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. 

Irad Ortiz sets single-season record with 77th stakes win

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NEW YORK – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his record 77th single-season North American stakes victory when he guided Dr B to victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico broke the old mark of 76 set by the late Hall of Fame rider Garrett Gomez in 2007.

“This is great. Amazing feeling,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey from 2018-20. “Gomez did it in 2007 and he was a great rider, one of the best in the game. I’m so happy just to be a part of this. I love this sport.”

Ortiz Jr. won the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal in June to go with Breeders’ Cup victories in the Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint and Sprint. He also earned nine other Grade 1 wins in New York, including Life Is Good in the Woodward and Whitney and Nest in the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks. He won riding titles at Belmont’s spring-summer meet and Saratoga’s summer meet.

Ortiz Jr. leads North American riders with 304 overall victories this year. His purse earnings totaled over $35.8 million going into Saturday’s races, which already surpassed his single-season record of $34.1 million in 2019.

Appeals court strikes down federal horseracing rules act

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NEW ORLEANS — Congress unconstitutionally gave too much power to a nonprofit authority it created in 2020 to develop and enforce horseracing rules, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled Friday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, or HISA, is “facially unconstitutional.”

The authority created by the act was meant to bring uniform policies and enforcement to horseracing amid doping scandals and racetrack horse deaths. But the 5th Circuit – in two rulings issued Friday – ruled in favor of opponents of the act in lawsuits brought by horseracing associations and state officials in Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia.

The Federal Trade Commission has the ultimate authority to approve or reject HISA regulations, but it can’t modify them. And the authority can reject proposed modifications.

Three 5th Circuit judges agreed with opponents of the act – including the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and similar groups in multiple states – that the setup gave too much power to the nongovernmental authority and too little to the FTC.

“A cardinal constitutional principle is that federal power can be wielded only by the federal government. Private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency,” Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote for the panel that ruled in the Texas case.

The same panel, which also included judges Carolyn Dineen King and Kurt Engelhardt, cited the Texas ruling in a separate order in favor of horseracing interests and regulators challenging HISA in a different case.

The chair of the horseracing authority’s board of directors said it would ask for further court review. Friday’s ruling could be appealed to the full 5th Circuit court of the Supreme Court.

“If today’s ruling were to stand, it would not go into effect until January 10, 2023 at the earliest,” Charles Scheeler said in an email. “We are focused on continuing our critical work to protect the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred racing, including the launch of HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program on January 1, 2023.”

The ruling was criticized by Marty Irby, executive director of the Animal Wellness Action organization. “Over the course of three Congresses, the most brilliant legal minds on Capitol Hill addressed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s constitutionality and ultimately decided that the Federal Trade Commission’s limited oversight was sufficient,” Irby said in an email.

Among the subjects covered by the authority’s rules and enforcement were jockey safety (including a national concussion protocol), the riding crop and how often riders can use it during a race, racetrack accreditation, and the reporting of training and veterinary records.

Animal rights groups, who supported the law, pointed to scandals in the industry involving medication and the treatment of horses.

Duncan wrote that in declaring HISA unconstitutional, “we do not question Congress’s judgment about problems in the horseracing industry. That political call falls outside our lane.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, hailed the ruling on Twitter, calling HISA a “federal takeover of Louisiana horse racing.”