As the name suggests, the Sandringham Handicap is a race in which the handicapper decides the weight that each horse will carry. The theory is that the horses would all finish the race at the same time if the handicapper has done their job properly, although of course that has never happened. The event is for three-year-old fillies and is run over one mile on the straight. It is currently scheduled to take place on the fourth day of the Royal Ascot meeting and was known as the Fern Hill Rated Stakes until 2001, being part of the Ascot Heath meeting.
It was run as a Listed handicap prior to 2018, but the British Horseracing Authority chose to downgrade it in order to comply with the new rule that said that no handicap race could be run if it held either Listed or Group race status. The fact that it is run on the straight means that it offers a good test to horses, to say nothing of three-year-olds that don’t have a heap of experience. The race itself doesn’t offer a heap of information about future events, given the fact that the 20 winners between 2003 and 2023 failed to produce a victory next time out on all but four occasions.
Limited to three-year-old fillies, the Sandringham Stakes involves the use of the handicapper to set the weights for the participating horses. The records for the event date back to 1988 but the race itself was first inaugurated back in 1834 when it was called the Fern Hill Stakes. The first race was won by Lord Chesterfield’s Alexis ridden by Scott at odds of 5/1.
The race continued with the Fern Hill Rated Stakes name until it was re-christened with its current moniker. That was the get it to fit in with the ‘Royal’ nature of Ascot a little more readily, given the fact that Sandringham is a village in Norfolk where the Royal Family has an estate. Sandringham House has been a private residence of the Royals since the days of Edward VII, who used it as a holiday home.
There is another link between the Royals and horse racing provided by Sandringham, insomuch as it is close to where the Royal Stud is located. There is a stud farm that provides shelter to many of the royal horses, with more than a few of them making it into the Ascot race over the years. Sandringham House itself stands in 20,000-acres of land, allowing for shooting parties and forestry. If you want to have a look around the grounds then you can, given that it is usually open to the public apart from on occasions of the likes of the death of the monarch or a public health crisis.
The title is the main thing that links the race to the Royal Family, other than the fact that some of the horses studded nearby will have run in the race over the years. The monarch will also have had some runners in the event every now and then, but it is unquestionably the Royal household that has seen the event given its current moniker. That doesn’t tell you a huge amount about the likely outcome of the event, of course, but then that is true of pretty much every race’s title. You might learn more from the information of the weight given to each participant by the handicapper.
About The Race
The race originally took place as part of the Ascot Heath meeting that was run the day after the conclusion of Royal Ascot week. When a fifth day was added to the Royal meeting, it made sense to incorporate some of the races that took place on that day, with the Sandringham Handicap being one of them. Notable winners from the past include the likes of Red Evie, Timepiece and Persuasive, all of whom went on to win Group 1 races in the future. The fact that is is limited to three-year-olds means that the horses can use the experience to develop after running in it.
Whilst the horses running in the event come from all sorts of events, it is worth noting that a number of the winners had taken part in one of the Classics before running in this. Timepiece, as an example, had run in the Epsom Oaks, albeit finishing eighth. Osaila came seventh in the 1,000 Guineas in 2015 before running out as the winner in this, so the experience of running in a big race alone seems enough to give the horses some much-needed experience. The fact that it is fillies up against one another also allows for some genuinely intriguing competition to play out.
When it comes to the success of the favourites in this race, it is mixed. Between 2010 and 2023 there were four winners, with all of 2012’s Duntle, Muteela in 2014, Persuasive two years later and then Agrotera in 2018 being well-supported heading into the race. There have been plenty of shocks in the race too. Con Te Partiro won in 2017 with a price of 20/1, but both Thanks Be and Onassis won at 33/1 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Frankie Dettori was the event’s most successful jockey thanks to the eight wins that he racked up, whilst Irish-trained runners don’t always do too well.
In spite of the relative youth of this race in its modern format, there is still something interesting trivia that you can use to your advantage when looking to place bets on it. Here’s a look at one key piece:
More Than 10 Seconds Between Fastest & Slowest Running
In 2012, Duntle ran the race in 1:37.90. That is obviously fairly impressive, which is made even more so on account of the fact that the slowest winner completed the event in 1:48.58. That is more than ten seconds between the quickest running and the slowest, which is fairly noteworthy.
It is also evidence that it is always worth having a look at the Going for the race if you want to have a feeling for how long it is likely to take to run it. If you’re thinking it might just be because it was in the 1980s that it took so long, Persuasive won in 1:44.27 in 2016, proving that’s not the only reason.
The Sandringham Handicap is named in honour of the Sandringham estate that is one of the many Royal households up and down the country. There have been some impressive winners of the event over the years, with the likes of Persuasive, Red Evie and Timepiece all managing to win Group 1 events after their success in this one. As with so many races run during the week of Royal Ascot, no jockey has enjoyed more success in the event than Frankie Dettorri, who won it seven times during his career. The event is run over one mile and limited to three-year-old fillies.
The fact that it is a handicap race means that the official handicapper decides the weight to be carried by each horse. This presents punters with an opportunity to make hay on occasions when the handicapper has got it wrong. There have been some favourites winning the race, whilst there have also been some runners with long odds managing to get over the finish line first. Examples include Thanks Be and Onassis, both of whom were winners in 2019 and 2020 respectively with odds of 33/1. It shows that you might want to look outside just the favourite when placing your wager.