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Royal Ascot to take place behind closed doors if meeting can go ahead

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Tue 7 Apr 2020

The most revered race meeting in the world, Royal Ascot, will not be open to the public this year because of the coronavirus pandemic but may still take place behind closed doors.

The five-day meeting, attended daily by Her Majesty The Queen since the 1950s, is due to begin on June 16 and usually attracts about 300,000 racegoers across its five days.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after it was revealed the Jockey Club are looking to reschedule the first four Classics of the year, it was announced Ascot still held out hope of staging the meeting, but with no spectators present.

 Her Majesty the Queen arrives for Royal Ascot (Focusonracing)
Her Majesty the Queen arrives for Royal Ascot (Focusonracing)

Guy Henderson, Chief Executive of Ascot, issued a statement which read: “For public health and safety reasons we have reached the difficult but unavoidable conclusion that Royal Ascot 2020 will not be able to take place as an event open to the public. This will of course be a great disappointment for everyone planning to attend.

“It may prove possible to run the Royal Ascot races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the BHA for us to re-start racing.

“This would be for the benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers and our television audiences at home and internationally. Planning for this is now our complete focus and we will update on progress as and when we can.”

He added: “Customers who have already paid for entry and hospitality at Royal Ascot will be refunded in full in the usual way as quickly as possible and we will start the process of communicating with them, initially by email, immediately. We thank everyone in advance for their patience and understanding in completing this substantial task given the challenging practical circumstances of the current national lockdown.

“The pandemic will have a significant financial impact on our business in 2020, along with so many others. Nevertheless, Ascot racecourse will come through this crisis and we look forward to being able to welcome racegoers back when it is safe to do so.

 Royal Ascot is usually attended by about 300,000 racegoers
Royal Ascot is usually attended by about 300,000 racegoers

“Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all those grieving and suffering as a result of COVID-19. We offer heartfelt thanks to our wonderful NHS staff, key workers and volunteers for all their selfless dedication.”

There are eight Group One races among the 22 Group and Listed races at the meeting: the Queen Anne Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Gold Cup, Commonwealth Cup, Coronation Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

Under normal circumstances it would have expected to attract runners from all over globe competing for many of the summer’s biggest prizes.

After the British Horseracing Authority announced on March 17 that racing will be suspended until the end of April, Ascot issued a statement stating they were “considering a range of options” with regard to their summer programme.

In addition to all the racegoers, the 150 full-time staff at the course are usually swelled by about 6,500 temporary staff.

Last year, there were also 37 live music acts and decoration included three miles of bunting. More than 20,000 flowers and shrubs re grown and planted especially for the meeting.

Racing first took place at Ascot more than 300 years ago and the Royal Meeting, as we know it now, took shape with the introduction of the Gold Cup in 1807. The Royal Procession dates back to 1825.

In countries such as America and Australia, racing is continuing to take place behind closed doors.

Fixtures at Taunton and Wetherby were the first in England to be run behind closed doors on March 16 before all racing in Britain was suspended.

Exactly three months later, the hope is that Ascot may be able to replicate that.

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