Major revisions to this year's Royal Ascot have been unveiled including the introduction of six extra races, changes to the running order, consolation contests for prestigious handicaps and earlier start times throughout the week.
Last month Ascot announced its intention to run the royal meeting in its regular position in the calendar, this year scheduled for June 16-20, but with no spectators permitted to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, with British racing, which has been stopped since March 18, not resuming until June 1 at the earliest, Ascot officials have made a number of significant amendments to facilitate extra runners and provide a suitable programme for those horses being targeted at the fixture.
Nick Smith, Ascot's director of racing and public affairs, said: “We are of course taking nothing for granted in terms of government’s final approval to permit behind-closed-doors sporting events from June 1.
"We are announcing the programme today, with the dates of the royal meeting already public as part of the wider schedule for resumption, so that horsemen can begin their detailed planning.”
Chief among the changes is the introduction of six extra races across the five days meaning there will be seven contests on every day bar Saturday, the final day of the fixture, when there will be eight races.
The 7f Buckingham Palace Handicap, scrapped from the programme when the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup was created in 2015, returns and will be the opening race this year instead of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.
Additionally, there will be consolation races for the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham and three new races for this year only — the 1m6f Copper Horse Handicap for four-year-olds and up, the 1m2f Golden Gates Handicap for three-year-olds and the 5f Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap for three-year-olds. All new race names have been approved by the Queen.
Ascot has also shuffled the order for the King Edward VII Stakes and Ribblesdale Stakes, pushing them to the first day of the meeting to provide the maximum amount of time before the Investec Derby and Oaks on July 4.
The St James's Palace Stakes has moved in the opposite direction to be on the final day of the meeting, along with the Coronation Stakes, to increase the time between these races and the Qipco 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on June 6-7.
The Queen Mary Stakes, Norfolk Stakes and Coventry Stakes have been moved to the end of the royal meeting to give the two-year-old runners extra time between their debuts and the meeting.
All 36 races are set to be shown on Sky Sports Racing with ITV broadcasting the action on its main channel from race two during the week and from race three on Saturday.
Racing will begin at 1.15pm from Tuesday to Friday and 12.40pm on Saturday, with the final race at 4.40pm. Prize-money figures, which are expected to be lower than usual, will be announced in due course.
Smith said: “We are most grateful to the BHA’s race planning team for their assistance in framing the additional races for this exceptional renewal of Royal Ascot. We hope these extra opportunities will be welcomed by horsemen, broadcasters and the public at home.
“Under [BHA director of racing] Ruth Quinn, a lot of work has gone into scheduling an appropriate Pattern trials programme, beginning on June 3, alongside an enhanced two-year-old programme."
Royal Ascot order of running:
Buckingham Palace Handicap (7f, 3yo+)
Queen Anne Stakes (1m, Group 1, 4yo+)
Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo fillies)
King Edward VII Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo colts & geldings)
King’s Stand Stakes (5f, Group 1, 3yo+)
Duke of Cambridge Stakes (1m, Group 2, 4yo+ fillies and mares)
Ascot Stakes Handicap (2m4f, 4yo+)
Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap (1m, 3yo+)
Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f, Group 3, 3yo)
King George V Handicap (1m4f, 3yo)
Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1m2f, Group 1, 4yo+)
Royal Hunt Cup Handicap (1m, 3yo+)
Windsor Castle Stakes (5f, Listed, 2yo)
Copper Horse Handicap (1m6f, 4yo+)
Golden Gates Handicap (1m2f, 3yo)
Wolferton Stakes (1m2f, Listed, 4yo+)
Jersey Stakes (7f, Group 3, 3yo)
Chesham Stakes (7f, Listed, 2yo)
Gold Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 4yo+)
Britannia Handicap (1m, 3yo colts & geldings)
Sandringham Handicap (1m, 3yo, fillies)
Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap (5f, 3yo)
Albany Stakes (6f, Group 3, 2yo fillies)
Norfolk Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)
Hardwicke Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 4yo+)
Commonwealth Cup (6f, Group 1, 3yo colts & fillies)
Queen’s Vase (1m6f, Group 2, 3yo)
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap (1m4f, 3yo+)
Silver Wokingham Handicap (6f, 3yo+)
Queen Mary Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo fillies)
Coronation Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo fillies)
Coventry Stakes (6f, Group 2, 2yo)
St James’s Palace Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo colts)
Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6f, Group 1, 4yo+)
Wokingham Handicap (6f, 3yo+)
Queen Alexandra Stakes (2m6f, Conditions, 4yo+)