The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will join the Queen for a day at the races – taking part in Royal Ascot’s famous carriage procession.
William and Kate will be guests of the Queen in the royal box for the first day of the famous Berkshire racing meet, which is expected to attract around 300,000 racegoers over the next five days.
Writing in the opening day’s official race programme, the Queen said: “Racing began at Ascot over 300 years ago and while much has changed, the horses remain the stars, thrilling us with their beauty, brilliance and courage.
“The quality and depth of competition at the royal meeting has also continued to prosper, with eight group one races taking place this week.
“The best horses and jockeys from across the globe are increasingly drawn to Royal Ascot, and it is truly exciting to welcome competitors from overseas, as strong international competition adds further interest and fascination.”
The programme states the Cambridges will present the winning trophies in the King’s Stand Stakes – a group one race – while acclaimed actor Sir Derek Jacobi will hand out the prizes for the Wolferton Stakes.
The event is regularly attended by the Queen who is a keen horse owner and passionate breeder of thoroughbreds, with more than 20 Royal Ascot winners.
A carriage procession, with the Queen at its head, signals the start of each day of the event, and racegoers are always keen to see the monarch’s guests riding in the coaches.
The Queen will be joined in her carriage by the Duke of York and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife Queen Maxima, who both attended the Order of the Garter service with senior royals on Monday, when the Dutch monarch officially became a member of the order.
In the following carriage will be William and Kate and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, in the third carriage the Princess Royal and Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the final coach will carry Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Royal Ascot is as much a social occasion as a sporting event, and racegoers take the opportunity to turn on the style, from chic hats and summer dresses to sharp suits.
Punters traditionally have a bet on the colour of the Queen’s hat, with pink the favourite with bookies William Hill for the first day.
William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: “The Queen’s hat is one of the public’s favourite fun bets and with the rain expected to hold off, the money says she will be pretty in pink.”
Royal Ascot is the Olympics of flat racing and William Hill predicts as much as £150 million will be wagered across the industry this week.
Both Ladbrokes and Coral have cut the odds on the monarch wearing blue to even-money from 3/1 following a rush of wagers.
Alex Apati of Ladbrokes said: “We’ve taken a flurry of bets on the Queen wearing blue over the last 24 hours, forcing us to slash odds as a result.”
Coral’s John Hill said: “The colour of the Queen’s hat is always one of the most popular betting markets at Royal Ascot each year, and we have already seen the first big gamble of the week as punters have been rushing in to back blue on day one of the meeting.”
The forecast rains did not dampen the atmosphere at the famous racing meet with racegoers covering their hats with umbrellas as the showers got heavier.
Fashion designer Zara Zoffany, 25, from London, used a large hat box lid to cover her outlandish large-brimmed hat made from ostrich feathers.
She said: “I really enjoy the experience and ambience of Royal Ascot, it’s a family day out for me and the weather’s not going to spoil that.”