The 2020 Royal Ascot meeting will take place behind closed doors and there will be no pageantry, but the fixture will still feature high-class racing and six additional races over five days from June 16 to 20. The 36-race meeting, which includes 19 Group titles and several major handicaps, will consist of four seven-race cards and eight races on the Saturday.
Royal Ascot is as much a social occasion as a sporting event, but this year’s meeting will have a unique atmosphere. Racing will take place under tight restrictions to mitigate any potential spread of the coronavirus. At the time of writing, the plan is for UK horse racing to resume on June 1.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) chief regulatory officer is confident that racing will again take place in Britain from next Monday. The last British meeting was staged on March 17, but the authorities are optimistic there will be a fixture behind closed doors at Newcastle on the first day of next month. While football and rugby are looking at matches no sooner than the middle of June, horse racing is different to these sports because of easier social distancing.
Ascot Racecourse is an urban track located around 36 miles from Central London, but most British horse racing takes place in rural areas outdoors. Thus, the sport provides a smaller risk than contact sports for the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The resumption is pending a government announcement that any professional sport can happen from June 1. Infections and fatalities from the coronavirus are dropping in the UK and the government are slowly transitioning from total lockdown.
Horse racing in general and Royal Ascot in particular would give the UK betting industry a huge boost. While on-course bookmakers and retail betting offices are currently closed as part of Britain’s coronavirus countermeasures, online bookmakers will provide a comprehensive Royal Ascot betting service.
Obviously, the BHA cannot control the decisions of the UK government with respects to the staging of sport, but the authority is working hard in planning for a June 1 resumption. A representative of the body is “incredibly confident” that British racing will take place at the start of June. Racing in Ireland is set to resume behind closed doors a week later and there are provisional fixtures on each day until the end of the month. There is some French racing at provincial tracks this week.
The extra six races at Royal Ascot are handicaps, five of which will open each day of the meeting. The additional contests include silver consolation versions of the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham Stakes. The Buckingham Palace Handicap returns as the Royal Ascot curtain-raiser on the third Tuesday in June. Organisers have modified the running order to fit in with the potential amendments to the Pattern and the dates of the first four Classics of the season.
The 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas will take place on June 6 and 7 at Newmarket if racing is happening. The St James’s Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes have been moved to the Saturday card at Royal Ascot to provide the most days between those races and first two Classics of the season. The King Edward VII Stakes and Ribblesdale Stakes will be run on the first day of the meeting. These races are potential trials for the Derby and Oaks, so the schedule maximises the break from Ascot to Epsom.