Royal Ascot, one of the highlights of the racing calendar, is going ahead this week — but only for the hoses, trainers and jockeys.
Social distancing rules mean that while the racing can go ahead, there will be no fans, no hospitality and none of the extravagant hats that the meeting is famous for.
It’s not the first time that world events have impacted the meeting. Everything from death and war to pestilence and politics have impacted Royal Ascot in the past, as our sister publication Horse & Hound details in this fascinating article.
While the track itself is closed to racing fans, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying a bit of Royal Ascot from home. Here are a few suggestions.
Before you start: Get dressed up to the nines
Think of it as getting dressed for dinner — something which we covered here. But for added authenticity you need to make sure you’re in compliance with Royal Ascot’s famously draconian dress code, which is explained here.
It really is all part of the fun. And when else will you get to lounge around on the sofa watching television all afternoon while dressed in your finery?
Alternatively you could just wear what you want, then ask a suitably stern-looking neighbour to play the part of a steward: just ask them to shout at you (from 2m or more, of course) and get off the property.
For lunch: A Royal Ascot themed picnic
Number 1 car park is normally the place to see, be seen and graze on picnic bites, washed down with Champagne. It’s easy enough to recreate this at home by setting up a picnic blanket in the front garden, right next to the car… but what to prepare?
Well, no less an authority than Raymond Blanc — long involved in Ascot catering — has previously shared with us his tips for a picnic ideal for Ascot. Raymond’s top suggestions (which you can read in full here) include potted crab with avocado, topped with prawn butter (‘a real classic, served at Brasserie Blanc’) and pickled quail eggs with celery salt.
For the actual racing
Our sister site Horse & Hound has this guide to all the practicalities of watching Royal Ascot 2020 on TV at home — the short version is that it’s all on ITV4, first race beginning at 1.15pm every day except Saturday, when it’s 12.40pm.
To steady the nerves, we’re obviously not going to tell you what to drink — each to their own. But if you were at the venue itself, you’d see Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage all over the place — it’s apparently the ‘official Champagne of Royal Ascot’. You can buy it for delivery from clos19.com at £55 a bottle, a fair whack, but far less than you’d be paying at the racecourse itself. Plus you’re bound to win so much on the races that it’ll effectively be free… right?
Once the racing is done: A proper Royal Ascot afternoon tea
No doubt you’ll have hundreds of pounds in winnings to blow even before the final race of the day is run. Instead of going to enjoy a Champagne afternoon tea at one of Ascot’s catering spots, however, you’ll have to do it at home.
According to Ben Dutson and Gemma Amor — Ascot’s Chef and Executive Chef respectively — you’ll need:
- Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese sandwiches
- Gammon Ham and Dijon Mustard sandwiches
- Cucumber and Mint sandwiches
- Free-Range Egg Mayonnaise sandwiches
- Buttermilk scones with jam and clotted cream
- Victoria sponge
- Carrot cake
- Chocolate roulade
- Egg custard tarts
If you can’t prep all that yourself — or can’t face it, or imagine that you’ll be a little worse for wear — help is at hand. A company called www.britishfinefoods.com will deliver the whole lot to you for £45, with £5 going to charity.
We've rounded up all the utterly inessential products that you absolutely do not need (top hats for Ascot aside) to
Every year, Royal Ascot serves up racing at its finest – but that's just the starting point for the experience.