Back in April, two things were already clear: the first, Royal Ascot could only take place on its usual June time slot; the second, it would have to happen behind closed doors. No public. Not even Her Majesty, for the first time in her 68-year long reign. Come the end of May and these expectations are, alas, confirmed. The race will happen, to the joy of wagerers, who already largely bet with Ladbrokes Royal Ascot Offers to take advantage of early bird offers. Yet the public will have to be patient until 2021, since the gates will not open to them. The most famous and popular horse race in Great Britain attracts at least 300.000 people every year for the five-day event. Clearly, there is no way any “social distancing” could ever be be implemented on such an oaccasion.
The official decision had already been announced on April 7th by the Ascot Racecourse: “For public health and safety reasons we have reached the difficult but unavoidable conclusion that Royal Ascot 2020 (Tuesday 16th – Saturday 20th June) 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”. Some hope had been left, though: “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.”
The birth of Royal Ascot is credited to Queen Ann in 1711. The monarch is quoted as saying “This would be a fine place for a race”, when riding on the field where the racecourse would later come to be. Windsor Castle is only six miles from there. No wonder that the iconic race is the equestrian event of the royal family and it is literally organized under the supervision and with the approval of Queen Elizabeth herself. She graces the event with her presence in very solemn fashion, riding every day at precisely 2 o’clock in a Landau carriage at the head of the Royal Procession to take her place at the Royal Enclosure.
Although a lot of attention is alway attached to the social and fashion aspect of Royal Ascot, the truth is that Her Majesty truly loves this event because she truly loves horses, as she has done all her life since she sat on her first pony, Peggy, at the age of four. In her older days, she is back to riding a pony, her favourite Carltonlima Emma. A quieter and sure-footed steed, since the Queen suffered a knee injury a few years ago and must be contented with gentler rides. Emma is one of the fell ponies bred in farms in the north of England. So much does Elizabeth II love them, that she has become patron of the Fell Pony Society.
A far shot from the thundering hoofs of Royal Ascot, but in challenging times this too gives the British some reassurance, as a proof of the solidity of tradition in the very soul of their Queen.