Many pundits and analysts have questioned the merits of starting betting on Royal Ascot with three Group 1 contests in a row – the triple-header that launches the meeting is here to stay though.
The reasons given were that it helps to create anticipation and guarantees the best ground conditions for the stars of the show. How the participants in the other four Group 1 races contained in the meeting feel about that is another matter though.
This year we saw a Tuesday line-up of the Queen Anne Stakes featuring the head-to-head between Goldikova and Canford Cliffs, the appearance of Frankel in the St James’s Palace Stakes and a well contested King’s Stand Stakes with a cast of sprinters from around the globe. It certainly meant there were plenty of horse racing betting that day, but was it really the best approach?
That line-up meant that a lot of the best performers of the week were packed into the first day of the meeting. Defending the decision, Ascot Chief Executive Charles Barnett pointed out that the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the Royal Meeting attract double the numbers in terms of the crowd and that changing the running order is not a priority for the course executive.
However, he did appreciate that from a purists point of view that there are positive arguments about changing the order, but commercially it made no sense as Ascot want and need big crowds each day and they need to build on days which have smaller crowds. Fans of horse racing wouldn’t want such massive races poorly attended, after all.
Ascot look set to hold firm with the current line-up at the Royal Meeting but surely some change in the running order on certain days would help. In a perfect world the card should always build to a finale and the perfect way to do that would be to pay attention to the running orders of the days at not only Royal Ascot but all the Festival Meetings in the calendar.
We would argue that changing the order of the cards would not only maintain anticipation of the big race of the day but allow the day to build to a natural climax rather than just fade away. Over to you, Ascot and the other Festivals.