Royal Ascot to keep seven-race cards permanently after successful 2020 meeting
- Royal Ascot organisers have decided to keep with seven-race cards on all five days at the 2021 meeting
- Four races were added to the schedule in 2020 in a bid to increase opportunities
- Organisers have decided to keep those races for 2021
- A new race, the Kensington Palace Stakes will also be introduced
Art Power bolted up in the first running of the Palace of Hollyroodhouse Handicap at Royal Ascot in 2020. (Getty)
Due to COVID-19 delaying the start of the flat season in 2020, Royal Ascot organisers introduced several news races to the program.
The Copper Horse Stakes, the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and the Golden Gates Stakes Handicaps were all added to the schedule, in a bid to increase opportunities for trainers who endured a tricky start to the season. The Buckingham Palace Stakes was also reinstated, having been replaced by the Commonwealth Cup in 2015.
Many expected the Royal Ascot schedule to revert back to it's usual guise in 2021. However, organisers announced this week that the new races will remain on the program this season.
This news has been met with positivity across all corners of the horse racing world. Bookmakers, especially, are delighted with this decision.
Simon Clare of Ladbrokes said, “Ascot’s decision to continue with seven-race cards at the royal meeting is to be applauded as our experience from last summer shows it will deliver incremental growth to turnover over the week, and generate increased revenues from betting to racing.”
“While the new races added last year were among the poorest performers in betting terms, that was to be expected as they were positioned in the weakest slots without the boost of ITV coverage, and, because they are new, they have no heritage yet with betting customers,”
“They still delivered decent levels of additional turnover, with the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes performing best as the 19th best-betting race of the week of the 35 races, and you’d expect them all to perform better as they become established."
“Royal Ascot is already the biggest week of betting in the flat season, and the permanent addition of five competitive betting races across the five days is great news all round.”
Betfair's Barry Orr was also wholeheartedly behind the decision.
“It’s massive." Orr said. "Having 35 races instead of 30 is like having an extra day and from a bookmaking perspective it’s such a significant move in terms of growing the event,”
“For example, from an exchange point of view I think we average £1.5 million to £2m pre-race at Royal Ascot, and the meeting is well able to take an extra race; six was probably on the shy side anyway."
“It’s a really positive move for racing and the levy.”
The newer races will all be moved to the end of each day's card. The only exception being the Golden Gate Stakes, which will be the penultimate race on day five, where the Queen Alexandra Stakes closes the card.
A new handicap for older fillies and mares, the Kensington Palace Stakes will be added to the race-schedule in 2021. The Silver versions of the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham Stakes Handicaps, which were introduced for the first time in 2020, will not take place this year.