Royal Ascot 2020: First time without the Queen and spectators

Covid-19 and social distance have made Ascot Race to set the first time taking place behind closed doors with jockeys wearing face masks. By May Zhao, Letter from London

The event was started from 16th June with no Queen, Royal procession, or much of the glitz and glamour so associated with one of Britain’s most famous sporting occasions, but still, there were the elite sport and plenty of it.

This year the horses themselves will be taking centre stage. The organizers have to put on the best show as they can in the situation the country, and indeed the wider world, currently finds itself in.

Without the traditional Royal Enclosure there cannot be a Royal Enclosure dress code, so not the interest of the rather eccentric top hats and tails for the men, nor the glorious colours and designs of the ladies’ dresses and hats.

No Royal procession before the first race, nor communal singing around the bandstand at the culmination of the day’s action. It is the first time in her 68-year reign that the Queen has missed Royal Ascot.

Without crowds, much of the atmosphere is lost, with no roaring as horses approach the finishing line, nor cheering the victorious horse and rider back into the winners’ enclosure.

But the very fact we are staging the Royal meeting at all has to be seen as a positive, and the onus is on us who run the sport of horse racing to ensure the very best action and excitement that we can, given the circumstances. Says Ascot director of racing Nick Smith.

We are obviously hopeful that this virus will have been beaten by June 2021, in which case all things being well, the Royal Ascot meeting can once again return to the pomp and pageantry which so many visitors enjoy. It is normally the celebration of the best of British, and a wonderful spectacle enjoyed by a third of a million paying visitors, along with many millions viewing around the world on television. Nick Smith added

The event sells itself, with the beauty of the thoroughbreds in full flight, the fashion and glamour in the enclosures, and the history and respect of seeing the Queen and her entourage arriving by carriage.

There will be no physical attendance by any members of the Royal family this year, but Her Majesty will be watching avidly from home, as she is hugely passionate about the sport of horse racing. The Queen enjoyed a winner on Wednesday when Tactical, ridden by James Doyle and trained by Andrew Balding, won the Windsor Castle Stakes in her colours. This two years old was also bred by the Queen, so his win will have been even more special for her.

The real ‘wow’ factor horse is Stradivarius, who won the Gold Cup for the third successive year, under the hugely popular rider Frankie Dettori for trainer John Gosden. The Gold Cup is the biggest race of the meeting, over 2.5 miles. The horse-powered away to win by an incredible 10 lengths, and will be returning in 2021, all being well, to once more defend his crown. The horse has now won 4 times at the Royal meeting, and earned nearly £3 million in his career.

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