Sasha Green - now Sasha Thorbek-Hooper
What's so great about Royal Ascot?
Monarchy, pomp, ceremony, glamour, picnics, champagne and hats aside, every sport needs a stage to show itself off to the best of its ability. And in racing’s case that stage is Royal Ascot.
Ascot is Berkshire’s sparkling jewel in the crown of British horse racing, and in these times of recession I am pleased to say that Royal Ascot is still as important and popular as ever amongst the racing fraternity.
Over 300,000 racegoers attend the five day meeting each year from all around the globe.
At the top of the new stand
Compared to National Hunt (or jump) racing, the Flat code is top heavy with prestigious festivals through the season.
There is the Derby Meeting at Epsom in June; Glorious Goodwood in July; The Craven Meeting, The Guineas Meeting, The July Meeting and Cambridgeshire / Champion Meeting all run at Newmarket; not forgetting The May Meeting and Ebor Meetings at York; and the three day May Meeting at Chester – to name but a few.
But amongst all of these, Royal Ascot stands head and shoulders above them. It's not just because it is the longest of all the ‘racing festivals’ in Britain at five days, but because it hosts some of the best flat racing you will ever be privileged to see anywhere in the world.
Before the first race
The Royal Ascot meeting includes six of the 31 Group 1 races held in England every year; notably the Queen Alexandra Stakes, the Coronation Stakes the Golden Jubilee Stakes and The Ascot Gold Cup - arguably the most eagerly anticipated of all the races.
First run in 1807, the race has added importance as one of the races in the British Stayer's Triple Crown, alongside the Doncaster Cup and the Goodwood Cup - a series that has only been won six times in the history of flat racing.
These races, like all Group 1 races, represent the pinnacle of flat racing and feature performances by the best thoroughbred racehorses in the sport.
The total prize money on offer over the five days is in excess of £3.5 million, with The Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes offering the biggest prize funds of all, with £375,000 on offer in each race.
As professional jockeys only receive £103.45 per ride, it is the lure of receiving nine per cent of the winning prize money that is a driving factor in the dash for the finish line!
Just to have a runner at the Royal Meeting sets the pulses of owners, trainers and jockeys racing. But to have a winner can send a horse’s breeding potential and therefore value into stratospheric monetary realms as well as projecting a trainer’s and jockey’s career just as far.
Jockey Martin Dwyer
Derby Winning Jockey Martin Dwyer says: “Royal Ascot is where all the best horses in the country take each other on. It’s the Best of the Best”
And Berkshire-based trainer, William Muir agrees. "As a trainer, it is where we strive to get to; Royal Ascot is simply the pinnacle of the racing calendar”
Taking money out of the equation for just one minute, Ascot racecourse is considered one of the most demanding racetracks in flat racing.
The course is notorious for the gradient of the climb to the finishing post, with 73 feet separating the highest and lowest points of the track.
Horses have to be at the peak of physical and mental fitness to stand any chance of winning. This makes training a horse for the Royal Meeting even more difficult, as by nature thoroughbreds are fragile and temperamental creatures at the best of times.
Most flat racehorses, depending on their age, ability and natural strength, will take approximately three to four months to reach a level of fitness to enable them to run in a race.
It is then the trainer’s task to build on a horse’s strength and maintain a level of fitness that will enable the horse to run every ten days / two weeks throughout the season, whilst keeping the horse motivated enough to want to run to the best of its ability on each occasion.
Racehorse trainers are considered to have the most stressful of all jobs within the racing industry (and that doesn’t even take into account having to deal with the owners, who can be just as temperamental as their horses!).
So combining the best horses in training with the history of the race meeting and adding to that the sheer spectacle of the race goers in their finery, it is not surprising that Royal Ascot still remains the best British flat horse racing has to offer.
last updated: 16/06/2009 at 16:14
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