Alcohol-fuelled brawls on consecutive weekends at Goodwood and Ascot in May have put officials at the Royal meeting on high alert this week.
With Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family present, the last thing Ascot, or horse racing in general, needs is fighting among the finery.
Up to 300,000 people are expected to attend the five-day meeting, and security measures include more than 100 trained personnel, incident spotters and sniffer dogs alongside the usual contingent of armed police. Anyone found with illegal drugs will be refused entry or expelled.
The practice of roaming beer hawkers selling alcohol in the stands will be stopped and breath testing will be employed on entry for those showing “overt” signs of inebriation.
Royal Ascot’s stringent dress code will remain the same, with the addition that men must wear socks that “should cover the ankle.”
“We want all guests to feel comforted and reassured and we believe that the combination of armed police, patrol dogs and high-level security will provide this,” said Guy Henderson, chief executive of Ascot Racecourse.
The prestigious meeting combines top-class sport from the cream of Flat racing’s superstars with the elegance and glamor of Britain’s smart set.
Racing is preceded every day by the royal procession, in which Queen Elizabeth and other royals enter the course from Windsor Castle in horse-drawn carriages, a practice which began in 1825.
The opening day features the Queen Anne Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes — both won by the legendary Frankel — as well as the the King’s Stand Stakes for sprint specialists.
Without Parole will be ridden by veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, who has won a record 56 races at Royal Ascot since his debut as a 19-year-old in 1990.
Gold Cup fever
Wednesday’s showpiece is the historic Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs for four-year-olds and above. All eyes will be on the Gosden-trained Cracksman — the highest-rated horse in Europe and son of Frankel — who won the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.
Ladies’ Day Thursday is the high point for high fashion and hosts the famous Gold Cup, Britain’s most important long-distance race, which was first run in 1807.
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Order of St George has finished first and second in the last two runnings and is likely to start as favorite under jockey Ryan Moore in the absence of last year’s winner Big Orange, who is injured. Challengers will be headed by Dettori’s mount Stradivarius, also for Gosden.
Friday features the mile-long Coronation Stakes for Europe’s leading three-year-old fillies and the recently added Commonwealth Cup for three-year-old sprinters.
The meeting concludes Saturday when the highlight is the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, famously won by the unbeaten Black Caviar in 2012.
“We are looking forward to a tremendous five days of racing and to welcoming some 300,000 people to this very special celebration of our sport, British culture and fashion,” added Henderson.