Like Abraham Lincoln and close-up magic, there’s way more to Ascot than top hats. Royal Ascot may be the most prestigious event in the race course’s calendar, but it’s by no means all there is going on at this pillar of British sporting life.
Take the QIPCO King George Weekend, coming up at the end of July. One of 21 separate meets throughout the year, the weekend is the ideal way to get to know the real Ascot and after Royal Ascot is considered the most important, historic and glamorous raceday on Ascot’s calendar.
Starting on Friday 26th July, the event begins with a relaxed afternoon of race going including the Brown Jack Handicap, named after one of the most famous racehorses in Ascot’s 300 year history. The race, honouring him, sits alongside the day’s other feature race, the mile long Valiant Stakes.
Food and drink remain a large part of the Ascot experience, with options including hospitality packages like the Fine Dining à la carte package in the contemporary ON 5 Restaurant or the rather more traditional Parade Ring Restaurant, or for a super smart dining experience, eat in the privacy of a box with a bespoke dining experience.
Saturday is a feast of colour, QIPCO King George Day famously sees summer wardrobes explode across the stands, with ladies encouraged to wear hats and the weekend’s tagline ‘You bring the colour’. And while there’s plenty to do and see across the many Champagne and cocktail bars, the main feature is a full day of racing. The showpiece race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, long been regarded as Europe’s premier midseason middle distance championship race for horses of both sexes and all ages. Horses who have triumphed here include Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave and Enable, not to mention last year’s battle royale between Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean.
And even when the racing’s over, the day certainly isn’t, thanks to the live music event that takes over the racecourse centred around Ascot’s iconic Bandstand and including a DJ set from BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary.