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Sat 18 Jun 2011 10:30 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 18 June 2011

Every June thousands of men and women step out at Ascot railway station wearing clothes that would grace the Garden Parties of Buckingham Palace - gentlemen in top hats and grey morning suits, ladies in fine silks and satins, and often wearing fizzing little creations on their heads - the fascinator. This is Royal Ascot, and Hardeep Singh Kohli is there to talk to the racegoers and to mark the card of Ascot's 300 year old history.

The connection with Royalty and fashion has been there from the start. The hunting-mad Queen Anne in 1711 noticed that, just by the kennels where her hounds were kept, there was a clearing which would make an excellent racecourse. It was a stone's throw from her Royal residence at Windsor Castle, and the first races took place in August of that year. Immediately Ascot became a place where apart from wagers, people came to show themselves off and have a very good time.

The Royal connection was enhanced by the George IV, who could set off after a heavy night at Windsor to have a Royal flutter. It was he who initiated the Royal Procession down the course, which marks the arrival of the current Queen.

Hardeep talks to the historian of Ascot, Sean Magee, about the landmark moments - from the early days when cock-fighting and bare-knuckle boxing added to the entertainment, to the memorable races of champion jockeys and their steeds - Arkle, Yates, Nijinsky, and Desert Orchid have all graced the course, with the record-breaking moment when jockey Frankie Dettori rode the winner of all seven races in September 1996.

Hardeep hears about the highspots of his commentating career from Sir Peter O'Sullevan, talks to the TV presenter Clare Balding and meets the Chief Executive Charles Barnett and Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels.

Producer: Richard Bannerman
A Ladbroke Production for BBC Radio 4.

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