Ascot King George Day: Race List & Meeting Info

This Saturday sees the Berkshire track of Ascot stage what is its single best card outside of the Royal Meeting. Scene of legendary performances from true greats of the game such as Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef and Shergar, the showpiece contest of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes may not be quite the force of old, but still invariably attracts a field of quality performers from at home and abroad.

With further Group and Listed class action featuring on the undercard, in addition to a quality big field handicap and juvenile fare, there’s plenty for punters to look forward to here. Without further ado, here’s who we see coming out on top on what is a cracking seven race card.


King George Day

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Keeneland Stakes Group 3 6f £50,000 2 Year Old Fillies
Porsche Handicap Class 2 1m £45,000 3 Years Old
International Stakes Handicap Class 2 7f £150,000 3 Years Old +
King George VI & QE Stakes Group 1 1m4f £1,250,000 3 Year Old +
Pat Eddery Stakes Listed 7f £30,000 2 Years Old
Longines Handicap Class 2 7f £13,000 3 Years Old +
Plymouth Fruit Cup Handicap Class 3 1m4f £15,000 3 Years Old +

Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes

Group 3, 6f

The link between Ascot Racecourse and the Royal Family is never far behind and there’s another example of it in the form of the Princess Margaret Stakes. This Group 3 flat race was first run in 1946 and is limited to two-year-old fillies. Run over six furlongs on the straight, the race has a weight of nine stone, with a five pound penalty heading the way of Group 1 and Group 2 race winners and Group 3 race winners taking a three pound penalty.

Named after King George VI’s youngest daughter, the race was Listed until it gained Group 3 status in 1986. Apart from in 2012 in the recent era, the race is always run on the same weekend as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

As with so many other races run at Ascot, Lester Piggott’s ten wins make him the race’s most successful jockey. As with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Michael Stoute is the most successful trainer with five wins. Remarkable, there’s no overlap between Piggott and Stoute in terms of horses they won with.

Porsche Handicap

Class 2, 1m

Starting out of gates, as flat races at Ascot are wont to do, the Porsche Handicap is, as the name suggests, sponsored by the car manufacturer Porsche. It’s a Class 2 race that is run over one mile and sees the winner pick up around £30,000 in prize money. Run on the straight, it takes horses about one minute and forty seconds to complete when the Going is Good to Soft.

International Stakes Handicap

Class 2, 7f

Sponsored by the champagne company Moët & Chandon at the time of writing, the International Stakes shares its unsponsored name with a race run at York Racecourse during the Ebor Festival. The Ascot race is a Class 2 offering that takes place over seven furlongs. The winning horse receives about £30,000 in prize money. Open to horses aged three and over, the race is a Heritage Handicap.

King George VI & QE Stakes

Group 1, 1m4f

A race named in honour of King George VI was created at Ascot in 1946, joined two years later by another offering in honour of Queen Elizabeth. The first race was run over two miles and was open to three-year-olds, whilst the latter was run over a mile and a half and took place in July as opposed to the former race’s October setting.

As the 1940s came to a close, the Clerk of the Course, Major John Crocker Bulteel, decided that it would be good for Ascot to have an international race for three-year-olds and over that was run over a distance of a mile and a half. Soon it was decided that the other two races would be put together in order to form the new race that Bullteel envisioned and it received its inaugural running on the 21st of July in 1951.

Owing to the fact that the Festival of Britain was taking place that summer, the race’s official title for its first ever running was the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Festival of Britain Stakes. It bore no sponsor’s name and soon became one of the most prestigious flat races in the UK.

Indeed, it rejected the idea of a sponsor until De Beers took on the responsibility in 1972 and three years later Queen Elizabeth the second gave permission for the word ‘diamond’ to be added to the event’s moniker, making it the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes until De Beers ceased sponsoring the race in 2006.

The King George is the first chance that three-year-olds get to compete against horses older and more experienced than them at the Group 1 level, with that fact being heightened by the fact that the race is run over the same mile and a half distance that The Derby boasts. Add to that the fact that it’s also the first Group 1 race of the season that allows colts and fillies to go head-to-head and you can see why it’s such a much-loved race.

The race comes after The Derby and, at the time of writing, thirteen horses have won The Derby before going on to claim victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes within the same year. One such horse, the 1970 winner Nijinsky, was just the fifteenth horse to win the 2,000 Guineas, The Derby and the St Leger, which is the so-called colts’ Triple Crown. Another was the famous Shergar, who won the race in 1981, two years before he was stolen and held to ransom.

Arguably the most famous running of the race took place in 1975 when Bustino was leading ahead of The Derby winner Grundy. Grundy was being ridden by Pat Eddery, who has a race over the weekend named in his honour and showed the world why he was an eleven-time British racing champion racer when he took Grundy from behind to win the race that has been labelled 'The Race of the Century’ because of the immense drama it involved. Indeed, many of the runnings since have failed to live up to the hype garnered by the 1975 running.

Nowadays the race, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series and has been since 2011, is run right-handed over one mile, three furlongs and two hundred and eleven yards. It remains open to horses aged three and over, as it was originally envisioned to be as a race, with the following weight information in play:

  • Horses aged 3: 8 stone 10 pounds
  • Horses aged 4 and over: 9 stone 7 pounds
  • Fillies and mares are given a 3 pound allowance
  • Horses from the southern hemisphere are given a 4 pound allowance

If you’re wondering whether this race can give you any information about forthcoming races during the season then you’re in luck. Many horses that do well in the King George, as the Group 1 race is often referred, have been known to go and compete in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

At the time of writing, only Dahlia in 1973 and 1974 and Swain in 1997 and 1998 have won the race more than once, with the two horses gaining back-to-back more than two decades apart from each other. Lester Piggott’s seven wins make him the most successful jockey, whilst Sir Michael Stoute’s six wins as a trainer see him at the top of the leader board.

Pat Eddery Stakes

Listed, 7f

Despite being one of the youngest races to take place over the weekend, having only been taking place since 2006, the Pat Eddery Stakes is one of the most exciting and prestigious of the meeting. Originally known as the Winkfield Stakes in honour of the nearby village of Winkfield, it took on its current moniker in 2016.

The race is now run in memory of Pat Eddery, who was a British Champion flat racing jockey eleven times before his death in 2015. That perhaps helps to explain the race’s prestige, along with the fact that it has cemented its place as one of the key races to take part on the same weekend as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The race is run on the straight over seven furlongs and is limited to two-year-olds with a weight of nine stone and three pounds. Fillies are given a five pound allowance, whilst horses that have won Group races receive a five pound penalty and horses that have tasted victory in Listed races are given a punishment to the tune of three pounds.

Longines Handicap

Class 2, 7f

At the time of writing, the watch maker Longines is a sponsor of the King George Day meeting and has its own race to show for it. As a result, winners are presented with Longines watches in addition to the £8,000 plus prize money that’s on offer. If the Going is Good to Soft then it will take around a minute and a half for the horses to complete the seven furlongs of this Class 3 event. It’s for Lady Amateurs and is open to horses aged three and over.

Plymouth Fruit Cup Handicap

Class 3, 1m4f

A Class 3 race that is for horses are three and over with a rating of between 0 and 90, this race is sponsored by Plymouth Fruit at the time of writing. It is run over a distance of one mile, three furlongs and two hundred and eleven yards. When the Going is Good to Soft you can expect the fastest horses to take about two and a half minutes to complete the race. The winner receives around £9,700.


About the King George Weekend

Ascot Racecourse
View of Ascot Racecourse (Russell James Smith / flickr)

Ascot is a racecourse that is dripping with history and tradition, with the Royal Meeting at Ascot being arguably the most prestigious flat racing meeting on the horse racing calendar. King George Weekend is the Ascot equivalent of letting your hair down and having a party, though it’s actually more akin to a gentleman undoing the top button of his shirt and not doing up his jacket, given that it maintains a degree of sensibility at all times.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is unquestionably the weekend’s premier event, having been taking place since 1951 when two separate races were put together to form a new event. For a time it remained one of only a few top races that didn’t bear a sponsor’s title, finally succumbing in 1972; even then it was still an appropriate sponsor for an Ascot race when De Beers, the diamond company, took over sponsorship. Nowadays the best part of a weekend exists around the race, with things kicking off on Friday and carrying on into the Saturday.

King George Weekend overview

The weekend spans Friday and Saturday with the entertainment barely stopping to take a breath over the two days. Saturday is where the racing hits its peak with one of the biggest and most valuable races in the entire racing calendar in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The weekend was centred pretty entirely around the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Friday is a day without merit. With three Class 2 races, a Class 3, a pair of Class 4s and a Class 1 Listed, there’s plenty to get excited about on day one of King George Weekend. Every race promises drama and intrigue, not least of all because there are a few handicaps in there that mean that the final standings is anything but a foregone conclusion.

Just as the Grand National is a festival of racing that has a jewel in the crown at its centre, so too is King George Weekend a time of year when there’s plenty of exceptional racing that all plays second fiddle to the main event that everyone is there to see.

As with the Friday, that doesn’t mean that Saturday’s races are just to be ignored until the big one comes about. On the contrary, with the Group 1 race being surrounded by a Group 3 Class 1 race, a Class 1 Listed offering, two Class 2 races and a paid of Class 3 handicaps that will keep the bettors and bookies guessing. Here’s how the day pans out:

The race that sits proudly in the middle of the day, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, is sponsored by QIPCO and is why people from all over the world tune in to watch the race take place. It’s a race beloved of the racing community, if for no other reason than only The Derby sits in front of it in terms of purse offered for a race in Britain.

Atmosphere and Entertainment

Picnic Basket

The King George Weekend is thought of by those within the racing community as being something of a garden party compared to the more formal events held at Ascot during the rest of the year. This is perhaps best illustrated not by the racing but by the party that takes place in the evening after the final race on the Saturday, with guest DJs or bands usually providing the entertainment on the racecourse’s famous bandstand.

The entire enterprise is perhaps best summed up by Juliet Slot, the Chief Commercial Officer of Ascot Racecourse, who said, “King George Weekend offers racegoers a quintessential English garden party experience. It's less formal than its royal counterpart and has long been a showcase of contemporary summer style with ladies wearing vibrant millinery creations and gentlemen often opting for linen suits and panama hats”.

With the Queen often attending to watch the race that is named in honour of her parents, the King George Weekend is one that appeals to those that are obsessed with the Royal Family as much as those that just enjoy top-class flat racing. The course was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, so the link to the Royals is inescapable and a big part of the reason why at least some of the 630,000 people walk through its doors every year.

It’s About More Than The Racing

When it comes to your attendance at the King George Weekend, Ascot Racecourse pulls out all of the stops to ensure that you’ll have a great time. Everyone in attendance will have half an eye on the fashion stakes for starters, but there’s also the fact that there’s plenty of exciting food and drink stalls on offer.

Just as Wimbledon is all about the Pimms, Ascot has its own version of a gin & tonic during King George Weekend, which is known as the Monkey Goes to Ascot. If you’re going to head to Ascot for the meeting then you might want to spend at least some of your time away from the racecourse itself and at the numerous different locations that will give you something to enjoy whilst you’re there.