There may be no top hats on display in the empty grandstand and no strict dress code to follow while watching the action on TV, but Royal Ascot 2020 is almost upon us.
The jewel in flat racing’s crown will go ahead as planned on Tuesday 16th June with a bumper 36-race card – up from 30 in 2019 – set to whet the appetite across five fantastic days.
And with the countdown clock now on until the runners go to post in the Buckingham Palace Handicap on the opening day, we’re on hand with an all-you-need-to-know guide for 2020 at Royal Ascot.
When is Royal Ascot 2020?
Good question. The racing calendar has undergone some last-minute alterations due to coronavirus, but thankfully Royal Ascot will take place on its original dates from Tuesday 16th June to Saturday 20th June.
As we mentioned, however, there are six extra races to look forward to as the BHA look to compensate for both the loss of fixtures elsewhere and the expected high volume of entries at this year’s festival.
These are the Buckingham Palace Handicap, the Silver Royal Hunt Cup, the Copper Horse Handicap, the Golden Gates Handicap, the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and the Silver Wokingham Handicap.
How to watch Royal Ascot
Sky Sports Racing is the only UK broadcaster that will show all 36 races across all five days at Royal Ascot.
ITV will show all the action from race two onwards each day (race three onwards on Saturday) with punditry and analysis from the likes of Ed Chamberlin, Francesca Cumani and Jason Weaver.
What else should I know?
There may be six extra races at Royal Ascot 2020 but the prize money has taken a cut. The total prize fund has been slashed by 50% from £7.33m in 2019 to £3.68m this time around in response to coronavirus.
That’s not ideal, but in more positive news, the festival is still allowing international runners. France, Ireland and Wesley Ward in the United States are all expected to send over their best hopes as per usual.
The only issue for those trainers is their choice of jockey. With the UK’s new 14-day quarantine rule, international jockeys will have to have arrived in the UK 14 days prior to Royal Ascot taking place.
Royal Ascot Schedule
Now we’re onto the fun stuff. Here we’ve broken down each day at Royal Ascot in 2020 and provided a list of the 36 contests set to take place in sunny Berkshire.
Royal Ascot Day 1 – Tuesday 16th June
There’s nothing quite like the opening day at Royal Ascot. And this year punters have even more reason to cheer with the Buckingham Palace Handicap making a return to the schedule for the first time since 2015.
It gets the meeting off to an exciting start ahead of five successive Group contests, beginning with The Queen Anne Stakes where Circus Maximus and Benbatl are among the names in the frame.
However, it’s the King’s Stand Stakes at 15:35 which really gets the heart racing, with some of the best sprinters in the game going to post over a fast and furious 5f for a total prize fund of £250,000.
The now-retired Blue Point won both the King’s Stand and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in the same week at Royal Ascot in 2019, making him only the second horse to do the double since Diadem in 1920.
Battaash, who finished runner-up in the race in both 2018 and 2019 will lead the market this time around, with last season’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner Glass Slippers and the likeable Hello Youmzain also in the mix.
Royal Ascot Day 1 Race Guide
13:15 – Buckingham Palace Handicap | Class 2 Handicap | 7f | £35,000 | 3+
13:50 – The Queen Anne Stakes | Group 1 | 1m | £250,000 | 4+
14:25 – The Ribblesdale Stakes | Group 2 | 1m 4f | £110,000 | 3yo fillies
15:00 – The King Edward VII Stakes | Group 2 | 1m 4f | £110,00 | 3yo colts & geldings
15:35 – The King’s Stand Stakes | Group 1 | 5f | £250,000 | 3+
16:10 – The Duke of Cambridge Stakes | Group 2 | 1m | £100,000 | 4yo fillies & mares
16:40 – The Ascot Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 2m 4f | £35,000 | 4+
Royal Ascot Day 2 – Wednesday 17th June
There are two Group renewals on Day 2 at Royal Ascot, with The Prince of Wales’s Stakes at 15:00 the feature contests of the afternoon and one of the standout races of the entire week.
The 1m 2f contest attracts the cream of the middle-distance crop and has provided winners such as Brigadier Gerard and Dubai Millennium in the past plus Highland Reel, Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean in recent history.
Sir Michael Stoute has won the last two runnings, although it’s Aidan O’Brien who holds the ace card in 2020 with Japan. Barney Roy, Ghaiyyath and Headman are other possible contenders.
Elsewhere on Day 2, The Royal Hunt Cup at 15:35 is the first of the week’s big Handicaps, and with nine of the last ten winners of the race returning an SP of 10/1 or greater, it’s always an intriguing puzzle to try and solve.
The Silver Royal Hunt Cup is a new addition this year for horses who are balloted out of the main race.
Royal Ascot Day 2 Race Guide
13:15 – The Silver Royal Hunt Cup | Class 2 Handicap | 1m | £35,000 | 3+
13:50 – The Hampton Court Stakes | Group 3 | 1m 2f | £60,000 | 3
14:25 – The King George V Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 1m 4f | £60,000 | 3
15:00 – The Prince of Wales’s Stakes | Group 1 | 1m 2f | £250,000 | 4+
15:35 – The Royal Hunt Cup | Class 2 Handicap | 1m | £75,000 | 3+
16:10 – The Windsor Castle Stakes | Listed | 5f | £40,000 | 2
16:40 – The Copper Horse Handicap | Class 2 Handicap | 1m 6f | £35,000 | 4+
Royal Ascot Day 3 – Thursday 18th June – Ladies Day
Day 3 is traditionally Ladies Day at Royal Ascot, but with this year’s festival being held behind closed doors, the best-dressed may have to compete on Zoom instead. At least they won’t have to worry about the weather.
Of course, it’s not just the fashion that gets us stirring on Ladies Day. There’s also the small matter of the Gold Cup at 15:35, where the best stayers in the business will battle it out over 2m 4f.
Stradivarius is the horse they all need to beat. John Gosden’s super stayer won the Gold Cup in both 2018 and 2019 and can go one behind Yeats’ legendary tally of four if he can make it a hat-trick in 2020.
The six-year-old isn’t unbeatable, however, with Kew Gardens, getting the better of the favourite in the Long Distance Cup last October. Cross Counter and Technician will be his main opponents here.
Elsewhere on the middle day, some of the finest two-year-old speedsters will take on the Chesham Stakes, while the Britannia and Sandringham Stakes round out the card with a pair of tasty looking Handicaps.
Keep an eye on Frankie Dettori on Ladies Day too. The Italian stallion had our trading floor biting their nails, fingers and knuckles 12 months ago after going through the first four races on the card. Could he do it again?
Royal Ascot Day 3 Race Guide
13:15 – The Golden Gates Handicap | Class 2 Handicap | 1m 1f | £35,000 | 3
13:50 – The Wolferton Stakes | Listed | 1m 2f | £50,000 | 4+
14:25 – The Jersey Stakes | Group 3 | 7f | £60,000 | 3
15:00 – The Chesham Stakes | Listed | 7f | £40,000 | 2
15:35 – The Gold Cup | Group 1 | 2m 4f | £250,000 | 4+
16:10 – The Britannia Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 1m | £60,000 | 3yo colts & geldings
16:40 – The Sandringham Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 1m | £60,000 | 3yo fillies
Royal Ascot Day 4 – Friday 19th June
On the penultimate day of the festival there are five black-type contests to look forward to, including the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at 15:35, where Pierre Lapin and Earthlight look set to head the market.
The 6f sprint always attracts plenty of interest, with America represented once again by Wesley Ward, who reports that his hopeful Kimari is ‘absolutely right’ after finishing runner-up in the Queen Mary last year.
Prior to that, the Albany and the Norfolk will showcase the very best of this season’s two-year-old crop. Eye of Heaven, an impressive first time out winner for Mark Johnston at Newmarket, is in the running for the latter.
Later on, the Queen’s Vase will allow us to take a glimpse at some of the best three-year-old stayers in a race that has an impressive pedigree, including Estimate, Kew Gardens and Stradivarius.
Royal Ascot Day 4 Race Guide
13:15 – The Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 5f | £35,000 | 3
13:50 – The Albany Stakes | Group 3 | 6f | £45,000 | 2yo fillies
14:25 – The Norfolk Stakes | Group 2 | 5f | £50,000 | 2
15:00 – The Hardwicke Stakes | Group 2 | 1m 4f | £125,000 | 4+
15:35 – The Commonwealth Cup | Group 1 | 6f | £250,000 | 3
16:10 – The Queen’s Vase | Group 2 | 1m 6f | £110,000 | 3
16:40 – The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 1m 4f | £60,000 | 3+
Royal Ascot Day 5 – Saturday 20th June
Bad news, it’s the final day at Royal Ascot. Good news, there’s a mammoth eight races to enjoy on the fifth day this year! We start with the Silver Wokingham at 12:40 and go right through to the Queen Alexandra at 16:40.
Why is it the Silver Wokingham, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the consolation race for horses who don’t make it into the Wokingham itself at 16:10, which is one of the most competitive Handicaps of the entire festival.
In between those two we have the Queen Mary and the Coventry, both of which will see another clutch of the finest two-year-olds go to post.
Then it’s onto the St James’s Palace, where the season’s most promising three-year-old colts, the majority of whom will have already battled it out against each other in the 2000 Guineas, will engage once more.
All eyes will be on Pinatubo, as he bids to bounce back from a first career defeat, while Wichita and Arizona are also expected to reoppose. Palace Pier and Threat should not be discounted either.
The final Group race of the meeting is the Diamond Jubilee over 6f, and as we already alluded too, keep an eye out for any horse attempting to do the double with the King’s Stand from earlier in the week.
Royal Ascot Day 5 Race Guide
12:40 – The Silver Wokingham Handicap | Class 2 Handicap | 6f | £35,000 | 3+
13:15 – The Queen Mary Stakes | Group 2 | 5f | £50,000 | 2yo fillies
13:50 – The Coronation Stakes | Group 1 | 1m | £250,000 | 3yo fillies
14:25 – The Coventry Stakes | Group 2 | 6f | £60,000 | 2
15:00 – The St James’s Palace Stakes | Group 1 | 1m | £250,000 | 3yo colts
15:35 – The Diamond Jubilee Stakes | Group 1 | 6f | £250,000 | 4+
16:10 – The Wokingham Stakes | Class 2 Handicap | 6f | £75,000 | 3+
16:40 – The Queen Alexandra Stakes | Conditions | 2m 6f | £35,000 | 4+
And there you have it, our comprehensive guide to Royal Ascot 2020. Remember to check back every day during the festival for our race-by-race previews, plus other Royal Ascot betting news and features.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication