As the name suggests, King George Weekend is staged annually on a Friday and Saturday in late July at Ascot Racecourse and revolves around the showpiece event, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run on the Saturday. In fact, with the exception of Royal Ascot the previous month, King George Weekend is the most important meeting of the year at the Berkshire course.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is run over 1 mile 4 furlongs and open to colts and fillies aged three years and upwards. The race was the brainchild of Major John Crocker Bulteel, who was appointed Clerk of the Course at Ascot in 1946, and run for the first time, as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Festival of Britain Stakes, in 1951.
The round course at Ascot is galloping in character and, from the mile and half start, falls to its lowest point, Swinley Bottom, but rises again from the turn into the home straight until close home. The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes presents a stiff test of stamina and is, quite rightly, billed as the “premier midseason middle-distance championship race for horses of both sexes and all ages.” Indeed, the roll of honour reads like a “Who’s Who” of middle-distance talent since World War II and includes such luminaries as Ribot, Nijinksy, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard and Dancing Brave.
The 1975 renewal of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes quickly became, and is still, known as the “Race of the Century”. On that occasion, the Derby winner Grundy, trained by Peter Walwyn and ridden by Pat Eddery, was involved in a titanic struggle with the year older Bustino, trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden by Joe Mercer, up the home straight; Grundy eventually won by half a length, obliterating the course record in the process.