Run right-handed over one mile, three furlongs and 211 yards, the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes was known as the Bessborough Stakes and named in honour of the 5th Earl of Bessborough. That was first run at Ascot in 1914 and took place over five furlongs, but was re-named as the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes in 1999 in order to honour Prince Philip, who held the role at the time. Some of the horses that have won the race have then gone on to do well in Group level events, with some winners then enjoying success in the likes of the Jockey Club Stakes, the Cumberland Lodge Stakes and the Deutsches St. Leger.
The race is for horses aged three and over and is a handicap event. As with other handicaps run during the week, that means that the official handicapper assigns the weight that each horse has to carry, presenting punters with a chance to get one over on the bookmakers if they can correctly identify those horses that have been incorrectly assigned what to carry. Whilst it is open to horses aged three and over, the race has been won by those aged four or five most commonly in recent years. Similarly, winners have often come in the top three in their last outing before this one.
The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes is a race that can effectively be split into two. That is because it was originally known as the Bessborough Stakes, named in honour of John Ponsonby, 5th Earl of Bessborough. He had served as the Master of the Buckhounds on three separate occasions during the 19th century, hence the reason it was thought appropriate to name a horse race after him. Not only was he involved in the world of horses for the Royal Family, he was also a politician for the Liberals and a cricketer, playing for Marylebone Cricket Club five times in the 1930s.
During its early years, the race was run over five furlongs and was limited to two-year-olds when it was first introduced to the Royal Ascot roster in 1914. The title was later given to a race that was run over a mile and a half, also hosted during the week of Royal Ascot. In 1999, the race was given a new title in order to honour Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, taking the title from a race that was already run at Royal Ascot in the autumn. Nowadays it is for horses aged three and over and it is run over a longer distance, making it an exciting event to watch.
Horses that do well in this event can end up impressing at Group level. In 2000, for example, Blueprint won the Jockey Club Stakes, having won this race the year before. Young Mick was successful in this race in 2006, then later in the season won the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. Fox Hunt won the event in 2011 and won the Deutsches St. Leger that year too. At the time of writing, no horse has won the race more than once during the modern era, in spite of the fact that it was opened up from being only for those aged two to those aged three and over.
About The Race
In the modern era, records date from 1982. Between then and 2023, a number of jockeys racked up more than one win. Richard Hughes won it twice in 2002 and 2015, for example, whilst Silvestre de Sousa, William Buick and Willie Carson won it the same number of times. Pat Eddery won it four times between 1989 and 1997, but that still wasn’t enough to take the record. That is because Ryan Moore notched up five wins from 2008 to 2023, locking in the most successful jockey title. There is a similar story for the trainers, with a few getting more than one win.
Ian Balding won it twice, as did John Dunlop and Lady Herries. Mark Johnston win it four times, which was matched by Hughie Morrison, but none of them could get close to the six wins that Michael Stoute managed between 1998 and 2014. During the time period in question, only four horses won the race over the age of five, with three of them being six-years-old and Scalet Dragon winning it as a seven-year-old in 2020. Between 2012 and 2023, the event took place 12 times. On six occasions, the winning horse was the favourite for the race when it began.
There are some other things that we can learn from the success of the horses at other times. Seven out of the 12 winners were successful in the race they ran before taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, with nine out of the 12 having run in the 48 days prior to this race. In terms of their rating, nine horses had a rating of between 95 and 102, though none of them had won a Group race prior to running in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes. It also tends to be something of a peak for horses, with only one of the 12 winners during that time winning their next race.
There is a degree of trivia surrounding the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, but this is something worth thinking about:
Look For Horses That Can Out-Perform Their Weight
The reality of handicap races is that it is up to the handicapper how much weight horses carry. As a result, you can sometimes see horses that are out-performing their weight, with the lowest amount carried by a winner between 1984 and 2023 being the seven stone and nine pounds that Rinja had in 1991.
Conversely, the most a horse was asked to carry whilst still winning the race was nine stone and ten pounds, which Arab Spring had on him during the 2014 race, winning for Sir Michael Stout with Ryan Moore on his back, getting home in a little over two minutes 28 seconds.
The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes was first run under the title of the Bessborough Stakes. There is some question over whether they are even the same race, given the fact that the Bessborough Stakes was run for the first time in 1914 and took place over five furlongs, whilst the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes was initially run in 1999 and takes place over one mile, three furlongs and 211 yards. They are classed as the same race, though, and the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes is for horses aged three and over, with the handicapper assigning a weight amount to each horse.
There are several horses that have gone on to do well in Group races, such as Blueprint, Young Mick and Fox Hunt. No horse has won the race more than once, but the same cannot be said of jockeys. Several managed to win it at least twice, such as William Buick and Richard Hughes, whilst Ryan Moore notched up five wins between 2008 and 2023, setting the record. For trainers, John Dunlop and Ian Balding are amongst the trainers who managed more than one win, whilst Hughie Morrison won it four times. Sir Michael Stoute holds the record, though, with six wins.