x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Lofty payouts fall a distant second to overall prestige at Royal Ascot

No other racecourse can boast more than 300 years of history as Royal Ascot has been at the forefront of creating the thoroughbred legend., writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Black Caviar was just one of many horses to pass on a big payday to race at Royal Ascot. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
Black Caviar was just one of many horses to pass on a big payday to race at Royal Ascot. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images

The Dubai World Cup night offers unparalleled prize money. The Melbourne Cup provides the ultimate sense of adventure. In comparison, Royal Ascot trades on its prestige to keep a place on the world stage.

No other racecourse can boast more than 300 years of history.

Since Queen Anne first passed a piece of heath, when out riding from Windsor Castle in 1711, and decided the area would be good for stretching her horse's legs, Ascot has been at the forefront of creating the thoroughbred legend.

Just because it is the original, however, does not necessarily mean it is the leader. Ascot's prize money across the five days does not stand up to the biggest purses in the world. This year £5 million (Dh28.9m) is on offer, which is dwarfed by the Dubai World Cup race alone, which is worth US$10m (£6.35m) at a meet that disburses $25m in one day.

Yet where the stud fee for the 2003 Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad stands at just £2,120, Frankel, who won twice at Royal Ascot during his unbeaten career, is being offered out for £125,000.

A win at Royal Ascot applies the gilt to any CV, which is why the connections of Black Caviar last year skipped a date in Dubai, despite the riches on offer, and ran in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes for a far-smaller prize.

Money goes far in motivating horsemen, however, and although Royal Ascot is Europe's premier international meeting Dubai still attracts the greatest international representation.

Royal Ascot has spawned many replicas, but if you have ever been to Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup it is clear that as far as individual race days are concerned there are others that do it better than does the original.

Last year, Flemington enticed 106,162 spectators for the Melbourne Cup. Of course, the enticement of one race, on one day, is a more attractive drawing card in comparison to a potentially diluted five-day programme, but last year the attendance at Ascot was 280,268, which was down 11 per cent from the previous year.

Ascot works tremendously hard to keep itself at the top table, and deserves its place.

The decline of the Breeders' Cup, which was set up only in 1984, shows how temperamental trends can be. With China in the process of investing heavily in racecourses, the sport's executives around the world need to be on their toes.

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