Royal Ascot has made the decision to expand its race card to seven meetings a day, in a move which has been well received by betting industry figures.
The Copper Horse Stakes, the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and the Golden Gates Stakes flat races were fixed to the venue’s week long event last year.
This was followed by the inclusion of the Buckingham Palace Stakes after the COVID-19 pandemic opened up a space for extra meetings. The race was initially scrapped in 2015 and replaced by the Commonwealth Cup,
As part of the expansion plans, the 0-105 mile handicap Kensington Palace Stakes will be added for the 2021 event, which is open to mares and fillies aged four years old and above. Bookmakers have responded with enthusiasm to the racetrack’s expansion plans.
As reported in the Racing Post, Ladbrokes Coral PR Director, Simon Clare, commented: “Ascot’s decision to continue with seven-race cards at the royal meeting is to be applauded as our experience from last summer shows it will deliver incremental growth to turnover over the week, and generate increased revenues from betting to racing.”
Ladbrokes and Coral shops recorded extremely high turnover last year when the St James’s Palace Stakes was rescheduled to a Saturday.
“While the new races added last year were among the poorest performers in betting terms, that was to be expected as they were positioned in the weakest slots without the boost of ITV coverage, and, because they are new, they have no heritage yet with betting customers,” he continued.
“They still delivered decent levels of additional turnover, with the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes performing best as the 19th best-betting race of the week of the 35 races, and you’d expect them all to perform better as they become established.
“Royal Ascot is already the biggest week of betting in the flat season, and the permanent addition of five competitive betting races across the five days is great news all round.”
The races will take place between Tuesday 15 June and Saturday 19 June, featuring 35 meetings in total, 5 more than in previous years.
However, Ascot has not yet announced the TV scheduling for its 2021 event, but it has been confirmed that its traditional lineup will be readopted following the turbulent 2020 season. Bookmakers will likely be hoping for extensive TV coverage, as the expanded meeting could help recoup losses from the previous year.
“It’s massive. Having 35 races instead of 30 is like having an extra day and from a bookmaking perspective it’s such a significant move in terms of growing the event,” added Barry Orr, Head of Media Relations at Betfair.
“For example, from an exchange point of view I think we average £1.5 million to £2m pre-race at Royal Ascot, and the meeting is well able to take an extra race; six was probably on the shy side anyway. It’s a really positive move for racing and the levy.”
The new races for 2021 will run at the end of each day, with the exception of the Saturday meetings, where the traditional Queen Alexandra Stakes will close the week, following the Golden Gate Stakes.
Although the overall number of races has increased, the ‘Silver’ versions of the Royal Hunt Cup and the Wokingham Stakes have been dropped and there will not be eight races on Saturday as there were in 2020.
Commenting on the expansion, Sir Francis Brooke Bt., Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot,, said: “A positive that we drew from Royal Ascot 2020 was that the additional races presented more opportunities to participate and that this had been widely welcomed by owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys. We are delighted to be able to make this change permanent.”
Director of Racing and Public Affairs at Ascot, Nick Smith, added: “The concept of extended cards last year was well received, and we are very pleased to be able to offer additional opportunities to the horsemen community, the public, broadcasters and media going forward.
“At this time, more than ever, the increased opportunity to win prize money and to generate more levy and domestic and overseas betting income is crucial.”