Horse racing is called the Sport of Kings, and for good reason – one of the biggest thrills of being at Royal Ascot is that you are part of an iconic event that’s steeped in over 300 years’ of royal tradition. Sure, chances are you won’t shake hands with the Queen, but here’s the next best thing: you will get to rub the noses of two other aristocrats (no, their names aren’t William and Harry).
But ladies first, so let’s talk about the Queen and her special domain, The Royal Enclosure. Established in 1807 exclusively for King George III and his family and friends, this bit of rarefied space is arguably even more difficult to get into than an Adele concert in Perth. Just ask actress Joan Collins, or singer Rod Stewart. Joan was caught trying to sneak in wearing someone else’s badge and Rod, whose taste in fashion tends to border on the flamboyant, was wearing the right badge but not the right gear. He arrived in a light-blue summer suit and white shoes instead of the customary top hat and tails, and the stewards were not amused. Both Joan and Rod were refused entry, which just goes to show that fame and fortune doesn’t always cut it.
Before 1955, if you were a divorcee, you were also not allowed in. (Sorry, Joan, with four ex-husbands, you would have had a problem even if you’d been wearing the right badge.) Ex-convicts are to this day allowed entry only if they get the nod from the Ascot chiefs, a rule which fortunately for Aussies does not apply to descendants of former inmates.
You may spot some serious celebrities at Ascot when you attend the first day – which you can do with Motive Travel – but even if you don’t, chances are you will see the biggest star of them all: Queen Elizabeth II. She first went to Ascot in 1945, and has attended every year since, always giving the event that splendid air of pomp and pageantry that is British to the core. The best-dressed lady of them all inevitably arrives in a horse-drawn carriage with Prince Phillip, and is usually accompanied by an entourage of assorted blue bloods. (Spotting the princes and princesses and lords and ladies has become a major pastime for the 300,000-odd people who attend Royal Ascot over the five days.)
The Queen first went to Ascot in 1945, and has attended every year since.
As an interesting bit of trivia, the course actually belongs to the Crown, with ownership dating back to 1711 when Queen Anne drove from nearby Windsor Castle for a day’s sport organised at her command. That first event was apparently a great success, which is not surprising when you think how hard people work when they stand to lose their heads.
Talking about famous owners of things in the racing world, how about Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and Prince Khalid Abdullah, of Saudi Arabian fame?
Between them they own Darley and Banstead Manor, two of the most famous stud farms on the planet. At Darley you will meet Dubawi, one of the world’s greatest stallions (who has already sired 50 Group winners at $400,000 a pop), and at Banstead – wait for it – the legendary Frankel, unbeaten winner of 14 races and the highest rated horse in the world. This charmer isn’t cheap either: from February to June last year he mated with 133 mares whose owners paid $200,000 each for the privilege.
Going to Royal Ascot is all about hobnobbing and fashion bedazzlement and, ultimately, royalty watching. But what makes the trip with Motive Travel so special is that you will not only see the Queen, but you will get to meet two of the kings of racing – a pair of horses called Dubawi and Frankel.
Contact our friendly team to find out more!