When it comes to horse racing, it feels like virtually every racecourse around the United Kingdom has an event called the ‘Gold Cup’. In that sense, Ascot is no exception. The Gold Cup was run for the first time in 1807, meaning that it was established long before other Gold Cups such as the one that is run at Cheltenham Racecourse every March. Run over two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards, the race is open to horses aged four and over with the following weight information in place:
- 4-year-olds: 9 stone 3 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 9 stone 4 pounds
- Fillies and mares receive an allowance of 3 pounds
- 4-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere receive an allowance of 7 pounds
It is the most prestigious event for stayers in the United Kingdom, traditionally being held on the third day of Royal Ascot. That is colloquially considered to be Ladies’ Day, even if it isn’t officially given that title. Speaking of official titles for things, the race doesn’t actually feature the word ‘Ascot’ in its official name, but the prevalence of so many other Gold Cups in horse racing means that it is commonly referred to as the ‘Ascot Gold Cup’ when people talk about the race.
The race being open for horses aged four and over means that a wide variety of ages have won it over the years. In 2009, for example, Yeats won it as an eight-year-old. That was the oldest age for a winner of the Gold Cup since Drum Taps had won it as a seven-year-old in 1993. If, that is, you ignore the fact that Yeats had won it as a seven-year-old the year before. Between 2013 and 2023, the age of the winning horse was as follows:
- 2013 – 4
- 2014 – 4
- 2015 – 4
- 2016 – 4
- 2017 – 6
- 2018 – 4
- 2019 – 5
- 2020 – 6
- 2021 – 4
- 2022 – 4
- 2023 – 4
Eight of the 11 winners in that period were four-years-old, which offers some indication of what you should expect in terms of the possible winning age of the horse when you’re betting on the Gold Cup. It doesn’t mean that older horses won’t win, as you can see from the list, but the odds are definitely in favour of four-year-olds in the race. A good indication of that is Yeats, who first won it as a five-year-old and then won it on four successive occasions, proving that age isn’t the defining factor for success in the Ascot event.
If you’re interested to know more about the race then looking at the times in which the horses complete it can be an interesting indication of how it will pan out. Generally speaking, you’re looking at a finishing time of around four minutes and 20 seconds, though it can take longer than that if the conditions dictate as much. In 2020, for example, it took Stradivarius just over four minutes and 32 seconds to make it to the finish line ahead of the pack. The longest race of the modern era saw the winner make it home after four minutes and 42 seconds in 2012, whilst the quickest was four minutes and 16 seconds two years earlier.
About The Race
Ascot’s Gold Cup was first run in 1807, being open to horses aged three and over at the time. Master Jackey was the inaugural winner of the event, being awarded prize money of 100 guineas for his success. That race was run in front of King George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte. It was yet another example of the manner in which Ascot bears a close relationship with the Royal Family. Another example came in 1844, when Nicholas I of Russia was in attendance during a state visit to England. The winning horse was unnamed at the time, being called ‘The Emperor’ in his honour.
In return of the honour of having a horse named after him, Nicholas I donated a trophy for the race that was called the ‘Emperor’s Plate’. The race took on that title for a time, with its original title being restored nine years later. That was as much due to the outbreak of the Crimean War as it was the fact that there was a particular desire for a race with that title to be returned to the racecourse. On the 18th of June 1907, the original Emperor’s Plate was stolen by thieves, with the theft never being solved. A replacement was made and in place by August of the same year.
There was some lightness to the incident, on account of the fact that the American humorist Mark Twain was visiting England at the time. This led to dual headlines of ‘Mark Twain Arrives’ and ‘Gold Cup Stolen’, with the author insisting that it was nothing to do with him.
Stayers’ Triple Crown
The Gold Cup is the first leg of what is known as the Stayers’ Triple Crown. This, as you might imagine, is aimed at stayers. It is a coveted achievement in the world of horse racing, consisting of three prestigious staying races in the United Kingdom. This challenging feat requires a horse to win three consecutive races in the form of the Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Goodwood Cup at the Glorious Goodwood festival and the Doncaster Cup at the St. Leger meeting. The Gold Cup is up first and is considered to be the most prestigious of the three races.
The Goodwood Cup is another Group 1 race and is run over a distance of two miles. It is one of the highlights of Glorious Goodwood, which is known for its picturesque setting and electric atmosphere. The Doncaster Cup, meanwhile, is run over two miles and two furlongs at Doncaster Racecourse, forming part of the prestigious St. Leger meeting. Winning all three races in a single season requires exceptional stamina, class and versatility from a horse. The Stayers’ Triple Crown represents the pinnacle of staying success and places a horse in the illustrious company of racing legends.
A race as long-run as the Gold Cup is bound to have some trivia attached to it, so here is a look at some of the more interesting facts about the race:
There are just three perpetual trophies at Royal Ascot, of which the Gold Cup is one. The other two are the Royal Hunt Cup and the Queen’s Vase. This means that the winning owner of the race gets to keep a version of the trophy forever.
There have been numerous multiple winners of the race, with Anticipation being the first to manage it thanks to a winner in 1816 being followed up with another win in 1819. Sagaro won the race three times between 1975 and 1977, whilst the famous Stradivarius matched that achievement between 2018 and 2020. It is Yeats that boasts the most wins, however, having won it for the first time in 2006 and winning it four times between then and 2009.
Memorable Names Enjoy Success
In terms of the names of the best jockeys and trainers associated with the event, you won’t be overly surprised to read who they are. No jockey has won the event more than the 11 times that Lester Piggott rode a winner. His first win came thanks to Zarathustra in 1957, whilst he was also the man on the back of Sagaro for his hat-trick of victories. Back-to-back wins on Ardross in 1981 and 1982 cemented his place in the record books. None of those wins came under the race’s most successful trainer in Aidan O’Brien, all of whom’s wins came for owner Sue Magnier.
The Ascot Gold Cup is an historic horse racing event that was established in 1807, meaning that it predates many other Gold Cups in the country. The race spans a distance of two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards and is open to horses aged four and over. Considered the most prestigious event for stayers in the UK, the Gold Cup traditionally takes place on the third day of Royal Ascot, Over the years, the race has seen winners of various ages, with four-year-olds dominating the winners’ circle. Notable winners include Yeats, who won the Gold Cup four times between 2006 and 2009.
The Ascot Gold Cup serves as the first leg of the Stayers’ Triple Crown, the winning of which is a prestigious achievement that requires a horse to win three consecutive races. The other two races are the Goodwood Cup at the Glorious Goodwood festival and the Doncaster Cup at the St. Leger meeting. Winning all three races in a single season places a horse among racing legends. The Gold Cup has some interesting trivia, such as being one of the three races at Royal Ascot with a perpetual trophy, multiple winners achieving great success and prominent jockeys like Lester Piggott and trainers like Aidan O’Brien making their mark on the event’s history.