If there is a sense that Day Two of Royal Ascot week is almost a ‘normal’ day in a race meeting, that goes back out of the window by Day Three. The Thursday is the day that features the most prestigious race of the week in the form of the Gold Cup, which has been run at Ascot Racecourse since 1807.
The opening race of the Stayers’ Triple Crown, the Gold Cup comes before the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup in the British flat racing calendar. There are plenty of horses that have won all three, with the most recent at the time of writing being 2019’s Stradivarius.
That win came in the middle of three successive wins for Stradivarius with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. Whilst most horses that have won the race stopped at two wins, Stradivarius’ three helps him stand out from the crowd. Remarkably, it isn’t the record for success in the race, which belongs to Yeats’ four wins between 2006 and 2009.
Ladies’ Day, as it’s colloquially known, doesn’t have any other Group 1 races besides the Gold Cup but still has plenty of interest thanks to the likes of the King George V Stakes and the Ribblesdale Stakes, which are a handicap and Group 2 race respectively.
There is no accounting for the weather or simply the fact that jockeys and riders are late getting to the stalls. Therefore, the times indicated on the card below are the post times but as we know well races tend to go off a few minutes after. It gives punters more time to place last minute bets.
Race 1 - Norfolk Stakes - 14:30
- Distance: 5f (1006m)
The Norfolk Stakes is an enthralling Group 2 horse race that kicks-off the third day of the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting. Despite being only the fourth Group 2 race of the week, the Norfolk Stakes brings a touch of class to the already esteemed gathering. With its inaugural running dating back to 1843, this race stands out as one of the oldest and most cherished contests on the Royal Ascot calendar. Exclusively for two-year-olds, the Norfolk Stakes welcomes both fillies and colts, presenting an exciting platform for emerging talent.
Covering a swift five furlongs on the straight track, the race demands agility and speed from its contenders. Weighing in at nine stone and one pound, fillies enjoy a slight advantage with a three-pound allowance. Originally named the New Stakes, the event underwent a rebranding in 1973 to honour the 16th Duke of Norfolk, who played a significant role in Ascot’s history as the monarch’s representative. With such strong ties to royalty, the Norfolk Stakes adds an air of elegance and prestige to the racing spectacle. Lester Piggott’s extraordinary nine victories in the race as a jockey stand as a remarkable record, with other prominent jockeys like Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Alan Munro achieving multiple wins as well.
- Horse - Valiant Force (150/1)
- Jockey - Rossa Ryan
- Trainer - Adrian Murray (IRE)
- Overall Prize Money - £108,207
- For The Winner - £62,381
Race 2 - King George V Stakes - 15:05
- Distance: 1m 3f 211y (2406m)
This handicap event asks the official handicapper to assign weights to the horses, resulting in some moments when horses are able to out-perform their expectations. Thethingaboutitis won in 1988 with a weight of seven stone and seven pounds, for example, whilst Beekeeper was carrying nine stone and seven pounds when winning 13 years later. That presents punters with opportunities if they're doing their research and know what they're looking for. Run right-handed over one mile, three furlongs and 211 yards, it is currently run on the third day of Royal Ascot.
As the name of the event suggests, the King George V Stakes is named in honour of the former monarch who married his brother's fiancé after his brother's death. A competitive race, some of the horses have gone on to achieve impressive things, whilst most are not all that noteworthy in a sense that they haven't achieved much in the tougher races. Arguably the most notable are 1986 winner Moon Madness, who went on to win the St. Leger Stakes, and 2020's victor Hukum. Hukum was the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in 2023, with all three horses being the exception that proves the rule.
- Horse - Desert Hero (18/1)
- Jockey - Tom Marquand
- Trainer - William Haggas (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £98,370
- For The Winner - £51,540
Race 3 - Ribblesdale Stakes - 15:40
- Distance: 1m 3f 211y (2406m)
The Ribblesdale Stakes is a Group 2 horse race limited to three-year-old fillies, captivating spectators and horse racing enthusiasts with its storied past and unique allure. Named after the fourth Baron of Ribblesdale, who served as the Master of the Buckhounds in the late 19th century, the race’s origins date back to 1919. Initially, the Ribblesdale Stakes featured both male and female horses, but a change in 1950 transformed it into an exclusive event for three-year-old fillies, further elevating its prestige. Held on the third day of the Royal Ascot meeting, the race covers a challenging distance of one mile, three furlongs, and 211 yards.
It is a test of the skill and stamina of participating fillies. The Ribblesdale Stakes shines as one of the few events reserved solely for fillies, attracting some of the finest female horses in the sport. Throughout history, legendary jockeys such as Frankie Dettori, Willie Carson and Lester Piggott have graced the winner’s enclosure, but it is Dettori who holds the record with an impressive eight victories in the modern era. Notable trainers like Henry Cecil, John Dunlop and Saeed bin Suroor have also left their mark on this iconic race over the years, which is run during Royal Ascot week.
- Horse - Warm Heart (13/2)
- Jockey - Ryan Moore
- Trainer - Aidan O'Brien (IRE)
- Overall Prize Money - £232,031
- For The Winner - £133,765
Race 4 - Gold Cup - 16:20
- Distance: 2m 3f 210y (4014m)
The Ascot Gold Cup has a rich history and is renowned for its prestigious status. First run in 1807, the race predates other Gold Cups in the country, including the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup. Covering a distance of two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards, the Gold Cup is open to horses aged four and above, with varying weight allowances based on age, gender and where the horse is from. Taking place on the third day of Royal Ascot, often referred to as Ladies’ Day, the Gold Cup holds a special place in the hearts of racing enthusiasts.
Although the race does not officially include ‘Ascot’ in its name, it is commonly known as the Ascot Gold Cup due to the prevalence of Gold Cups in horse racing. Over the years, the race has seen a mix of winners across different age groups, but four-year-olds have had the most success. Notable champions include Yeats, who secured an impressive four consecutive victories between 2006 and 2009, and Sagaro, a three-time winner from 1975 to 1977. The Gold Cup is the centrepiece of the Stayers’ Triple Crown and continues to captivate racing fans around the world.
- Horse - Courage Mon Ami (15/2)
- Jockey - Frankie Dettori
- Trainer - John & Thady Gosden (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £590,220
- For The Winner - £340,260
Race 5 - Britannia Stakes - 17:00
- Distance: 1m (1609m)
It is not unusual for winners of the Britannia Stakes, which is limited to three-year-olds colts and geldings, to be shipped to Hong Kong after their success, where they often have their name changed. It is run over a mile on the straight, taking place over the same distance and on the same course as the Royal Hunt Cup, with the big difference being that that race is for all horses aged three and over. There have been some impressive winners of the Britannia Stakes over the years, including Fly to the Stars, who won it in 1997 before going on to win six of his 24 starts.
When the 2023 running took place, some bookmakers that were part of the Betting and Gaming Council agreed to donate their profits to charity in honour of the King's coronation. The likes of SportsAid and the Holocaust Educational Trust benefitted from the decision. The event took place for the first time in 1928, with modern records dating back to 1988. Between 2001 and 2023, no trainer was able to win the race more than once. Before that, John Gosden had won it four times, including in 2000 and 2001, setting the record for the number of wins in the modern era.
- Horse - Docklands (6/1)
- Jockey - Hayley Turner
- Trainer - Harry Eustace (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £61,848
- For The Winner - £118,044
Race 6 - Hampton Court Stakes - 17:35
- Distance: 1m 1f 212y (2004m)
The Hampton Court Stakes is a captivating Group 3 horse race held during the illustrious Royal Ascot gathering. This event, run on the festival's third day, caters to three-year-old horses seeking to prove their mettle. Open exclusively to those that haven't clinched victories in Group 1 or Group 2 races, with Group 3 winners given a penalty to contend with, the Hampton Court Stakes is a platform for emerging talents to shine. Encompassing a distance of one mile, one furlong and 212 yards, the competition imposes a weight criterion of nine stone and zero pounds, offering a three-pound concession to fillies.
Inaugurated in 1986, this race boasts a relatively short but engaging history. It underwent various monikers and distance alterations before attaining Group 3 status in 2011. The event's transformation and evolution reflect the dynamic nature of horse racing. Over the years, renowned jockey Ryan Moore clinched victory four times, forming a potent partnership with trainer Aidan O'Brien, who also boasts four wins. Despite attracting fewer marquee contenders, the race has witnessed horses like Sadeem transition to triumph on grander stages. The diverse lineage of this race underscores its historical significance, with distinct changes in distances and titles.
- Horse - Waipiro (7/1)
- Jockey - Tom Marquand
- Trainer - Ed Walker (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £147,555
- For The Winner - £85,065
Race 7 - Buckingham Palace Stakes - 18:10
- Distance: 7f (1408m)
Debuting at Royal Ascot in 2002 with the expansion of the meeting to include a fifth day, the Buckingham Palace Stakes is a seven furlong handicap race. After a temporary absence following the 2014 edition, it made a comeback in 2020, coinciding with the resumption of racing in the wake of the global health crisis. In 2021, the shift from temporary to permanent status occurred as the Royal Ascot meeting embraced a seventh race each day. Its continued presence remains, which is unlikely to change as long as Royal Ascot boasts seven races a day over five days.
Open to horses aged three and above, the Buckingham Palace Stakes remains unclaimed by any single contender more than once. In contrast, Neil Callan won it three times as a jockey, whilst both Kevin Ryan and Richard Hannon Junior have won it twice as trainers. Amid the ten occurrences of the event from 2009 to 2023, the winning horse's age ranged from three to six. Notably, the race's expansive field often favours horses with long odds. Exemplifying this unpredictability, a triumphant contender secured victory at odds of 33/1 in 2014, whilst in 2023, the feat was achieved at odd of 50/1.
- Horse - Witch Hunter (50/1)
- Jockey - Jamie Spencer
- Trainer - Richard Hannon (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £98,370
- For The Winner - £51,540
What To Expect On Ladies’ Day At Royal Ascot
Whilst the Gold Cup is always going to be the focus of the race lovers at Royal Ascot on the third day of the meeting, it isn’t the only thing that helps to dismiss that sense of normality that is often in place on the second day of the week. The fact that the Thursday is often thought of as being Ladies’ Day means that amazing works of millinery and some high fashion articles will often take centre stage.
For some, it is as much about the fashion off the racecourse as it is about the racing taking place on it, so don’t be surprised to see the press photographing people more than horses.
Whilst fashion takes centre-stage around most of the racecourse, those in the Royal Enclosure are still expected to meet the standards of dress that are in place throughout Royal Ascot week. You might see some nods to the Ladies’ Day fashion that will have taken over the other enclosures, but guests there still need to be a touch more sensible in their approach to what they’re wearing.
The good news for those of you that like to be a little more ostentatious is that you need to have been invited into the Royal Enclosure, so the chances are you’ll be elsewhere.
As with the other days, you will have plenty of options in between the racing if you’re hoping to keep yourself entertained. Live music can often be heard from different parts of the racecourse, whilst the food options are usually as varied as the horses taking part in the races. You can also try to engage in a wealth of celebrity spotting if you want to, plus the presence of royalty continues.
It is a day of glamour and excitement, to say nothing of entertainment, in addition to the top-class racing that you’ll have become used to over the previous two days of the week.
There are two things of importance on Day Three of Royal Ascot week: the Gold Cup and the fashion. The Gold Cup is the only Group 1 race of the day and the most prestigious day of the week, whilst the fashion is all on account of the fact that it is Ladies’ Day.
It means that there is plenty of entertainment on offer regardless of where you find yourself looking, all alongside the usual interest of celebrities and members of the Royal Family in attendance. Add in the fact that there are other excellent races to watch and you can see why it is the favourite day of many.