A beginner’s guide to Royal Ascot

Mark Redmond from Matched Betting gives us all the details on the most glamourous event in British horseracing, and shares his tips on when and how to bet

Over the next five days, an estimated 300,000 people will be donning their finest headgear, popping 56,000 bottles of champagne, and hoping to win big money at Royal Ascot 2019. The star-studded event is undoubtedly the most well-heeled meet out there, playing host to the Royal Family and plenty of famous faces and fashionistas. And let’s not forget about the races themselves, which see some of the finest horses in the world compete in 18 thrilling group races over the course of the event.

If this is your first time at Ascot, or you’re not attending this year but still fancy a flutter, it’ll help to know a bit more about the betting opportunities on offer. Here, I’ll share my tips and tricks for those who are new to the event.

When and where?

Royal Ascot runs from the 18–22 June, at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. The group 1 races are the most exciting and likely to be the most competitive from a betting perspective, so you certainly won’t want to miss out. There are 8 group 1 races in total, with lots more group 2, 3, and handicap races scattered throughout the event.

The day-by-day break down of the biggest races at Ascot is as follows:

  • 18 June: The Queen Anne Stakes, the King’s Stand Stakes, and the St James’ Palace Stakes all take place today. With three group 1 races, this is always a busy and exciting day with plenty of betting opportunities.
  • 19 June : The highlight of the second day is the Prince of Wales Stakes. This is a slightly quieter day, but there are plenty of lower tier group races to enjoy, too.
  • 20 June: The Gold Cup is the oldest and biggest event at Royal Ascot, so there’s always a flurry of betting opportunities on this day. It’s also Ladies Day, so expect to see some extraordinary millinery masterpieces on display.
  • 21 June: The Coronation Stakes and Commonwealth Cup provide excitement on the penultimate day.
  • 22 June: The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, one of the most prestigious sprint races, is the biggest draw on the final day.

A Royal Ascot glossary

Horseracing has its own unique vocabulary, which can seem quite bewildering to outsiders. Understanding what these phrases mean can really help to predict the outcomes of a race, so you’ll certainly want to get to grips with some of the basic terms before you place any bets:

The going report: This describes the condition of the track, ranging from ‘heavy’ to ‘hard’. The softer the course, the slower the race, with a ‘good’ rating being ideal. So far, the going report for this year is good to soft on most days, which certainly looks very promising.

The form: This describes the past performances of a racehorse, which you can use to make a judgement about how likely it is to win.

The racecard: The racecard contains a wealth of information about each horse, including their previous performance, weight, and chances of winning.

Handicap: In some races, weights are placed under the saddle to even the chances for every runner. They can alter the overall odds, so look out for it!

Stake: The sum of money you place on a bet.

Odds-on: If a certain horse has a very strong chance of winning, the odds may be less than the evens, meaning you won’t make money on this bet.

Odds and tips

This year, a prize fund of £7.3 million is up for grabs for those lucky punters whose horses come in. But, if you have little knowledge of horseracing, betting on Royal Ascot can seem a little intimidating. While I can’t pick out your winners for you, I can offer a few tips and tricks for placing a bet:

Go with your gut: This is the simplest way to bet and, while it’s by no means an exact science, it’s an easy way for first-timers to enjoy a quick flutter. You could bet on the horse whose name you like best, or simply one you like the look if. Of course, this method isn’t likely to make you a millionaire, and I wouldn’t recommend putting a lot of money on the line, but it’s certainly good fun.

Use the bookies’ odds: The bookmakers’ odds describe how likely a horse is to win. Of course, the shorter the odds, the higher the risk, but the greater the potential reward.

Use the racecard: As I mentioned earlier, you’ll find lots of information about the form of each horse on the racecard, which you can use to try to predict the outcome of each event. You’ll also see a star rating next to each horse, which predicts how likely each runner is to win. A five-star rating means that a particular horse has been tipped to place first, while one star means there’s little to no chance of this happening — so place your bets accordingly!

Choose whether to go ‘to win’ or ‘each way’: If you place a bet on a horse ‘to win’, then you’ll win if your horse places first. ‘Each way’ means you will win if your horse finishes in first, second, third or maybe even fourth place, depending on the number of runners. Each way bets are twice the price of to win bets, but can be worth it if your horse comes in!

Match your bets: If you’re hoping to make some money but don’t want to risk big losses, then you could try your hand at matched betting. This is a tactic where you place bets on different outcomes in order to take advantage of the free bets offered by bookmakers, providing a low-risk return. It might involve a little more work than just picking a jockey who wears your favourite colour, but it can certainly pay off in the long run.

Don’t just bet on the horses: While the races might be the main event, you can bet on more than just the winners. In recent years, all sorts of novelty bets have become very popular, from the leading jockey, to the colour of the Queen’s hat!

With pomp, pageantry, and plenty of thrilling races, Royal Ascot is the racing event of the summer. So, if you’re thinking of having a flutter but don’t know where to begin, take these tips on board: it might not guarantee a win, but it will certainly help to brush up on the basics. Best of luck!