The opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting is one that is filled with excitement for what is to come. Whilst the Queen Anne Stakes takes the main focus of attention on account of the fact that it is the opening race of the entire week, there are plenty of other races to capture the imagination of everyone inside the racecourse and watching on television.
The excitement builds in the lead-up to 2pm, which is the moment at which the Royal Procession starts and the week officially gets underway. The monarch and other members of the Royal Family make their way to the Royal Enclosure.
The National Anthem plays as the royals arrive down the straight mile in the Royal Landaus, with the Royal Standard being raised. Once they’re safely ensconced there, the jockeys and horses for the first race emerge, with the atmosphere going up a notch as a result. It was a tradition that was begun by King George IV in 1825 and has been in place ever since.
There are three Group 1 races on Day One, beginning with the Queen Anne Stakes and being followed up with the King’s Stand Stakes and the St James’ Palace Stakes, with some Group 2 and handicap races seeing out proceedings.
Below are is the race schedule for day one of Royal Ascot. As we know rarely do races actually go off at the advertised post time but all things being the races are due to start at the times advertised below.
Race 1 - Queen Anne Stakes - 14:30
- Distance: 1m (1609m)
The Queen Anne Stakes is the prestigious opening event of Royal Ascot and is also part of the British Champions Series. It is a Group 1 race run over one mile, limited to horses aged four and over. The race was first run in 1840 as the Trial Stakes and was renamed in 1930 in order to honour Queen Anne, the founder of Ascot Racecourse.
Over the years, several horses have won the race more than once, including Flambeau, Toastmaster, Worcester and Dean Swift. Frankie Dettori holds the record for the most wins as a jockey, with seven victories, while Saeed bin Suroor is the most successful trainer, boasting the same number of winners. Sheikh Mohammed, holds the most wins as an owner with eight victories to date.
The Queen Anne Stakes has seen four-year-olds win most frequently, though occasional victories by five-year-olds and even six-year-olds have occurred. The race’s duration is typically around one minute and 40 seconds, with the exact time influenced by track conditions
- Horse - Triple Time (33/1)
- Jockey - Neil Callan
- Trainer - Kevin Ryan (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £737,775
- For The Winner - £425,325
Race 2 - Coventry Stakes - 15:05
- Distance: 6f (1207m)
The Coventry Stakes is a distinguished Group 2 horse race hosted at the prestigious Royal Ascot since its inception in 1890. It offers an exhilarating spectacle of speed and skill as talented two-year-old colts and fillies compete over a straight six-furlong track. Though not classified as a Group 1 race, the Coventry Stakes maintains its allure, attracting exceptional contenders and delivering captivating action. Renowned trainer Aidan O’Brien holds an iron grip on the race, boasting more victories than any other, solidifying his legacy in the sport. Equally remarkable is the legendary jockey Sir Gordon Richards, who clinched an impressive nine wins between 1932 and 1951.
Originally named in tribute to the ninth Earl of Coventry, a notable figure in the Royal Household, the race’s historical significance is intertwined with the esteemed Royal Family’s influence over Ascot Racecourse. Throughout its extensive history, the Coventry Stakes has provided a launchpad for future stars. Horses like Mill Reef, a past victor, have gone on to achieve great success in other prestigious races, further cementing the event’s reputation as a platform for emerging talents. There is plenty to enjoy about the Coventry Stakes, which is why it remains so popular with jockeys, trainers and racegoers alike.
- Horse - River Tiber (11/8)
- Jockey - Ryan Moore
- Trainer - Aidan O'Brien (IRE)
- Overall Prize Money - £147,555
- For The Winner - £85,065
Race 3 - King’s Stand Stakes - 15:40
- Distance: 5f (1006m)
There are many races run during Royal Ascot week that are influenced by the weather, but few of them only exist because of it. The King’s Stand Stakes began life as a race run over five furlongs owing to the fact that heavy weather meant that the Royal Stand Plate couldn’t be run over the usual two miles. Since then, the race has gone on to become one of the most important sprinting events run at Royal Ascot. The race has a rich history, with its Group 1 status awarded in 1973, downgraded to Group 2 in 1988, and then reinstated as a Group 1 event in 2008.
It is part of the Global Sprint Challenge, a series of international races held in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and Britain, with the King’s Stand Stakes being the fourth leg of the series. The race features weight requirements and allowances for mares and fillies to level the playing field. It attracts top-quality international competition, enhancing its prestige. The King’s Stand Stakes remains a highly anticipated event during Royal Ascot week, offering thrilling sprinting action on the famous Ascot racecourse, with notable winners including Elbio, Equiano and Sole Power.
- Horse - Bradsell (14/1)
- Jockey - Hollie Doyle
- Trainer - Archie Watson (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £617,272
- For The Winner - £355,855
Race 4 - St. James’s Palace Stakes - 16:20
- Distance: 7f 213y (1603m)
The St. James’s Palace Stakes is an esteemed Group 1 flat horse race held annually during the renowned Royal Ascot meeting. Exclusive to three-year-old thoroughbred colts, the race takes place across just over seven furlongs on Ascot’s turf track. Established in 1834, it has garnered significant respect, attracting top-class horses globally. Named after St. James’s Palace in central London, the race stands as a premier event for promising three-year-old colts specialising in middle-distance races. Horses that have previously competed in prestigious events like the 2,000 Guineas, Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the Irish 2,000 Guineas often participate.
Illustrious winners of the past include Brigadier Gerard, Rock of Gibraltar, and Canford Cliffs, whilst the undefeated Frankel not only triumphed in this race but also excelled in other major international events. Positioned as the fourth race on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting, the St. James’s Palace Stakes commands attention. It draws global competitors and showcases the international allure of Royal Ascot. Managing to combine historical significance with Royal associations as well as intense competition, the St. James’s Palace Stakes captivates racing enthusiasts and adds excitement to the Royal Ascot meeting.
- Horse - Paddington (11/5)
- Jockey - Ryan Moore
- Trainer - Aidan O'Brien (IRE)
- Overall Prize Money - £590,220
- For The Winner - £340,260
Race 5 - Ascot Stakes - 17:00
- Distance: 2m 3f 210y (4014m)
The Ascot Stakes, part of the Royal Ascot meeting, might not boast the same glamour as its more renowned counterparts, but its significance in the world of flat racing is undeniable. Dating back to 1988 as far as the modern records are concerned, this flat handicap race is a haven for stayers, covering an arduous distance of 2 miles, 3 furlongs, and 210 yards. Held on the opening day of Royal Ascot, the race caters to horses aged four and above. National Hunt trainers are drawn to the Ascot Stakes due to its extended distance, offering their runners a summer test of endurance.
The race's victors often continue their journey to the Queen Alexandra Stakes, creating an intriguing link between these two events that has seen dual winners more than a few times. A unique facet of the Ascot Stakes is its erratic winning times. In 2017, Thomas Hobson breezed through the course in 4 minutes and 17.62 seconds; a stark contrast to Jennies Jewel's 4 minutes and 34.70 seconds the previous year. Trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O'Neill have tasted success in this race. A blend of stamina, a decent Official Rating and training strategies help to determine victory.
- Horse - Ahorsewithnoname (7/1)
- Jockey - William Buick
- Trainer - Nicky Henderson (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £98,370
- For The Winner - £51,540
Race 6 - Wolferton Stakes - 17:35
- Distance: 1m 1f 212y (2004m)
Run over one mile, one furlong and 212 yards, the Wolferton Stakes began life as a handicap race known as the Wolferton Rated Stakes. It was brought into the Royal Ascot roster in 2002 when an extra day was added to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. It is open to horses aged four and over and has been run as a conventional Listed race since 2018, which was the point at which it was decided that handicap races couldn't carry Listed status. It is open to horses aged four and over, with weight information of nine stone and three pounds, plus some allowances.
Fillies and mares are given an allowance of five pounds, for example, whilst those that have won Listed races are given a three pound penalty. Horses that have won Group 3 races receive a five pound penalty, whilst those who have won Group 1 or Group 2 events since the previous August can't run in the event. William Buick and Daniel Tudhope have both won the race more than once, whilst John Gosden is the event's leading trainer. Over the 12 races that took place between 2012 and 2023, only two horses won the event as favourites, whilst nine horses had a rating of 102 or higher.
- Horse - Royal Champion (16/1)
- Jockey - Jack Mitchell
- Trainer - Roger Varian (GB)
- Overall Prize Money - £108,207
- For The Winner - £62,381
Race 7 - Copper Horse Handicap - 18:10
- Distance: 1m 6f 34y (2847m)
Run over one mile and six furlongs, the Copper Horse Stakes is named after a statue of King George III on horseback that stands in Windsor Park, looking at the castle. The race itself as a handicap event, meaning that weights that are carried by the horses are assigned by the official handicapper, who bases that on their assessment of the ability of the participants. The winners to date have tended to have an official handicap of in the region of 100, with weights given accordingly. The race itself usually lasts for about three minutes, depending on the Going.
Added to the roster in 2020 in order to give both horses and jockeys more chance to run that season, the Copper Horse Stakes has remained on the list of events since then thanks to the decision of Ascot Racecourse to keep the extra day. It is tricky to use previous performances to judge the likely outcome of the event, with one winner having been absent from racing for nearly a year before coming back to run as the favourite and another enjoying just his second outing on turf when winning, having previously spent his time plying his trade on all-weather racing tracks.
- Horse - Vauban (Evens)
- Jockey - Ryan Moore
- Trainer - Willie Mullins (IRE)
- Overall Prize Money - £98,370
- For The Winner - £51,540
What To Expect On The Opening Day Of Royal Ascot
The first thing that you’ll notice on the opening day of Royal Ascot is that the excitement is palpable. People will have waited a year for the event to get underway, so there will be a desire to show their appreciation for everything to do with the meeting. The next thing that you’ll spot is that everyone is dressed impeccably, almost irrespective of whether or not they’re in the Royal Enclosure. Whilst those that are will be expected to meet the strict dress code in play, even those in other locations around the racecourse tend to make a good effort to dress up for the first day.
In terms of things to look out for, you won’t need to look far in order to see the security that will be in place at Royal Ascot. The fact that the monarch is often in attendance on the opening day of the meeting would be reason enough for security to be ramped up, even before you take into account the other members of the Royal Family that will be there.
It is also not uncommon for celebrities to turn up, keen to get themselves spotted at one of the most noteworthy days in the flat racing calendar. Add into that the presence of sporting superstars and you can see why it’s a good day for rubberneckers.
The ‘rules’ that you’ll need to follow for the day will depend largely on the part of the racecourse that you find yourself in. The Royal Enclosure is, as you might expect, the strictest of the areas on the racecourse. This means that you’ll need to wear a morning dress of grey, navy or black, complete with top hat, if you’re a man.
For women, it’s formal daywear with a hat, the hat having a requirement of a base of four inches or more in diameter. The dress code gets less strict the lower down the pecking order of enclosures you go, but it’s still not entirely relaxed at any point.
Royal Ascot is one of the most exciting meetings on the flat racing calendar, so don’t be surprised if the atmosphere on Day One reflects that. There is plenty of opportunity for you to show off your looks and fashion sense, though it will always be the royals in attendance that take the majority of the attention no matter how good you look.
With three Group 1 races, a Group 2 and two handicap races alongside a Listed event, you can bet that Royal Ascot’s opening day will be one in which the racing itself is what ultimately ends up stealing all of the headlines.