First Ascot Race
Though the Royal Ascot of silly hat and demure dress-code did not begin until (arguably) 1768 when the first four-day meeting took place, the racing at Ascot was inspired by royalty from the off. Legend has it that Queen Anne was riding on the heathland at what was then known as East Cote in the first half of 1711, taking exercise away from Windsor Castle , when she had the brainwave of using the open heath for horse racing. We may wonder at the truth of this – Anne when she died three years later was so fat she had to be buried in a square coffin – but it is a nice story. And the first event there, held on August 11 1711, was for Her Majesty’s Plate, with a substantial purse of 100 Guineas to the winner.
That race was rather different from today’s versions, run over a four mile course and in several heats, all the hunter entries carrying 12 stone, and the facilities were absolutely unrecognizable, in fact there were none to speak of (the first permanent building there only erected in the last decade of the 18th century). In 1807 The Gold Cup was run for the first time, a link with the modern meeting, The Queen Anne Stakes another reminding us of the course’s regal heritage.
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