Ascot Racecourse Guide

The Finishing Post at Ascot
The Finishing Post at Ascot (JohnArmagh /

Ascot is undoubtedly one of Britain’s finest racecourses and it is one with a wonderful racing history stretching back more than three centuries. It is mostly used for flat racing, hosting more Group 1 Flat races than any other course in the country but it is also home to several big National Hunt races over the winter months.

The Berkshire based course is best known for its Royal Ascot meeting in June which now attracts around 300,000 visitors, making it the most highly attended meeting in Europe. It is less known for having featured in two James Bond movies, A View to a Kill and Skyfall as well as being the setting for a scene in My Fair Lady. If you Bond fans are struggling to recall a racing scene in Skyfall there wasn’t one – the new grandstand doubled as Shanghai International Airport!

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The Course

Ascot’s well designed course features two separate tracks that run side by side. On the inside there is the jumping track and on the outside there is the flat track, although there were plans to have the 2016 Champion Stakes run on the inner course in case the going stayed better there. It would be wrong to think that the going often causes problems for the ground staff at Ascot as, even in the winter, the jumping track’s redevelopment and improved drainage in 2006/07 means testing conditions are uncommon.

The flat track has an extended straight that stretches out from the round course, meaning races less than one mile will be run in a straight line and races of a mile have the choice of being on the straight track or starting on the Old Mile course, close to the top bend known as Swinley Bottom. The final turn coming into the short two and a half furlong home straight is quite an easy one so positioning during the later stages is key.

For the outer jumping course, which was inaugurated in 1966, it too is a right handed galloping course and one that doesn’t have the easiest of fences especially on the far side. There are 10 fences or six hurdles per circuit and the ability to take these well is essential and it is a track that tends to favour front runners, except during large handicaps.

Major Races

There’s absolutely no lack of big races at Ascot as it hosts a total of 30 Group quality flat races as well as 12 Graded National Hunt events. With a calendar full of high quality action, you never have to wait long to see some classy names take to the stalls here but of course, there are some races that do stand out from the rest.

We’ll start with some of the races that feature on Ascot’s British Champions Day which was introduced in 2011 and is now Europe’s final major flat meeting of the season. Included in the day’s action are five top races, all of differing distance ranging from six furlongs (British Sprint Stakes) to two miles (British Champions Long Distance Cup). Two of the races now boast prize money of over £1m, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Champion Stakes, making them some of the richest in the country and indeed Europe.

The five day Royal Ascot meet is the biggest occasion however and it’s one oozing with quality throughout. In 2016, every single day dished out at least £1m in prize money and some of the major races include the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Gold Cup, Commonwealth Cup, Coronation Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes. You’ll struggle to find such an incredible of fixture of racing in the world, which is why it attracts such a big global audience and top horses from around the world.

When it comes to jump racing, Ascot isn’t the biggest home for it but with races such as the Ascot Chance, Clarence House Chase and the Long Walk Hurdle, there have been plenty of top names take to the fences and hurdles at Ascot over the winter months.


The Royal Enclosure & Stands at Ascot
The Royal Enclosure & Stands (Troxx /

While often renowned for its glitz and glamour, not every race day at Ascot is like this and there are some more casual meetings to attend if that’s more your style.

Useful Info

Dress Code

For most meetings at Ascot, both flat and jumping, no formal dress code applies in the Grandstand Admission (Queen Anne Enclosure) although fancy dress and replica sports shirts are never permitted. For entrance to the Kind Edward VII Enclosure, the standards are higher and gents will need to wear a collared shirt, jackets and tie during the flat season, with women needing to dress smartly, preferably with a hat.

For jump meetings, while this dress code is encouraged, it no longer becomes essential and more casual clothing is allowed. For Royal Ascot, there are no formal requirements for the Windsor Enclosure but in the Queen Anne Enclosure men must have a matching shirt and tie and ladies must dress formally with hat, headpiece or fascinator. Attire in the Royal Enclosure must meet very strict and extensive guidelines which can be found on the racecourse’s official website.

Ticket Prices

Tickets at Ascot vary significantly from raceday to raceday. On occasions, access to the Queen Anne Enclosure is free but typically prices range from £17 to £23 when booked in advance online with prices on the day being a little more expensive. In the King Edward VII Enclosure, advance tickets will usually set you back between £22 and £30.

On British Champions Day, pre-booked tickets are £24 in the Queen Anne Enclosure, £45 for the Winning Post Enclosure and £85 for the King Edward VII Enclosure.

For Royal Ascot, book early and you can get into the Queen Anne Enclosure for £27 and the Windsor Enclosure for £41 on the cheapest days (Tuesday & Wednesday), increasing to £41 and £80 respectively on Saturday, the most expensive day. Tickets do sell out, so booking beforehand is strongly advised.


In 2016, the fee to become an annual badge holder was £370 but 2017’s price is not yet confirmed. Being a badge holder gives you access to all racedays apart from those during Royal Ascot. For the famous five day festival, you will instead have the option of purchasing grandstand tickets at half price. There’s a lot of discounts that come with being a member at Ascot and you also get access to the exclusive bar and restaurant, the Trackside Room.

Getting There

Ascot train station is less than a mile away from the racecourse and although train links aren’t extensive, there are direct journeys departing from Reading (27 minutes) and London Waterloo (57 minutes). Coach travel is available from a number of different providers but you’ll need to phone +44 (0)844 346 3000 for further details.


For less busy racedays, parking is usually free in all of Ascot’s car parks and even during more popular meets, some car parks often remain free with others, closer to the course, costing upwards of £6. For Royal Ascot there is a huge price spike: parking for cars is £35 and £85 for minibuses.


Queen Elizabeth II at Royal Ascot in 1995
Queen Elizabeth II at Royal Ascot, 1995 (Almaktoumfamily123 /

In 1711, while riding near Windsor Castle, Queen Anne saw a spot of land that looked just right for racing and a matter of months later, Ascot held its first meeting on 11th August. The opening race was Her Majesty’s Plate and while there is no record of the winner of the race, we do know it was a test of incredible stamina, with all competitors having to carry 12 stone as they ran three separate, four mile heats.

Later in the century, it was decided that Ascot needed a permanent building for racing purposes and in 1794 work was complete on the 1,650 capacity structure which was used for almost 50 years. More good news arrived in 1813 when an Act of Enclosure was passed by Parliament, securing Ascot’s status as a public racecourse.

While neither George I nor George II took any interest in Ascot, George IV was a keen gambling man and his patronage made Ascot one of the top social occasions of the year. When he became king in 1820, he ordered architect John Nash to design a new stand for the purposes of the Royal Family and guests, marking the beginning of the Royal Enclosure. Five years later and King George IV made the first formal procession up the Straight Mile and it’s a tradition which has been maintained to this day.

King George IV certainly left his mark on Royal Ascot but it had been in ascendency for some time. It seems to have evolved from a four day meet, which began in 1768, but it wasn’t until the Gold Cup was introduced in 1807 that Royal Ascot took a format we are more familiar with. Until 1939, it was the only meeting that took place at Ascot so it’s understandable why it remains such a huge occasion today.


An increase in fixtures in the latter half of the 20th century led to signs of wear and a demand for newer facilities at the racecourse. Racegoers got their wish in 2004 when redevelopment work began at a huge cost of £200m. After being closed for 20 months, Ascot was reopened by Queen Elizabeth on 20th June 2006 with a new grandstand, parade ring and innovative irrigation system down the straight mile amongst the changes.

As with many UK tracks, development and refurbishment are ongoing projects but there is no doubt that Ascot is one of the best and most modern facilities in the UK and offers a fabulous day out.