At the time of writing, the Norfolk Stakes is the opening race of the third day of the Royal Ascot meeting. It is also the fourth Group 2 event of the week, meaning that it offers a touch of class to what is already a fairly classy meeting. The previous Group 2 race to take place across the course of the race was founded in 2004, so the fact that this one first took place in 1843 helps to draw attention to the manner in which the various races across the course of the week all offer something different and have their own quirks and eccentricities that help to add to the fun.
It is limited to two-year-olds, with no limit on the gender of the horses. Run over five furlongs on the straight, the race has weight information of nine stone and one pound, though fillies are given a three pound allowance. The event was originally called the New Stakes, but that name can presumably only last so long and a rebrand is necessary when its still being run more than 100 years later. As a result, it was renamed as the Norfolk Stakes in 1973. That is not about the county, but instead the 16th Duke of Norfolk because the Royals can’t have any race not paying them some sort of homage.
Established in 1843 as the New Stakes, the first winner of the event was called Rattan and the second was the appropriately named Old England. It was renamed in 1973, which was when it took on its current moniker, with the aim being to honour the 16th Duke of Norfolk. He served as the Majesty’s Representative at Ascot between 1945 and 1972, which helps to confirm just how closely tied Ascot Racecourse is to the Royal Family. After all, how many other racecourses have a specific representative from the monarchy who then also gets a race named after them?
Bernard Fitzalan-Howard was both a British peer and a politician. Educated at the Oratory School, he was commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards in 1931 before resigning his position two years later. Interestingly, horse racing wasn’t his favourite sport and he was actually the manager of the English cricket team on a tour of Australia in 1962 and 1963. Nevertheless, his link to the monarchy meant that when the race was renamed, he was someone it was decided it was ok to rename it after. If you have a connection to the Royals, you too could have a race named after you in the future.
Because it is limited to two-year-olds, no horse has ever won it more than once. The same cannot be said of jockeys, however. If you think of flat racing then there is going to be one name that will pop into your head more than any other, which is that of Lester Piggott. The famous jockey won the race nine times between 1961 and 1992, which is unlikely to ever be beaten. Frankie Dettori gave it a go with four wins, but still didn’t get close. There are four trainers that have won the race four times at the time of writing, namely Matthew Dawson, James Ryan, John Porter and Arty Persse.
About The Race
For a long time, the Norfolk Stakes was considered to be a Group 3 event. That only changed in 2006 when it was promoted to become a Group 2 offering. Staged on day three of Royal Ascot, in 2018 it was added to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series. It was made into a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. In other words, the winer of this race automatically gets to take part in the race without needing to go through any other qualification criteria. That added a touch of prestige to proceedings and made winning the event even more special.
For its part, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge is a series of races where the winner makes it straight through to the Breeders’ Cup. The challenge races aren’t always the same, but the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a series of races that take place annually in the United States of America. Because the qualifying races change each year, there is no guarantee that the winner of this event will make it into the Juvenile Turf Sprint. As an example, here is the list of races that had a qualifying berth in 2022:
- Juvenile Stakes – Leopardstown Racecourse
- Summer Stakes – Woodbine Racetrack
- Royal Lodge Stakes – Newmarket
- Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère – Longchamp Racecourse
- Pilgrim Stakes – Aqueduct Racetrack
- Bourbon Stakes – Kenneland
Lester Piggott’s success in the race as a jockey means that others doing well are often overlooked. It is worth nothing, therefore, that there are a few jockeys that have won the event more than once. Alan Munro, Eddie Ahern, Joel Rosario, John Carroll, John Reid, Paul Hanagan, Richard Hills, Robert Winston, Ryan Moore and Tony Ives have all seen themselves in the winner’s enclosure twice between 1980 and 2023. It is obviously Frankie Dettori who stands out during that period, though, with four wins spaced out between 1995 and 2019.
When races have been going on for more than 100 years, it’s fair to say that there is a wee bit of trivia that we can tell you about it. Here is just a glimpse into what we know:
Expect It To Last For A Minute
With a little bit of variation depending on the Going, you can expect the Norfolk Stakes to last about a minute before the leader will be crossing the finish line. The fastest that the race has ever been is 57.56 seconds. The longest, on the other hand, is 1:05.95, showing the difference between the two. They are the exceptions that prove the rule, with one minute and one second being the most common time that it has taken horses to complete the race over the years. Any longer than that and it is not unreasonably to surmise that you’re watching a long race.
The Norfolk Stakes, a Group 2 horse race, sets the stage for an action-packed third day at Royal Ascot. Dating back to 1843, this race’s rich history and unique quirks add to the excitement of the illustrious meeting. Limited to two-year-olds, the race welcomes fillies and colts, providing a competitive platform for emerging talent. Covering five furlongs on the straight, the Norfolk Stakes boasts a weight requirement of nine stone and one pound, with a three-pound allowance for fillies. Originally known as the New Stakes, the event was renamed in 1973 to honour the 16th Duke of Norfolk, who served as the monarch’s Representative at Ascot.
With an illustrious list of jockey winners, Lester Piggott stands out, securing an impressive nine victories between 1961 and 1992. Several other jockeys have tasted success more than once, including Frankie Dettori, Alan Munro and Ryan Moore, adding spice to the competition. In 2006, the race earned its Group 2 status, highlighting its growing importance. Additionally, the Norfolk Stakes became part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2018, providing the winner with an automatic berth in the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Expect the Norfolk Stakes to last around a minute, with the fastest ever completion at 57.56 seconds and the longest at 1 minute and 5.95 seconds.