for four-year-olds and upwards, having been a Listed Handicap until 2017.
The race normally attracts horses that have run in the early season staying handicaps, most notably the Chester Cup.
6.10 – The Copper Horse Stakes (Handicap)One mile, six furlongs, Four Year Olds & Upwards (ITV4)
Staged over a mile and three quarters, the Copper Horse Stakes is another of the six additional races to be run at Royal Ascot in 2020. Open to four-year-olds and upwards, Her Majesty The Queen has graciously consented to the race’s temporary name to be included this year only. It is inspired by the magnificent statue of King George III – mounted on horseback – which marks the end of the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. The race could act as an important stepping stone to the major staying handicaps later in the year, including the Ebor at York and possibly even the Melbourne Cup.
Day 2: Wednesday
2.30 The Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) Five furlongs, Two-Year-Old Fillies (ITV)
Named after the consort of King George V, this race was ﬁrst run in 1921. The ﬁrst major race of the season exclusively for two-year-old ﬁllies, The Queen Mary Stakes is run over the minimum distance of ﬁve furlongs and provides a useful opportunity to assess their ability and potential to perform at Group 1 level. It was promoted to Group 2 status in 2004.
3.05 – The Queen’s Vase (Group 2) One mile, six furlongs, Three Year Olds (ITV)
Promoted to Group 2 in 2017, the race was named to honour Queen Victoria and ﬁrst run in 1838. This race became the King’s Vase in 1903 and reverted to its original name of the Queen’s Vase on the succession of Queen Elizabeth II.
Run over a-mile-and-three-quarters, this contest provides a test of stamina for three-year-olds and winners of this race often go on to compete in the Gold Cup in future years. Estimate completed the double in 2012 / 2013. This year prize money increases to £225,000.
3.40 – The Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) One mile, Four Year Olds and Upwards Fillies & Mares (ITV)
Until 2013 run as the Windsor Forest Stakes, this race was a new addition to the Royal Meeting in 2004 and part of an industry-wide initiative to encourage connections of the leading Classic generation ﬁllies from the previous year to keep their stars in training.
Run over the straight mile course, it is open only to ﬁllies and mares aged four or over. As a Group 2 race, Group 1 winners carry a penalty, so the option of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, where no penalties are carried, is still open to the very best ﬁllies.
4.20 The Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1) One mile, two furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards (ITV)
The richest race run at Royal Ascot, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was ﬁrst run in 1862 and is named after the son of Queen Victoria (later to become King Edward VII). Originally staged over a mile and ﬁve furlongs, the race often attracted horses that had participated in the Classics.
There was no Prince of Wales’s Stakes from 1946 until 1968, a year before the current Prince of Wales’s investiture in 1969, when the distance changed to one mile and two furlongs. In 2000, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was upgraded to Group 1 status and restricted to four-year-olds and upwards.
5.00 – The Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) One mile, Three Year Olds and Upwards (ITV)
(The Royal Hunt Cup always provides one of the greatest spectacles of the Royal Meeting as a maximum ﬁeld thunders up Ascot’s straight mile course for one of the biggest betting races of the season.
First run in 1843, it was originally staged over seven furlongs and 155 yards. The current distance of a mile was established in 1955 when the straight course was re-aligned as part of the previous redevelopment.
5.35 – The Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed) Five furlongs, Two Year Olds (ITV)
First run in 1839 over the straight mile course, this race was originally designed to attract three-year-old colts and ﬁllies that had competed in the early season Classics. It is now run over the minimum distance of ﬁve furlongs and restricted to two-year-olds.
6.10 – Kensington Palace Stakes (Handicap) One Mile, Four Year Olds & Upwards Fillies & Mares (ITV4)
A new handicap to be run over the Old Mile for four-year-old and upwards fillies and mares. Kensington Palace, set in Kensington Gardens, has been a residence for Members of the Royal Family since the 17th century.
Day 3: Thursday
2.30 The Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) Five furlongs, Two Year Olds (ITV4)
First run in 1843, this race was formerly known as the New Stakes and staged over a distance of just under four furlongs. It was renamed after the Duke of Norfolk, Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot between 1945 and 1972, in 1973. For two-year-olds, it was promoted to Group 2 status in 2006.
3.05 – The Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) One mile, two furlongs, Three Year Olds (ITV4)
The Tercentenary Stakes became the new name for the Hampton Court Stakes in 2011, when the racecourse celebrated 300 years since its inauguration. It was also promoted from Listed to Group 3 in tandem.
The race was originally part of the Saturday Heath Day card, under the title of the New Stakes, and joined Royal Ascot as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. This 10-furlong event is restricted to three-year-olds and reverted back to being the Hampton Court Stakes in 2017.
3.40 The Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2) One mile, four furlongs, Three-Year-Old Fillies (ITV4)
This race, mirroring the Oaks, is named after the fourth Baron Ribblesdale, Master of the Buckhounds between 1892 and 1895. First run in 1919, this race was originally staged over a mile for three and four-year-olds.
It is now restricted to Classic generation ﬁllies and run over the longer distance of a mile and a half.
4.15 – The Gold Cup (Group 1) Two miles, four furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards (ITV & ITV4)
Founded in 1807, the Gold Cup (which, contrary to popular opinion is not called the “Ascot Gold Cup”) is the oldest and one of the most prestigious races at Royal Ascot. Staged over the marathon trip of two-and-a-half miles, the race is a stiff test of stamina and attracts the very best staying horses in Europe.
Many horses have distinguished themselves with dual Gold Cup wins, enhancing the race’s reputation as a specialists’ event. Sagaro won three times in the 1970s but Yeats did better still, becoming a four-time winner in 2009. The Queen’s Estimate won the 2013 Gold Cup, providing her with her 22nd Royal Ascot winner.
5.00 – The Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) Straight mile, Three-Year-Old Colts and Geldings (ITV4)
First run in 1928 over the straight mile of the Royal Hunt Cup course and run under similar conditions today. Open to three-year-old colts and geldings only, the Britannia is almost as popular these days as the Royal Hunt Cup.
5.25 – The King George V Stakes (Handicap) One mile, four furlongs, Three Year Olds (ITV4)
Like the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, this is a Handicap for middle distance performers, staged over one and a half miles. The inaugural running was in July 1946, as part of the ﬁrst ﬁxture staged at the racecourse after the Royal Meeting, before the race was transferred to Royal Ascot in 1948. It is for three-year-olds only.
6.10 – The Buckingham Palace Stakes (Handicap) Seven furlongs, Three Year Olds & Upwards (ITV4)
One of six races added to Royal Ascot for 2020, the seven furlong Buckingham Palace Handicap was reintroduced to the card having been lost when The Commonwealth Cup was created in 2015. Available to three-year-olds and upwards, it was first established in 2002 when a fifth day was added to the meeting to mark the Golden Jubilee.
Day 4: Friday
2.30 The Albany Stakes (Group 3) Six furlongs, Two-Year-Old Fillies (ITV)
This race was ﬁrst run in 2002 as the Henry Carnarvon Stakes, honouring The Queen’s late racing manager, and proved so successful that it was promoted to Group 3 status in 2005. Restricted to two-year-old ﬁllies, the six-furlong event provides one of the ﬁrst opportunities of the season for promising types to prove their ability and go on to harbour Guineas aspirations.
3.05 – The King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) One mile, four furlongs, Three-Year-Old Colts and Geldings (ITV)
Formerly known, and still colloquially referred to as the Ascot Derby, this race was inaugurated in 1834 and regularly featured horses of both sexes that had competed in the middle-distance Classics. First run as the King Edward VII Stakes in 1926 and now restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings, it still attracts horses that have competed in the Derby.
3.40 – The Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) Six furlongs, Three Year Olds (ITV)
The Commonwealth Cup was a completely new race in 2015 and joined the King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes to become the third Group 1 sprint at the Royal meeting.
The race, run over six furlongs, is restricted to three-year-olds and was put in place as a Europe-wide measure to create a better Pattern for young sprinters and improve the quality of sprint races across the continent.
Several races in the run up to the Commonwealth Cup were promoted in tandem, including the Commonwealth Cup Trial at Ascot, in April to Group 3.
4.20 – The Coronation Stakes (Group 1) Old mile, Three-Year-Old Fillies (ITV)
First run in 1840, the Coronation Stakes was founded to commemorate the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1838. This mile event is the ﬁllies’ equivalent of the St James’s Palace Stakes and attracts horses that have run in the English, Irish and French 1,000 Guineas.
5.00 – The Sandringham Stakes (Handicap) Straight mile, Three-Year-Old Fillies (ITV0
This he race was called the Fern Hill Rated Stakes until 2001, and was part of the Ascot Heath card held on the Saturday after Royal Ascot. Until 2018 it was a Listed handicap but was downgraded by the British Horseracing Authority to comply with a newly introduced rule that meant handicaps could no longer carry Listed or Group status.
5.35 – The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap) One mile, four furlongs, Three Year Olds and Upwards (ITV)
Originally the Bessborough Stakes, named after the ﬁfth Earl of Bessborough, who was Master of the Buckhounds between 1848 and 1866, the race was renamed the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes in 1999.
First run in 1914 as a ﬁve-furlong event for two-year-olds, it has now evolved into a middle-distance handicap for three-year-olds and upward.
6.10 – The Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes (Handicap) Five furlongs, Three Year Olds (ITV4)
The opening race on Friday is among six prizes added to the Royal Ascot race programme for 2020. A five-furlong sprint for three-year-olds, Her Majesty The Queen has graciously consented to this temporary race name, which recognises the Monarchy’s official Scottish residence. A race with similar conditions used to be run regularly on the Saturday Heath Day card and featured as part of the full Royal Ascot programme in 2002 and 2003 as the Balmoral Handicap.
It was dropped in place of the Windsor Forest Stakes and the final running was won by trainer Roger Charlton and jockey Richard Hughes with Deportivo.
Day 5: Saturday
The Chesham Stakes (Listed) Seven furlongs, Two Year Olds
Named after the third Baron Chesham, who was the last Master of the Buckhounds from 1900 to 1901. First run in 1919, the Chesham Stakes replaced the ﬁrst leg of the Triennial Stakes, which had been run over ﬁve furlongs for two-year-olds. Now a Listed contest, the race takes place over the longer distance of seven furlongs.
The Jersey Stakes (Group 3) Seven furlongs, Three Year Olds
The Jersey Stakes replaced the second leg of the Triennial Stakes in 1919. Named after the fourth Earl of Jersey, who was the Master of the Buckhounds between 1782 and 1783, this specialist seven-furlong contest is framed for three-year-olds who have yet to win a Group 1 or Group 2 race, but have often competed at that level, including in the Guineas.
The Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) One mile, four furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards
Named after the ﬁfth Earl of Hardwicke, Master of the Buckhounds between 1874 and 1879, the race was ﬁrst run in 1879. The Group 2 contest continues to attract the best older middle-distance horses today, and is often an informative guide to the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) in July.
It is run with no Group 1 or 2 winners’ penalties as a quasi-Group 1 race with regular Group One rated horses competing.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) Six furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards
The second-richest race of the week, along with the opening Queen Anne States, the race was formerly known as the Cork and Orrery Stakes, Royal Ascot’s most prestigious sprint was given a new name – the Golden Jubilee Stakes – and elevated to Group 1 status to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. Ten years later, it assumed the mantle of Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
First run in 1868, this six-furlong contest was originally named after Lord Cork, another Master of the Buckhounds. In 2015, it became a race for four-year-olds and upwards, as the three-year-olds now have the Commonwealth Cup option.
The Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap) Six furlongs, Three Year Olds and Upwards
The inaugural running of the Wokingham took place in 1813, making this race the oldest Handicap at Royal Ascot. This famous sprint is named after the market town seven miles from Ascot Racecourse, and the ﬁrst dual winner was appropriately also named Wokingham (1881 and 1882).
Over the years, the race has developed a reputation as a ﬁercely competitive handicap and one of the major betting heats of the season.
The Golden Gates Stakes (Handicap) One mile, two furlongs, Three Year Olds
The opening contest on Thursday is among the six prizes added to the Royal Ascot race programme in 2020 and one of three newly named contests to be staged exclusively this year. The Golden Gates are the ceremonial entrance point as the Royal Procession arrives at the top of Ascot’s famous Straight Mile. The Queen has consented to this temporary title for the race which will be run over a mile and a quarter for three-year-olds only.
The Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions) Two miles, six furlongs, Four Year Olds and Upwards
Run over the marathon trip of two-and-three-quarter miles, the Queen Alexandra Stakes is not only the longest race of the meeting, but also the longest contest run under Flat racing rules. Named after the consort of King Edward VII, the race was ﬁrst run in 1864 as the Alexandra Plate over three miles.
It will always be associated with Brown Jack, arguably Royal Ascot’s greatest equine legend, who won this race on six consecutive occasions between 1929 and 1934. The Queen Alexandra Stakes always closes the meeting and although, or perhaps because of its extreme distance in a time when so much emphasis is on speed, it has become a national institution and is affectionately supported by regulars.