Not Your Granny’s Horse Race – The Modernization of Royal Ascot
The grandeur and pageantry of Royal Ascot draws the attention of the world each year, bringing the finest thoroughbreds and jockeys from around the globe to the United Kingdom. Over 300,000 people make the annual trip to Berkshire during Royal Ascot week, undeniably one of the most prestigious events in the sporting calendar.
Established by Queen Anne over 300 years ago, the first Ascot Meeting was a great success, quickly regarded as one of the main social events of the court calendar. Upon her death in 1714, Ascot races were sidelined for a few years, returning with a flourish in 1720, now the premier occasion in the English Season. Royal Ascot is world renown for style and fashion, and dress codes are strictly enforced. Millions will be watching Thursday for Ladies Day, a true spectacle of dignified whimsy with unique hats, as it is easily the most popular day of the week.
Over the past 100 years, there have been three enclosures available for the viewing public during Royal Ascot – The iconic Grandstand, informal Silver Ring, and of course, Royal Enclosure. With facility upgrades and new buildings cropping up within the past 15 years, there was a need to accommodate a new generation of race patrons – a generation enamored with music festivals and eclectic taste in foods.
This year, for the first time in a century, a new racetrack enclosure called The Village, offering “the best of contemporary British summertime” will open for the festivities of Royal Ascot. The new enclosure has a bright, airy feel and upbeat vibe: “a ‘pop-up’ summer scene comprising informal boutique dining experiences, innovative bars, and live music throughout the day and into the evening” say organizers.
Juliet Slot, the Ascot Racehouse Commercial Director, noted that some enclose capacities have been reduced by as much as 6,000 since 2011. The favorite Queen Anne Enclosure is slated to accommodate 19,500 spectators at this year's event while the Windsor Enclosure will host 18,000. Slot added that the opening of The Village Enclosure allows for the capacity reduction of older enclosures while giving attendees a more contemporary option. The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the move to a more festival-like atmosphere, leaving little doubt fans are ready for a more modern experience.
Whether your preference is to enjoy the action from one of the traditional enclosures or party in The Village, this year's Royal Ascot has you covered.
With the best in live music now a staple at the races, it is no surprise that a bandstand is the centerpiece of the village green, with two additional stages where a mix of live brass, jazz, and funk play throughout the day, each stage hosting sets from live bands and DJs in the evenings. Placed brilliantly on the thrilling final furlong along the inside of the track, patrons can easily keep watch on their favorite pick in any of the 30 races. Each day has 6 races including Group races, handicaps and listed races for plenty of exciting race action.