Inside the secret world of thoroughbred racing

Race horses during a race
Steeped in history: Ascot has hosted race meetings since 1711 Credit: Getty

Royal Ascot is central to the history of thoroughbred racing, a sport to which there is considerably more than meets the eye

The British Isles is the home of thoroughbred racing and has produced many of the greatest horses, jockeys and trainers in the sport’s history.

No meeting in the calendar showcases the colour, tradition and spectacle of “the sport of kings” better than Royal Ascot, which attracts  more than 300,000 people over five days every June.

Some are drawn by the fashions and pageantry, others by the atmosphere of one of the social events of the British summer. For many the appeal lies in the 18 Group races on the card, including eight Group One contests.

It was Queen Anne who identified Ascot’s potential as a racecourse and the inaugural races there took place in 1711. Later in the 18th century the first steps were taken to regulate the breeding of racehorses, and from the early 1800s only thoroughbreds have been allowed by the Jockey Club to race professionally.

All thoroughbreds have a pedigree that can be traced back to one of three stallions – Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian and Godolphin Arabian – that were imported to Britain in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  

Breeding has become central to the sport and Britain is one of the major global exporters of thoroughbreds. The best stallions can command six-figure stud fees but even that outlay offers no guarantee of successfully producing a colt or filly that will train on sufficiently well to grace Royal Ascot themselves one day.

Fittingly for a sport on which billions are gambled each year, breeding is something of a calculated risk in the thoroughbred world.

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A day at Royal Ascot

Ascot Racecourse has teamed up with the Telegraph to make sure our readers don’t miss out on Royal Ascot, the sporting and social highlight of the summer.

This five-day race meeting is like no other and takes place between Tuesday 18 and Saturday 22 June 2019.

To take advantage of early booking prices, book your tickets by 4th April at . Tickets start from £32. Further groups savings are available. Fine Dining starts from £269 + VAT.