Royal Ascot – The Highlight of The Flat Racing Calendar By Hannah Norman

Upon this striking Heath a joyful throng shall once again with eagerness descend….

Image courtesy of Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Image courtesy of Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

One of the highlights of the British Summer Social Season is undoubtedly Royal Ascot, arguably the most prestigious meeting of the flat racing calendar. Ensconced within this iconic building, recently refurbished (and used as a substitute for Shanghai Airport in Skyfall), our box in the Grandstand Enclosure afforded us fabulous views not just across the race course, but also out across the rolling Berkshire countryside. Her Majesty The Queen even proclaimed that “Royal Ascot is one of Britain’s finest sporting events and it always gives me and my family great pleasure to attend. I have been very fortunate to win as an owner at Royal Ascot, most recently with Estimate in the Gold Cup last year.” Whilst the filly wasn’t running when we were at Ascot, the Queen had two horses competing, most notably the four year old Sea Shanty, who finished fourth in the Royal Hunt Cup.

Image courtesy of Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Image courtesy of Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Expectations were high amongst our assembled party (even though most of us couldn’t claim to have any knowledge of what to bet on, let alone the backgrounds of the runners). Undeterred, we proceeded to mull over our options as apparent pros of the sport. But that is the beauty of Ascot – whilst the meeting is all about the horses, the event itself is so much more than that. This is a social occasion, the chance to see and be seen (and certainly, our position above the assembled crowds below gave us the perfect vantage point to indulge in a little people watching).

Image courtesy of Miles Willis/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Image courtesy of Miles Willis/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

There is a veritable “British-ness” about Royal Ascot that makes this event all the more unique, most notably summed up by the way the crowds of the Grandstand and Royal Enclosures departed en masse at the end of the last race, to make their way towards the bandstand. As is the tradition here, they proceeded to sing along to a range of typically classic British songs, accompanied by much flag-waving (although The Luxury Channel refuses to disclose if we joined in!) This popular tradition dates back to the 70s, when Lady Beaumont, the wife of the then Clerk of the Course, started proceedings, only to be joined by thousands of other race-goers. The much-loved and clearly greatly anticipated sing-along has grown over the years to become an unofficial closing ceremony for each day of Royal Ascot.

Image courtesy of Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Image courtesy of Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Whilst Royal Ascot is certainly the most famous meeting here, the racecourse’s calendar runs right across the year, with the forthcoming Summer Mile Raceday and King George Weekend the next events to be seen at. Get in touch with your milliner now!

For further information about Ascot, visit www.ascot.co.uk. For further information about the fine dining options available, click here.