The nature of Royal Ascot as a race meeting is such that there are some races that have a huge information to say about them, whilst there are others that are less imposing and impressive. The Ascot Stakes very much fits into the latter category, even though it is one of the most competitive handicap events for stayers run during the flat racing season. We can’t tell you exactly when it was run for the first time, for example, only that the modern records date back to 1988. What we do know is that it is a flat race that often appeals to National Hunt trainers because of its nature.
Run over two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards, it is one of the longest races that takes place during the week of Royal Ascot. The length of the event is what appeals to National Hunt trainers, who are keen to give their horses a competitive run out in the summer months. It is open to horses aged four and over, taking place on the first day of the meeting at the time of writing. Horses that do well in it are often entered into the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with more than a few of the entrants winning both events over the years. It is a race that demands stamina from participants.
A flat handicap event for horses aged four and over, the nature of the Ascot Stakes is such that it is for horses that are used to running for a long time. Taking place over more than two miles, it has become common in recent times for National Hunt trainers to enter their horses into it. Though Willie Mullins only won the race for the first time in 2012, he then won it three more times including the 2018 running. Names like Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill will also be better known to jump racing fans than those who prefer racing on the flat, which tells you something about the race.
When Brown Jack won the race in 1928, it was the first of seven successive victories achieved by the horse. It didn’t hurt that he kept on winning the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with no other horse winning it between 1929 and 1934. Other horses like San Sebastian in 1998 won this and then the Queen Alexandra Stakes, with Wille Mullins’ first winner, Simenon, managing it in 2012. In other words, you might want to at least have a look at whether the winning horse from the Ascot Stakes is taking part in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, given the success of them generally over the years.
It is certainly more likely that they’ll do well in that than the Northumberland Plate, for example. Two recent winners entered the Newcastle event after doing well in this, only to be well beaten by the time they got up north. In fact, winners haven’t tended to do well in their next runout after enjoying success in this race. One of the only recent winners to have won their next race was Clondaw Warrior, who won in the Ascot Stakes and then enjoyed success in the Guinness Handicap at Galway in his next outing, which tells you a lot about the test this race offers.
About The Race
Since 1988, there have been a few jockeys that have managed to win this event more than once. Eddie Ahern, Kieren Fallon and William Buick have all managed double wins, for example, whilst both of Fran Berry and Ryan Moore have been in the winner’s exclosure on three occasions. During the same time period, Guy Harwood, Tony Martin, Ian Williams and Michael Stoute all won the race twice, whilst Martin Pipe and Willie Mullins hold the record with four wins apiece at the time of writing. In other words, it is a race that jockeys and trainers can win more than once once they’ve got to grips with it.
At the time of writing, no horse has won the race more than once in spite of the fact that it is open to those aged four and over. In terms of the age of winners, between 1988 and 2023 there were 13 four-year-olds, nine winning it aged five, three six-year-olds, seven seven-year-olds and three eight-year-old winners, in addition to one nine-year-old who made it the winners’ enclosure. When it comes to the ability of the horses, it is usually an Official Rating of 88 or higher that is needed in order to get a win. In recent years, only 85 rated Junior has managed to win with a rating below that mark.
If you’re wondering what the official handicapper is likely to give the horses, it is worth bearing in mind that in the last 12 or so seasons, only Coeur De Lion has won carrying less than nine stone. When Thomas Hobson won in 2017 he did so carrying nine stone and ten pounds, which is the same amount carried by The Grand Visir in 2020, with both horses having been rated at 100. In other words, keep an eye out on how highly they’re rated more than their Starting Price, given the fact that just two Favourites won between 2012 and 2022, whilst 16/1 was the longest odds winner.
If you’re hoping for a bit of race trivia about the Ascot Stakes, you’re in the right place:
Winning Times Vary Wildly
If you’re wondering how long you’re going to be watching this race for before a winner is declared, the answer is that it varies quite widely. The fastest running of the race at the time of writing came in 2017, which was when Thomas Hobson made it home in 4:17.62.
The good news is that no runner has taken longest than the four minute something mark to get to the finish line, but the year before Thomas Hobson’s win it took Jennies Jewel 4:34.70 to make it to the end at the front of the pack. That is a difference of around 17 seconds just a year apart, which is really interesting.
The Ascot Stakes is a flat handicap horse race held during Royal Ascot, attracting less attention despite being one of the most competitive events for stayers in the flat racing season. Its modern records date back to 1988, with its historical origins remaining unclear. Covering a distance of 2 miles, 3 furlongs, and 210 yards, the race’s extended length appeals to National Hunt trainers seeking summer competition for their horses. Open to four-year-olds and above, it takes place on the first day of the Royal Ascot meeting and serves as a platform for long-distance runners, with many National Hunt trainers entering their horses.
Renowned jump trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill have found success here. Notably, winners of the Ascot Stakes often participate in the Queen Alexandra Stakes as well. The race’s unpredictability is reflected in its varying winning times. Thomas Hobson’s victory in 2017 took just 4 minutes and 17.62 seconds, whilst Jennies Jewel’s win in the previous year clocked 4 minutes and 34.70 seconds; a 17-second difference within a year. The Ascot Stakes stands as a testament to stamina and endurance, with winners needing a high Official Rating to triumph. With varying odds and multiple trainers achieving repeated successes, the race remains a fascinating fixture.