Royal Ascot: Everything you need to know about a top-class week of horse racing

Royal Ascot will make history this year by going ahead behind closed doors for the first time in its 309 years - as the usual 300,000 strong crowd watch at home.

Monday, 15th June 2020, 2:00 pm
Royal Ascot is set to go ahead - but in front of empty stands / Picture: Racing Post

Owners will be banned from attending, with trainers and stable staff subject to strict limits and social distancing guidelines.

All five days will be broadcast by a lightweight team on the course as record TV attendances are expected.

The Queen’s renowned Royal Procession each day will not be taking place this year as she will not be attending Royal Ascot for the first time in her 68-year reign.

Betting shops across Britain are open again, subject to strict health and safety guidelines, just in time for Royal Ascot.

Despite restrictions, the meeting retains its international feel with American trainer Wesley Ward sending over runners whilst staying at home himself.

Races restricted to 24 runners in order to ensure social distancing amongst stable staff is maintained.

Experts at the Racing Post have put together a guide to all you need to know for the week.

Racing Post editor Tom Kerr said: "Royal Ascot 2020 may be taking place behind closed, gilded gates for the first time in its long history but the very fact it is being staged at all next week means the world of horseracing can breathe a huge, collective sigh of relief.

"With racing having resumed only two weeks ago after its Covid-19-enforced closedown the significance of being able to hold the showpiece meeting of the summer is hugely important. And with Britain's betting shops reopening on Monday, June 15, the eve of the five-day meeting, punters will have their first opportunity since March to bet on their local high street.

"At Ascot, the crowds of revellers and the high fashion for which the meeting is renowned will, of course, be absent but the quality of the racing will remain unchanged and there are international challengers from France, Ireland and the US taking part.

"The stands will be empty, jockeys, trainers and grooms kept a safe distance apart and the racehorse owners will have to watch from home which, with six races each day being televised by ITV, should not be too difficult.

"And the most famous owner of all, the Queen, will be watching her screen particularly intently come 1.50 on Wednesday when her talented colt First Receiver is among the favourites for the £35,000 Hampton Court Stakes. If he wins it could be a stepping stone to the Derby at Epsom on July 4.

"British racing, having demonstrated it can resume safely while observing all necessary social distancing, now has a chance to showcase the sport's finest athletes."

Top Royal Ascot tips from Racing Post Weekender experts:

Battaash - evens, King’s Stand Stakes, Tuesday

With no Blue Point standing in his way this year, it’s very hard to look beyond Battaash in the King’s Stand. He can be backed at evens and that might look one of the bets of the season if he turns up with his A-game. There doesn’t appear any obvious dangers and he looks the banker of the meeting.

Fox Tal - 16/1, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Wednesday

Produced a taking performance on just his second start of last season to capture fourth when keeping on gallantly in the Champion Stakes behind Magical. Trainer Andrew Balding has made a blistering start to the season and this rapidly improving, lightly-raced four-year-old should not be underestimated in top-level middle-distance contests this year.

Acquitted, Britannia Handicap, Thursday

The handicap won by Palace Pier at Newcastle on Saturday could prove to be a rather special race. There is no doubt in my mind that Palace Pier is up there with the best three-year-old milers in the country and he and the horse he beat, Acquitted, finished a long way ahead of the third with the rest well strung out. Take Palace Pier out of the race and Acquitted would have absolutely bolted up and is clearly a well-handicapped horse. He will need to go up a few pounds to get in the Britannia, but if he gets in he must have a huge chance with no Palace Pier to face.

Liberty Beach - 25/1, Commonwealth Cup, Friday

John Quinn’s flying filly made a winning return to action and looks the value in the King’s Stand. Her 5f record reads 11411 (4-5), with the defeat excusable as she was drawn on the wrong side, doing best of her group, when fourth of 25 in last year’s Queen Mary Stakes over course and distance.

Kimari - 10/1, Commonwealth Cup, Friday

Beaten a head into second by Raffle Prize in last year’s Queen Mary on ground softer than ideal, Wesley Ward’s filly can go one better this year. You can upgrade her fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint as she came from miles back and so long as the ground is quick, she’ll have a leading chance in the Commonwealth Cup.

Palace Pier - 6/1, St James’s Palace Stakes, Saturday

Other than Kameko, who will be going up in trip, the one horse who made a real impression on me on Saturday was Palace Pier at Newcastle. It’s true it was only a handicap but the change of gear he displayed at the end tells you he is top class. He’s going to love Ascot and I think he’ll take the world of beating.

Lauded - 16/1, Coventry Stakes, Saturday

A speedily bred colt who made a huge impact on debut at Haydock. He raced professionally out in front and showed an electric turn of foot to come home well clear of some highly touted rivals. Rider Richard Kingscote stated that Royal Ascot has always been the target for him and nothing will have put them off a crack at the Coventry after that display.

For all the latest Ascot news and free tips visit the Racing Post Royal Ascot Microsite.

Betting Angles at Royal Ascot

With the bulk of the entries missing their preparation run due to the disrupted flat racing season, the Racing Post have some pointers on how to pick a winner

Beware the favourites

The contests at Royal Ascot are always highly competitive, meaning even so called 'good things' can come unstuck at the Berkshire venue.

There are an estimated 35 per cent of favourites that justify market support and win in UK horseracing, but at Royal Ascot this drops across the board. In the last five years, just 27 per cent of favourites have obliged.

While the 31 per cent of Group 1 favourites going on to win does look slightly better than the overall return, it is still well below average.

Where the favourites really struggle, as you would expect, is in the handicaps, with 23 per cent of the most fancied horses finishing first past the post in these contests.

Of course favourites can, and do, win at Royal Ascot, but here more than many other places, looking for something slightly left-field can be rewarding.

Pay attention to the preliminaries

Be sure to watch the runners going down to post before the race. Telling signs such as sweating and immaturity can be signs that a horse is distracted or worked up ahead of the race. This is common in the two-year-old divisions where the horses may lack experience and maturity, and especially at Royal Ascot where the field size is usually bigger than usual.

Look for course form

Of the 30 winners at Royal Ascot 2018, 11 had won or been placed at Ascot previously – and remember, the two-year-olds would have had little opportunity to go there so that figure is even stronger than it first appears.

Shop around for best prices and offers

Royal Ascot is one of the biggest betting events of the year for bookmakers and they will be falling over themselves to offer incentives and free bets to punters. Take advantage of this competition among the layers by shopping around for the best prices, each-way terms and free bet offers. In the big handicaps such as the Wokingham and the Royal Hunt Cup, for example, each-way punters can usually get seven places rather than the standard four if they take the time to shop around.

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