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'There are no negatives' - 35-race Royal Ascot is a permanent fixture

Lola Showgirl wins the new Kensington Palace Stakes, part of the expanded Royal Ascot programme
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Seven-race cards are "here to stay" at Royal Ascot, which believes there are "no negatives" with the expanded programme.

The races added to the behind-closed-doors meeting staged in 2020 were retained this year and joined by the new Kensington Palace Stakes for older fillies and mares.

That made 35 races across the five days and Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Public Affairs at Ascot, said: "It is here to stay 100 per cent.

"It's good for broadcasting, for turnover, for the Hong Kong World Pool, for people on course and for owners and trainers who have more opportunities to win. There are no negatives."

Expanding the programme at the Cheltenham Festival has been criticised by those who believe it waters down the quality of the meeting.

But Smith does not believe that is the case at Ascot and said: "The extra races do not dilute the quality because they mirror in their grading and handicap ratings races that are already being run for other categories of horse.

Nick Smith: "extra races do not dilute the quality"

"If you were suddenly to find field sizes reducing considerably because of them you'd have a problem, but they don't because every single race has been specifically framed not to compete with any other race."

Adding an extra race to a card which starts at 2.30pm made for a 6.10pm finish, which is past midnight in Hong Kong.

But Smith ruled out bringing the first race forward and said: "The start time will remain 2.30pm to accommodate the royal procession. 

"As long as you place your bets in Hong Kong before 12am, then you can still watch the race, you just can't actually place a bet after midnight. The initial signs are that turnover from Hong Hong is higher than last year. It's worked extremely well."

All 35 races were shown on free-to-air television, with ITV broadcasting for 25 hours in total.

Comparing viewing figures with last year is complicated by the impact of European Championship football, so that some coverage was on ITV4 rather than the main channel.

But the Thursday and Friday programmes posted the highest peaks since 2012, with 1.9 million watching the Gold Cup, which was simulcast on both channels for the first time.

Geldings row

After winning the Wokingham with Rohaan, trainer David Evans criticised the ban on geldings in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, which meant he had to run the three-year-old in a handicap.


'Hopefully he's not finished yet' – Rohaan continues his remarkable rise


But Smith said: "That is the universal European Pattern rule for Group 1 races restricted to three-year-olds, it applies to the Guineas, the St James's Palace Stakes, all of them.

"These races were put in place to be pivotal parts of the breeding pattern and the whole point of the Commonwealth Cup was to provide a legitimate alternative to the 2,000 Guineas for horses that don't get the trip – that's why it has the same rules applying to it.

"It's unfortunate when a horse like Rohaan misses out but in reality how often is this going to happen?"


Read more:

New races unveiled as Royal Ascot broadens programme for prestigious fixture

Top trainers praise move to expand Royal Ascot to seven races a day

World Pool to launch at Royal Ascot with hope of better value for punters

World Pool betting to be expanded to 17 racedays in Britain this year


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It's good for broadcasting, for turnover, for the Hong Kong world pool, for people on course and for owners and trainers who have more opportunities
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