Channel 4 presenter Alice Plunkett sampled Royal Ascot in a unique way last year, being part of the Royal Procession, and it was a memory she will never forget.
It was amazing. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I was there with my husband who was invited before he won Badminton. The Queen has a huge passion for all types of equestrian sport, not just racing, and that passion is fantastic.
We had just a really extraordinary day. It was the Thursday we went, Roger Charlton and his wife were in the carriage with us too. The lunch stood out for me in particular. Around the table were all of The Queen’s trophies which she has won down the years and under your side plate on the table is a map of what all the cups are from, the horse, the race, the win, everything. She is so proud of her horses and it is remarkable.
It makes Royal Ascot unique.
When we went with her on the day she was 89-years-old, she was riding that morning on her horse, met us for lunch, then went to the racing all day, her stamina is incredible. She has such a huge effect and she is such an asset which can’t be underestimated.
Of course The Queen is the icon of Royal Ascot but I am also looking forward to seeing the number of global horses descending on Berkshire.
Ascot has worked really hard to reach out to the international audience, trainers and owners in years gone by.
I worked with plenty of foreign owners and horses and fronted the Hong Kong Cup over a decade ago and already then Ascot was working hard to forge relationships.
On the flip side, the best UK and European horses see Royal Ascot as the pinnacle too.
The great thing about British racing at Royal Ascot, along with the fashion, is that when you break it down to its core it is real elite sport at the highest level.
From the first race of the first day, these are the best horses in the world and so everything else is built around that. Without that it wouldn’t be the same, despite everything else which is associated with Royal Ascot.
In terms of Ascot itself, I think the Pre-Parade ring is vastly underestimated. It is a lovely place to see everyone in their natural environment, out of the real public glare before the horses are saddled up and calmly walking around.
Owners and trainers can have a real catch up and each one has their own routine but you also get to see them in their everyday mode, rather than public racing mode. For example, you might be able to watch Aidan O’Brien saddling up a horse who is a bit of a character, just small moments like that make a real difference.
Let’s hope this year is one to remember.
Alice Plunkett, Channel 4.
Tickets for this year's Royal Ascot are proving as popular as ever, with the Queen Anne Enclosure sold out on Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th June. The Windsor Enclosure has sold out on both Thursday 16th and Saturday 18th June, with limited availability on Friday 17th June.
We still have availability on the opening two days of the Royal Meeting, while upgrades that include Queen Anne Enclosure admission are still available across all five days.For all latest availability and to book pleaseclick here