What to know about the 2021 Royal Ascot

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The Royal Ascot, England’s most elite week of flat Thoroughbred racing, regains a sense of normalcy after a year of empty stands when the action kicks off on Tuesday, June 15. A maximum of 4,000 will be allowed each day, in accordance with a spectator cap set by the government through at least June 21. Attendance will be limited to owners, hospitality and Ascot members.

“Royal Ascot 2021 will unavoidably look and feel different but I would like to assure you that everyone at Ascot is dedicated and committed to ensuring that those who are able to attend have a most enjoyable and safe day,” wrote Sir Francis Brooke, the Queen’s representative at Ascot, in a letter to Ascot members.

Catch all the action from Tuesday, June 15 to Saturday, June 19 on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

What is the Royal Ascot?

The Royal Ascot is one of the most well-known horse racing meets in the world. It’s held at one of the top flat racecourses in the United Kingdom and hosts horses from across the globe in 35 races, including eight Group 1 races, over the span of five days.

Racing at Ascot began in 1711 when Queen Anne declared her love for horse racing. The first race was the Her Majesty’s Plate with a seven-horse field. Over a century later, King George IV held the first royal carriage procession on the track to signal the start of the event. The traditions of the royal family, high fashion and elite horse racing have continued ever since.

When and where is the 2021 Royal Ascot?

This year, the Royal Ascot will take place from Tuesday, June 15 to Saturday, June 19 at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England. Ascot is located in the British Summer Time Zone, which is five hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S.

Unlike tracks in America, Ascot Racecourse is shaped like a rounded triangle with two straightaway spokes and includes uphill and downhill stretches.

How can I watch the 2021 Royal Ascot?

NBC is home to the 2021 Royal Ascot, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV, in the NBC Sports app and on NBCSports.com before, during and after each race. From Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18, coverage will run on NBCSN from 8:30 a.m. ET to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, the final day of the Royal Ascot, catch live racing on NBC from 9 to 11 a.m. ET and on CNBC from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Stream the Royal Ascot here.

Is the Royal Ascot part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series?

Four Royal Ascot races this year are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.

On Tuesday, June 15, the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at approximately 9:30 a.m. ET offers a spot in the Mile. June 16’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) breaks from the gate at around 11:20 a.m. ET and is a qualifier for the Turf. The Norfolk Stakes (G2) on Thursday, June 17 at 9:30 a.m. ET is in the Juvenile Turf Sprint division. The Diamond Jubilee (G1) wraps up Royal Ascot’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series lineup on Saturday, June 19 at approximately 11:20 a.m. ET with a spot in the Turf Sprint on the line. See the full race schedule below.

Winners of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races will receive automatic entry into the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race this November at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and all entry fees will be paid for.

What are traditions at the Royal Ascot?

This year, there will be a maximum of 4,000 in attendance, limited to owners, hospitality and Ascot members. However, there are usually upwards of 300,000 spectators, making it Europe’s highest-attended race meet. Traditionally, the Queen, a lifelong equestrian and racehorse owner herself, makes a daily entrance in a horse-drawn carriage as part of the royal procession. In 2020, nobody from the royal family attended; this year, the Queen’s attendance is not confirmed but is a likely possibility.

Royal Ascot boasts its own spread of famous, traditional foods. In 2019, the last year the meet ran with a full grandstand of spectators, there were approximately 110,000 cups of tea served, 120,000 buttermilk scones eaten and nearly 350 chefs serving food. Luckily, such delicacies can be prepared at home in the kitchen, as many fans will watch the races from their living rooms.

The Royal Ascot’s longest-running race, The Gold Cup, takes place on Thursday of the week’s schedule (June 17, approx. 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN). It’s a marathon of a race at 2 miles and 4 furlongs, and the Queen typically presents the trophies to the winning jockey and owner.

What is fashion like at the Royal Ascot?

The Royal Ascot is as much a social event as it is a sporting event, so it’s no surprise that high fashion is one of its most defining features. There are two enclosures for spectators at Ascot, and all guests must adhere to that enclosure’s dress codes.

Men’s attire traditionally requires a top hat and a waistcoat with a tie (except for jockeys). Women should dress formally and must always wear a hat, headpiece or fascinator (except in the Royal Enclosure, which permits hats and headpieces with a solid four-inch base but does not allow fascinators). Strapless clothing and sheer fabrics are not allowed, and dresses have to be just above the knee or longer.

In 2020, top hats and coattails weren’t required as the track ran a barebones meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full Royal Ascot race schedule:

Tuesday, June 15

  • 9:30 a.m. ET — The Queen Anne Stakes (G1) — Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series (Mile)
  • 10:05 a.m. ET — The Coventry Stakes (G2)
  • 10:40 a.m. ET — The King’s Stand Stakes (G1)
  • 11:20 a.m. ET — The St James’s Palace Stakes (G1)
  • 12:00 p.m. ET — The Ascot Stakes (Handicap)
  • 12:35 p.m. ET — The Wolferton Stakes (Listed)
  • 1:10 p.m. ET — The Copper Horse Stakes (Handicap)

Wednesday, June 16

  • 9:30 a.m. ET — The Queen Mary Stakes (G2)
  • 10:05 a.m. ET — The Queen’s Vase (G2)
  • 10:40 a.m. ET — The Duke of Cambridge Stakes (G2)
  • 11:20 a.m. ET — The Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) — Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series (Turf)
  • 12:00 p.m. ET — The Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap)
  • 12:35 p.m. ET — The Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)
  • 1:10 p.m. ET — The Kensington Palace Stakes (Handicap)

Thursday, June 17

  • 9:30 a.m. ET — The Norfolk Stakes (G2) — Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series (Juvenile Turf Sprint)
  • 10:05 a.m. ET — The Hampton Court Stakes (G3)
  • 10:40 a.m. ET — The Ribblesdale Stakes (G2)
  • 11:15 a.m. ET — The Gold Cup (G1)
  • 12:00 p.m. ET — The Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • 12:35 p.m. ET — The King George V Stakes (Handicap)
  • 1:10 p.m. ET — The Buckingham Palace Stakes (Handicap)

Friday, June 18

  • 9:30 a.m. ET — The Albany Stakes (G3)
  • 10:05 a.m. ET — The King Edward VII Stakes (G2)
  • 10:40 a.m. ET — The Commonwealth Cup (G1)
  • 11:20 a.m. ET — The Coronation Stakes (G1)
  • 12:00 p.m. ET — The Sandringham Stakes (Handicap)
  • 12:35 p.m. ET — The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)
  • 1:10 p.m. ET — The Palace Of Holyroodhouse Stakes (Handicap)

Saturday, June 19

  • 9:30 a.m. ET — The Chesham Stakes (Listed)
  • 10:05 a.m. ET — The Jersey Stakes (G3)
  • 10:40 a.m. ET — The Hardwicke Stakes (G2)
  • 11:20 a.m. ET — The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) — Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series (Turf Sprint)
  • 12:00 p.m. ET — The Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
  • 12:35 p.m. ET — The Golden Gates Stakes (Handicap)
  • 1:10 p.m. ET — The Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions)

Watch the Royal Ascot on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app Tuesday, June 15 to Saturday, June 19.