Royal Ascot 2020: How will COVID-19 affect this year’s event?

Royal Ascot 2020: How will COVID-19 affect this year's event?

Here, Peter Watton from the matched betting site OddsMonkey shares his insight into how this year’s Royal Ascot will be affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

While many of this year’s biggest sporting events have been cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Royal Ascot will be going ahead. This is music to the ears of horseracing fans, but the 2020 edition is going to look somewhat different to the event we’re used to.

Royal Ascot is typically a very social affair, where people get dressed up to the nines to spend the day celebrating and placing bets with their friends. This year, with certain lockdown restrictions and social distancing guidelines in place, the organisers are having to take some serious precautions. Here’s what you need to know.

It will be held behind closed doors

Royal Ascot has a history spanning more than 250 years, but this is the first time the event will be held behind closed doors. This means, while people are welcome to watch and bet on the races from the comfort of their own homes, nobody will be invited to spectate in person.

This is to ensure the event runs in accordance with the UK government’s current social distancing guidelines. Royal Ascot attracts thousands of people each year; if it were to go ahead as usual, keeping everyone two metres apart would be impossible. The organisers have therefore ruled that, while it will still go ahead, it isn’t yet safe enough to have spectators in the stands.

There will be no royal presence

Each day of Royal Ascot usually begins with a Royal Procession, which is when the Queen and accompanying members of the royal family arrive in horse-drawn carriages. Our monarch has been attending this annual event since 1946, but she isn’t expected to be there this year.

Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t been to any public engagements since the coronavirus pandemic made its way to the UK, and it’ll likely be a while before it’s safe for her to return to these duties. She’s also yet to confirm whether she’ll be attending Royal Ascot in 2021 but, with so much uncertainty surrounding the easing of social distancing measures, this isn’t surprising.

You’ll have to place your bets online or at a betting shop

There’s something special about placing a bet with a bookie at Royal Ascot, but this option just won’t be available this year. Instead, you’ll have to rely on betting websites and shops.

It seems most betting shops are planning to open from Monday 15 June — just in time to catch the Royal Ascot crowds. Of course, with many of the summer’s sporting events cancelled and shops being shut for a while, you might find that bookies are offering incredible deals to convince you to bet with them over their competitors. It’s well worth doing your research to ensure you’re getting the best odds and offers.

They’re still encouraging fans to wear their best outfits at home

One of the big draws of Royal Ascot is that everyone gets to dress up and have a great time with their friends. While you might not be able to enjoy the social aspect of the event this year, there’s nothing stopping you from making the most of the week by putting on your best clothes to watch the races!

Ascot is actually running a #StyledWithThanks campaign, where they’re asking people to take a photo of themselves all dressed up at home. Anyone who shares a photo on social media, hashtagging #StyledWithThanks and #RoyalAscot, will be entered into a draw to win some incredible prizes. Participants are also being encouraged to donate £5 to the accompanying fundraiser, which will be used to support frontline workers and those affected by COVID-19.

Royal Ascot 2020 is set to look a lot different to other years, but it’s still going to be a world-class event. If you’ve been looking forward to the meeting, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it from home. Throw your best clothes on, place some bets online, and start getting excited for 2021, when things will hopefully be back to normal.

Who is the reigning champion jockey?

Who is the reigning champion jockey? In Britain, of course, horse racing is staged under two ‘codes’, Flat and National Hunt, and each discipline has its own jockeys’ championship and corresponding champion jockey.

The jump jockeys’ championship, currently sponsored by British infrastructure company Stobart, is decided on the total number of winners ridden in National Hunt races between early May and late April. At the time of writing, in late April, 2019, the newly-crowned champion jockey is Richard Johnson, who took the title, for the fourth year running, with 200 winners, 22 ahead of his nearest rival, Harry Skelton.

The flat jockeys’ championship, also sponsored by Stobart, is decided on the total number of winners ridden in Flat races, on turf or synthetic, ‘all-weather’ surfaces, between early May and mid-October. Consequently, the flat jockeys’ championship for 2019 has yet to begin, but the reigning champion jockey is Brazilian-born Silvestre De Sousa, who took the 2018 title, for the third time in four years, with 148 winners, 27 ahead of his nearest rival, Oisin Murphy.

Are all racecourses essentially the same?

Are all racecourses essentially the same? At a superficial level, it can be argued that all pay-at-the-gate enclosed racecourses are fundamentally the same. They all consist of a long, wide track, surrounded by rails, which define the racing surface, with various starting points and a winning post, which marks the finishing point of each race.

However, Britain is blessed with 60 racecourses catering for horse racing on the flat, over jumps, or both and, while some of them are similar in certain respects, they all have their own unique characteristics. Most flat races, and all jump races, are run on turf, but six British racecourses – Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton – cater for flat racing on synthetic, or ‘all-weather’ surfaces, known as Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.

Even on turf courses, the overall shape and topology of the racing surface, the direction in which the horses run – that is, left-handed, or clockwise, or right-handed, or anti-clockwise – the length of the home straight and other characteristics often determine the type of horse that is most effective on the course. Some racecourses are completely flat, while others have pronounced undulations, uphill and downhill, and/or adverse cambers to throw horses off balance. Similarly, some racecourses have broad, sweeping turns, while others have tighter bends, or are constantly on the turn, favouring the agile, nimble type of horse. Of course, in jump racing, especially steeplechasing, the ‘stiffness’ of the fences – governed by the density of the birch cuttings from which they are made – is something else to consider.

How many racecourses are there in Scotland?

How many racecourses are there in Scotland? Scotland is home to a total of five racecourses, one of which caters exclusively for Flat racing, two of which cater exclusively for National Hunt racing and two of which are dual-purpose.

Starting with the furthest north – indeed, the northernmost in Britain – Perth Racecourse is a National Hunt-only venue situated in Scone Palace Park, less than 4 miles north of the city of Perth in central Scotland and less than 50 miles north of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Founded in 1908, Perth stages 14 National Hunt fixtures annually and the seasonal highlight is the City of Perth Gold Cup, a handicap chase run over 3 miles in June.

Moving further south, 60 miles or so, into East Lothian in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, Musselburgh Racecourse – formerly Edinburgh Racecourse – is a dual-purpose venue situated approximately 7 miles east of the Scottish capital on the Firth of Forth. The first record meeting at Musselburgh was staged in 1816 and, nowadays, the most valuable race of the year is the Queen’s Cup, staged over 1 mile 6 furlongs, in April.

Heading west, approximately 50 miles, into South Lanarkshire, Hamilton Park Racecourse is a Flat-only venue situated on the northern outskirts of the town of Hamilton, less than15 miles from central Glasgow. Racing was first staged in Hamilton in 1782 and, nowadays, notable races include the Scottish Stewards’ Cup in July and the historic Lanark Silver Bell Handicap, reinstated in 2008, in August.

Moving southeast, 75 miles or so, into the Scottish Borders, Kelso Racecourse is another National Hunt-only venue in Roxburghshire, less than 45 miles southeast of Edinburgh. Founded, in its current location, in 1822, Kelso is billed as ‘Britain’s Friendliest Racecourse’ and its principal race of the season is the Premier Kelso Hurdle, a Grade Two event, run over 2 miles and 2 furlongs in February or March.

Heading west again, just over 100 miles, in to Ayrshire, Ayr Racecourse is a dual-purpose venue and, in fact, the only Grade One track in Scotland. Ayr opened, in its current location, in 1907 and is, nowadays, best known for the Ayr Gold Cup in September and the Scottish Grand National – transferred to Ayr following the closure of Bogside Racecourse in 1965 – in April.

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