Ten big changes for Royal Ascot 2020 and how it will be very different this year

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Flat racing’s biggest meeting of the summer has arrived, but Royal Ascot will look very different this year.

The event is behind held behind closed doors for the first time in its history, just weeks after UK fixtures were given the go-ahead to restart.

All events run by the British Horseracing Authority are staged with coronavirus precautions in place, including Ascot over the five days.

There are changes in many areas, from prize money to the races planned.

Here are ten you need to know…

RACE PROGRAMME

More races this year, 36 in total, try to make up for missed opportunities in the sport.

The six contests added are handicaps, run over a range of distances from five furlongs to one mile, six furlongs.

Racing was the first major UK sport to resume on June 1 and Royal Ascot keeps its usual slot in the calendar.

However in a normal year it would be run after the Derby, which is now on July 4 with the Oaks- and both races are sponsored by Investec.

PRIZE MONEY

It is nearly half of what it was in 2019 due to the knock-on effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

This year’s meeting will offer a total winnings of£3,680,000 and all eight Group One races carry a prize fund of £250,000.

Before coronavirus, Royal Ascot 2020 was set to offer a record £8,095,000 to connections.

In 2019, runners competed for £7.3 million, just over half as much as the prize money for the races next week.

CROWDS

Racegoers numbering more than 300,000 usually flock to Berkshire for the week, but not this year.

Fans are not allowed to attend sporting events currently, a big problem for Ascot with the track set to close more than 70 per cent of its income from the turnstiles.

Instead many will watch on from home, with ITV Racing set to broadcast six races each day.

Some horses thrive on atmosphere, so the track being shut to spectators may hamper their chances, although it may benefit others with less noise to be heard.

THE QUEEN

Our reigning monarch won the Gold Cup with her horse Estimate in 2013.

And Queen Elizabeth II has always attended the race meeting since it resumed in 1946 from the Second World War break.

Each day usually begins with the Royal Procession, when the Queen and members of the Royal Family arrive in horse-drawn carriages.

Although she misses her favourite meeting this year, The Queen may still be represented by her horses, with First Receiver (1.50pm, Wednesday) and Punctuation (2.25pm) two possible runners.

OWNERS

Trainers and jockeys will be allowed into Ascot, but not owners, as the wait goes on.

The BHA has not given a time frame for when the rules might change, so they will be watching from home like the masses.

To try and compensate, Ascot is running a virtual hub with all the necessary information, while jockeys can be filmed giving feedback on phones.

Ascot’s official photographer will take pictures of every horse in the parade ring for them too.

NEW RACES

Due to field sizes being reduced and to allow as many horses to run as possible, new races are planned.

The Buckingham Palace Stakes, axed from the card in 2015 is back, while ‘silver’ second divisions of some handicaps also take place.

OVERSEAS RUNNERS

International competitors are allowed by the BHA from June 15, but government rules complicate matters.

Arrivals have to self-isolate for 14 days so trainers such as Wesley Ward from America are giving it a miss this year.

His seven horses are being cared for by European-based members of staff in Newmarket.

JOCKEYS

Joey Sheridan is one rider missing out on the action.

That’s because 7lb claimers are not permitted to ride yet following the sport’s resumption.

Frankie Dettori takes over on fancied sprinter Sceptical in the Diamond Jubilee on the Saturday.

By the start of the meeting, 5lb claimers, who are more experienced than their counterparts, will be given the go-ahead to compete.

SAFETY MEASURES

A lot of hard work has gone into putting all the necessary checks in place.

Attendees have to complete a questionnaire beforehand and have their temperature taken on arrival.

Face masks and social distancing are also to the fore.

At the stalls, where the runners start, only two ‘pushers’ are allowed per horse.

“As is always the case, horses who are difficult to load will be given every chance but if a horse cannot be loaded then they will need to be withdrawn,” the BHA has said.

“The decision to deploy only two pushers is based on medical advice as part of our risk management approach to a safe resumption of racing.”

RACES FOR TWO-YEAR-OLD HORSES

To give the juveniles as much time as possible before the key races, the programme has been moved back.

Four of their six races will be staged on Friday and Saturday.

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