There aren’t as many Group 3 races as part of the Royal Ascot meeting as with the other Group races, but there are still more than a few events worthy of your attention. The Hampton Court Stakes is one of them, typically taking place on the third day of the racing festival and being open to horses aged three. This excludes any that have previously won a Group 1 or Group 2 event, whilst Group 3 winners are given a four pound penalty. That is because it is a race aimed at those horses that aren’t necessarily all that experienced and that are keen to step up in ability.
It is tricky to talk of the history of the Hampton Court Stakes, largely because it has taken place under a number of different titles. What we do know is that it is run over one mile, one furlong and 212 yards, whilst the weight information is nine stone zero pounds, with fillies given a three pound allowance. It is run right-handed on the Ascot course, with the details about the event dating back to 1986. That obviously makes it one of the meeting’s younger races, but it is no less exciting because of that, with the horses giving their all to get a big win under their belt.
For a time, this race was an ungraded event run under the title of the Churchill Stakes. It used to be part of a series of races at Ascot known as the Ascot Heath meeting. That was run the day after the conclusion of Royal Ascot, which was held over four days at the time. Back then, it was run over one mile and four furlongs, then in 1996 it was sponsored by Milcars and became known as the Milcars Conditions Stakes. Three years on and it became a Listed race, known as the New Stakes, which was a title that had previous been given to a race that became the Norfolk Stakes.
In 2000, the race ended up being cut down to one mile and two furlongs, with the Milcar sponsorship lasting for a further year. The big change came in 2002, which was when the Royal Ascot meeting was extended to include a fifth day in order to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. It was registered as the New Stakes at that point, but when the extra day on Royal Ascot, which was originally intended to be for just one year, was made permanent, it took on the moniker of the Hampton Court Stakes. That is in honour of the Royal residence from the Tudor period.
In 2011, the race was made into a Group 3 event, also being renamed as the Tercentenary Stakes. That was done in order to honour Ascot Racecourse’s 300th anniversary, with the first meeting having been staged in 1711. The name remained in place until 2017, at which point it went back to being called the Hampton Court Stakes, which it has been named ever since. Hampton Court Palace, of course, is a Grade I listed building located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It has two distinct styles, thanks to the decision of King William III to build a palace that could rival the Palace of Versailles, only to abandon that in 1694.
About The Race
It would be untrue to say that the Hampton Court Stakes is a race that stands on its own, but it is worth pointing out that the rules around it mean that many of the winners haven’t won an event before this one. It is also true that there is no clear race for successful horses to be entered into after it. That being said, some of the winners have gone on to achieve impressive things. Sadeem won in 1986, for example, and went on to win the Ascot Gold Cup in both 1988 and 1989, as well as the Goodwood Cup in the first of those years, whilst also being one of Guy Harwood’s best stayers.
Seven years later and White Muzzle won the event before finishing second in both the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes as well as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Despite being a 54/1 outsider in the Arc, he was only narrowly beaten by Urban Sea. In other words, there are some classy horses that run in this one, albeit they are thinner on the ground than in other major events. Not that that keeps the top trainers or jockeys away, of course. Whilst no horses has won it more than once, the same isn’t true for those that ride the horses or get them in shape.
The most obvious example of this comes in the form of Ryan Moore, who won the event four times between 2009 and 2020. Of those wins, two of them were done for trainer Aiden O’Brien, who also managed four wins, this time between 2004 and 2020. Both Hunting Horn and Russian Emperor were done with Moore in the saddle, whilst Moscow Ballet and Indigo Cat were ridden by Jamie Spender and Kieren Fallon respectively. Barry Hills, Clive Britain, Guy Harwood and Henry Cecil are amongst the trainers that have won the race more than once, but not as often as O’Brien.
Aside from the success of Moore and O’Brien, there are other interesting facts that are worth knowing about when it comes to the Hampton Court Stakes. Here is a look at the most interesting:
Times Differ Depending On Length
It is an obvious point when you think about it, but the length of time that it takes a horse to make it to the finish line in this race depends on the length that it’s run over. That is because it has boasted different lengths over the years, meaning that it took as long as 2:41.38 in 1993 and was as fast as 2:03.02 in 2018.
It perhaps says something that all of the sub-two minutes and six seconds runnings have happened in recent years. The Going can still have an impact, of course, which is probably why Sangarius took 2:08.36 to complete the race for Frankie Dettori in 2019.
The Hampton Court Stakes is a Group 3 horse racing event held during the Royal Ascot meeting. Occurring on the third day of the festival, this race is for three-year-old horses that have not won Group 1 or Group 2 races, aimed at those looking to advance in skill. The race covers one mile, one furlong and 212 yards, with a weight requirement of nine stone zero pounds and a three-pound allowance for fillies. Established in 1986, it’s one of the younger races at the event but remains thrilling due to the competitiveness of the participating horses.
Initially known under various names, the race was part of Ascot’s Ascot Heath meeting, following Royal Ascot. Changing distances and titles over the years, it gained Group 3 status in 2011, commemorating Ascot Racecourse’s 300th anniversary. Ryan Moore notably won the race four times between 2009 and 2020, frequently partnering with trainer Aidan O’Brien, who also secured four wins. Though fewer high-profile horses typically participate, past winners have achieved notable success, with some horses like Sadeem going on to win prestigious races. Race times have varied with changing lengths, impacted by track conditions.