Sport for Kings

Horse racing is known as the sport of kings. In the UK, it has strong connections to the British Royal Family, who have been horse owners and fans of the sport for many years. It’s not surprising that the Royals have a race meet named in their honour, Royal Ascot. The meets this year starts on June 18th and continues for five days. While the name of the event may be famous, the history and traditions of the race track may not be so familiar.

The site saw its first race on August 11th 1711 after Queen Anne had decided that the area would be ideal. Much about the race was different compared to today. The race was run in heats and the horses were jumping horses not thoroughbreds.

According to a press release from Ascot Racecourse, the event as it is known today probably dates back to 1807 when the Gold Cup Race was added to the race fixtures. The Gold Cup Race is still run and falls on the third day of Royal Ascot. It is considered the most prestigious race for long-distance horses, known as stayers. Other races have been added too. The Queen’s Vase honours the inauguration of Queen Victoria in 1843 and the Royal Hunt Cup was first run in 1843.

The ‘cream’ of something means the very top or best.

Ascot is more than just about the horses. It is a social event when the cream of society gathers to socialize and gamble. The formal nature of the event goes back to the early 19th century when a friend of the Prince Regent’s suggested the attendees wear certain clothing. The preferred style for men was black waisted coats with white cravats and pantaloons.

Today, the recommended dress depends on where you are. Ascot has three areas for spectators: The Royal Enclosure, the Grandstand and the Silver Ring. Both men and women are required to wear hats. The suit should be either black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat and tie. Women should wear dresses no shorter than above the knee. The Grandstand area only requires men to wear a suit and tie. Women are still required to wear a hat. The Silver Circle has no formal dress code but bare chests and sports clothes – like football jerseys – are not permitted.

To ‘bar’ someone from doing something is to not allow it. ‘We were barred from entering the club because my friend was wearing sneakers.’

A certain amount of status and keeping out seems to be happening in this system. But Ascot is not nearly as exclusive as it used to be. Until 1955, divorced people were barred from entering the Royal Enclosure. According to the racecourse’s publication, Viscount Churchill, who was the first sovereign’s representative in 1901, could check the Divorce Registry to make sure divorced people were not in attendance.

It’s not only the spectators which wear hats. The racecourse’s stewards choose to wear a bowler hat. It was first introduced in the 50s, and the stewards said they would strike unless their wages were increased. In 2004 when the course was shut for redevelopment, the stewards demanded that they keep their beloved hat.

No matter which horse comes in first, tradition remains a clear winner at Ascot.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Horse racing is known as the sport of kings. In the UK, it has strong connections to the British Royal Family. They have a meet called Royal Ascot. The meet this year starts on June 18th and continues for five days.

The first race was run on August 11th 1711 after Queen Anne decided that the area would be ideal. The race was very different then. It was run in heats and the horses were jumping horses not thoroughbreds.

According to a press release from Ascot Racecourse, the event as it is known today probably dates back to 1807 when the Gold Cup Race was added to the race fixtures. The Gold Cup Race is still run and falls on the third day of Royal Ascot. It is considered the most prestigious race for long-distance horses, known as stayers. Other races have been added too. The Queen’s Vase honours the inauguration of Queen Victoria in 1843 and the Royal Hunt Cup was first run in 1843.

The ‘cream’ of something means the very top or best.

Ascot is more than just about the horses. It is a social event when the cream of society gathers to socialize and gamble. There are important rules for what people wear. Ascot has three areas for spectators: The Royal Enclosure, the Grandstand and the Silver Ring. Both men and women are required to wear hats. The suit should be either black or grey. Women should wear dresses no shorter than above the knee. The Grandstand area only requires men to wear a suit and tie. Women are still required to wear a hat. The Silver Circle has no formal dress code but it’s still not allowed to have a naked chest or wear sports clothes – like football jerseys.

It’s not only the spectators which wear hats. The racecourse’s stewards choose to wear a bowler hat which is very important to them.

No matter which horse comes in first, tradition remains a clear winner at Ascot.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Horse racing is known as the sport of kings. In the UK, it has strong connections to the British Royal Family, members of which have been horse owners and fans of the sport for many years. It’s hardly surprising that the Royals have a race meet named in their honour, Royal Ascot. The meet this year starts on June 18th and continues for five days. While the name of the event may be famous, the history and traditions of the race track may not be so familiar.

The site saw its first race on August 11th 1711 after Queen Anne had decided that the area would be ideal. Much about the race was different compared to today. The race was run in heats and the horses were jumping horses not thoroughbreds. No record exists of which horse and rider won the 100 guineas prize Queen Anne had offered.

The racecourse itself received official support when Parliament passed the Enclosure Act in 1813 which made the grounds, though the property of the Crown, open to the public. This act gave the event a firm base on which to grow and develop over the years.

According to a press release from Ascot Racecourse, the event as it is known today probably dates back to 1807 when the Gold Cup Race was added to the race fixtures. The Gold Cup Race is still run and falls on the third day of Royal Ascot. It is considered the most prestigious race for long-distance horses, known as stayers. From 1844 the event was called the Emperor’s Plate in honour of Tsar Nicholas I who offered the plate as a new trophy. The name changed back when Britain went to war with the Russian Empire in 1853. The Gold Cup remains Ascot’s oldest surviving race. Other races which have been added were the Queen’s Vase to commemorate the inauguration of Queen Victoria in 1843 and the Royal Hunt Cup, which was first run in 1843.

The ‘cream’ of something means the very top or best.
‘To take a punt’ is a British slang term for gamble.

Of course, Ascot is much more than just about the horses. It is a social event when the cream of society gathers to mingle and take a punt. The formal nature of the event goes back to the early 19th century when a friend of the Prince Regent’s suggested that certain attire would be more appropriate for the attendees. The favoured style for men was black waisted coats with white cravats and pantaloons.

Today, the recommended dress depends on where you are. Ascot has three areas for spectators: The Royal Enclosure, the Grandstand and the Silver Ring with a somewhat descending degree of formality for each. Both men and women are required to wear hats. For men this means a top hat. The suit should be either black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat and tie. Interestingly, cravats are no longer permitted. Women should wear dresses no shorter than above the knee. The dress must have straps no thinner than 2.5 centimetres. The Grandstand area only requires men to wear a suit and tie. Women are still required to wear a hat. The Silver Circle has no formal dress code but bare chests and sports clothes – like football jerseys – are not permitted.

A certain amount of status and exclusion is undeniably at work in a three tier system. However, Ascot is not nearly as exclusive as it used to be. Until 1955, divorced people were barred from entering the Royal Enclosure. According to the racecourse’s own publication, Viscount Churchill, who was appointed the first sovereign’s representative in 1901, had access to the Divorce Registry to check that divorced people were not in attendance.

Actors were also barred from the Royal Enclosure until Edward VII sent a badge – the means by which guests identified themselves – to actor Charles Hawtrey. The first sovereign’s representative at the time was not aware and challenged Hawtrey, saying he did not remember sending him a badge. Hawtrey replied that the king had given it to him.

It’s not only the spectators which wear hats. The racecourse’s stewards choose to wear a bowler hat. This item of headwear has an interesting back story too. It was first introduced in the 50s, causing the stewards to threaten strike action unless their wages were increased. In 2004 when the course was shut for redevelopment, the stewards demanded that they keep their beloved hat.

No matter which horse comes in first, tradition remains a clear winner at Ascot.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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