The C&TH Guide To Royal Ascot
From what time to arrive to where to eat, we answer all your questions about the prestigious horse racing event
As legend goes, in 1711 Queen Anne rode her horse from Windsor Castle to Ascot and said: ‘This would be a fine place for a race’. Later that year, the first horse racing event took place there and the tradition has continued ever since. Royal Ascot has grown to become arguably the most famous racecourse in the world, offering five days of unparalleled racing, high fashion, fine dining and pageantry every summer – and it’s back this year from 20 to 24 June 2023. We’ve teamed up with with luxury Swiss watchmaker Longines, whose designs are worn proudly by racegoers every social season, to bring you everything you need to know.
The C&TH Guide To Royal Ascot 2023
‘Founded by Queen Anne in 1711, for over 300 years, Royal Ascot has held its place as the Crown Jewel of the British racing season,’ says Felicity Bernard, Commercial Director at Ascot Racecourse. ‘Steeped in history, each year we celebrate the sport of horse racing in all its joy with a five-day spectacle of thrilling racing, spectacular style, and truly British enjoyment.
‘It is an experience shaped by the distinct moments that punctuate each day,’ says Felicity. ‘Whether it’s the arrival of the Royal Procession, seven world class races throughout the afternoon or the communal singing around Ascot’s bandstand early evening, each day is an unforgettable whirlwind of excitement and colour. This year also marks 10-years since the late Queen’s filly, Estimate, triumphed in Ascot’s showpiece race, The Gold Cup. Estimate’s victory was the first time the Gold Cup had been won by a reigning monarch – we encourage guests to come and celebrate with us.’
When Is Royal Ascot 2023?
First thing’s first: this year, Royal Ascot will take place from 20 to 24 June.
‘From 20 to 24 June, thrill seekers and racegoers will come together to escape the ordinary and indulge in a week of celebration and festivities,’ says Felicity. ‘Whether it be the sport, the fashion, or the food that captures the imagination, there really is nothing quite like enjoying a British summer’s day with us at Royal Ascot.’
But when should you arrive for your day at Royal Ascot? The gates open at 10.30am, and you can kick things off with breakfast and a coffee – plus you’ll have some time to explore the grounds and facilities before the races begin. At 2pm sharp each day the Royal Procession takes place: an Ascot tradition which dates back to 1985, when King George IV would process down the Royal Parade. For almost seven decades, the late Queen Elizabeth II was a regular fixture at Ascot, and now it’s time for King Charles to take the reins. While it has not yet been confirmed whether he will be at this year’s event, there has been a big turnout from the Royal Family since the 18th century, so we imagine the new King will show his face.
The Royal Procession is followed by the first race at 2.30pm, with the last race taking place at 6.10pm. Afterwards, racegoers gather around the bandstand as a choir run by a military band performs a songbook of hits (though only guests in certain enclosures can access this). In the Royal, Queen Anne and Windsor Enclosures, the day finishes at 8.30pm, while on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the party in the Village Enclosure continues until 9pm.
There are various types of ticket on offer, each allowing access to different areas. The Windsor Enclosure is the most informal space, with tickets available from just £49. You’re close to the heart of the action here, with a relaxed dress code, live music and plenty of casual dining options. Slightly pricier is the Village Enclosure, located on the inside of the track facing Ascot’s iconic grandstand – which means a unique perspective of the Royal Procession and races.
The Queen Anne Enclosure is the most upmarket enclosure for the general public. Here you get excellent views of the horses before and after each race, plus you have access to the Singing Around The Bandstand. It’s a sophisticated space decked out with many champagne bars and restaurants.
Finally: the Royal Enclosure, the most exclusive part of the course. At its inception, this space was reserved for guests of the King – and though it has expanded and adapted over time, it remains an invitation-only enclosure. Members have access to a private trackside viewing lawn, an area around the Parade Ring, a fourth floor vantage point in the Grandstand and several fine dining restaurants. To gain membership, you’ll need to be sponsored by two eligible members, and there’s a £100 joining fee.
What To Wear To Royal Ascot
‘The fashion on display is a spectacle of its own and we’re expecting extravagant headpieces, bold patterns and bright colours this summer to give “dress to impress” an entirely new meaning, as racegoers are invited to take centre stage,’ says Felicity. ‘Guests come to see and be seen – the elegant artistry showcased across the week sets the sartorial trends for the rest of the summer season.’
Discover more about Royal Ascot’s style guide here
The Food & Drink
When it comes to eating and drinking at Royal Ascot, there is ample choice. All enclosures have a wide selection of offerings, from picnic packages and street food stalls to fine dining experiences. Felicity says: ‘Throughout the Royal Enclosure and Queen Anne Enclosure, 2023 sees a dining line-up that boasts 10 Michelin stars and 28 AA rosettes across our “chefs in residence” as we welcome back Royal Ascot stalwarts such as Raymond Blanc OBE and Simon Rogan alongside Great British Menu star Sally Abé of The Pem who makes her Royal Ascot debut.’
This year’s chef line-up features top names like Tom Barnes, Executive Head Chef at three Michelin-starred L’Enclume and one Michelin-starred Rogan & Co, who will return to Royal Ascot with his exceptional six-course tasting menu in The Old Press Room. Raymond Blanc’s Panoramic Restaurant returns to Ascot for its eighth year, and The Parade Ring will have a menu crafted and designed by three Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan.
‘The post-racing music line-up is bigger than ever this year in the Village Enclosure, giving guests a fitting soundtrack to draw their day to a close Thursday through to Saturday,’ says Felicity. ‘We’re also taking all the learnings from our carbon zero restaurant at last year’s event and rolling the approach out across the enclosure that sits at the centre of the race track. Racegoers can expect plant-based food stalls, solar power, upcycled furniture and compostable cutlery.’
Another option is to book a private box, which can fit between 10 and 108 guests. Each box has its own private bar and dining area, a large flat screen TV and a private balcony to ensure you don’t miss any of the action.
If you’re in the Windsor Enclosure, you can either pre-order a picnic or bring your own supplies – including drinks. The lawn features picnic tables, and there are also street food stalls dotted around serving everything from fish and chips to ice cream, plus endless bars offering champagne, cocktails and beers.
Each day at Royal Ascot has a slightly different feel and purpose. The first day is always seen as the most important for racing purists, with three Group 1 contests: The Queen Anne Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes and St James’s Palace Stakes. Day two tends to be a more relaxed affair, the racing highlight being the prestigious Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
The third day is Ladies Day, a day where fashion takes centre stage – alongside the historic Gold Cup, of course. Friday, the penultimate day, features two Group 1 races: the Coronation Stakes and the Commonwealth Cup. All this culminates in the final day – which lands this year on a Saturday – with the highlight being the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, one of the world’s great international sprint races.
For more information and to book tickets, visit ascot.com
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