The safety and welfare of horses and jockeys is paramount throughout the year at Ascot and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the changes made to the racing surface itself during the redevelopment (Ascot reopened in 2006).
The key elements of the project were to camber the home and old paddock bends and, crucially, to remove the road crossings over the track, replacing them with underpasses. This has created a safer race track for the horses, where previously some less experienced runners had occasionally shied at the differing surfaces.
Four specifically qualified equine vets (five for the major meetings including Royal Ascot), led by Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Svend Kold, are on duty every race day at Ascot, dedicated to the welfare of all the horses. During each race, vets follow the runners by car and can respond to and attend a casualty generally within a minute – as fast as the paramedic teams responsible for human casualties.
There are two equine ambulances (three for Royal Ascot) on course at all times and three ambulances for any incidents involving injuries to jockeys.
Ascot’s two permanent veterinary boxes are supplemented with an X-Ray machine for the major meetings to assist with swift diagnosis before administration of treatment on site or any movement necessary to equine hospitals.
The jockeys’ facilities at Ascot include a medical treatment room, rest rooms and a dedicated room for physiotherapy. During Royal Ascot, there are six doctors on site, led by Senior Racecourse Medical Officer, Dr Roger Goulds, specifically to deal with any jockey injuries.
Ascot are proud to support The Horse Comes First, a campaign run by leading organisations in British Horseracing to raise awareness of the high standards of equine welfare in the sport. The Horse Comes First aims to improve the understanding of the care given to our horses throughout and after their careers in racing.
British Racing is among the world's best regulated animal activities. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is the Government recognised body responsible for the regulation of horseracing. Together with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, it is a leading signatory of the National Equine Welfare Protocol.
British Racing’s own self-imposed and enforced welfare standards far exceed existing national animal welfare legislation and among a population estimated to be around 1 million, racehorses in Britain are among the healthiest and best looked after 2% of horses in the country.
The sport employs over 6,000 people to provide first class care and attention for the 14,000 horses in training and British Racing is committed to providing the best possible standards of veterinary care for its horses and has invested, via the Levy Board, over £32 million since 2000 in Veterinary Research and Education.
Ascot hosts several pony racing events during the year, the most recent of which being the Racecourse Series; the showcase for pony racing talent. Ponies and riders have to be qualified to compete, and combinations accumulating the most points across the series are eligible to race at the Charles Owen Racecourse Series Finals held on Cheltenham Racecourse on 22 October 2016.
Tattersalls regularly hold Breeze Up Sales at Ascot. Two year old unraced, unnamed horses gallop (breeze) over about 2 furlongs of the track. Prospective buyers or their agents can watch them do this, the horses are then put up for sale at an auction later.
Each horse, which will be allowed to breeze once, is filmed and timed so the buyers can compare each Lot. The horses are stabled in the stable yard in order that the buyers can also view them before the time of the auction.
One horse brought from the Breeze Up sale at Ascot in 2014 called The Wow Signal, had a very successful juvenile career, winning the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and a Group One race in France before retiring to stud.