Charities the odds-on favourite as betting operators agree to donate all profits from today's Britannia Heritage Handicap

Covid-19 and cancer charities are in the running for a major cash boost after the UK’s biggest betting operators agreed to donate all of their profits from today’s Britannia Heritage Handicap (4.10pm) at Royal Ascot.

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) members including Paddy Power Betfair, bet365, Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill, Sky Bet, Betway, BetVictor, Virgin Bet, Grosvenor Sport, FitzDares and JenningsBet, as well as the Tote, will hand over all profit made from win and each-way bets, after levy and duties are deducted, on the 24-runner heritage handicap.

The money raised by betting operators will be given to Prostate Cancer UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, The Care Workers Charity and the Berkshire Community Foundation Coronavirus Fund.

The move follows the huge success of the virtual Grand National in April that raised nearly £3 million for NHS Charities Together after BGC members agreed to donate all of the profits they made from the race.

While the BGC can’t predict how much will be raised from the Britannia Heritage Handicap, they are hopeful that punters will once again enjoy a race where they know that even if they lose the charities will win.

During the Covid-19 pandemic operators have played their part in supporting the national effort, providing catering services for care staff and the vulnerable, encouraging colleagues to volunteer for community service, as well as offering premises where possible for use by those involved in tackling the outbreak.

The initiative from Betting and Gaming Council members runs alongside Ascot’s #StyledWithThanks charity appeal, which has already benefited from a £100,000 donation from the racecourse.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “It is great to see the return of horseracing, if only behind closed doors.

“It has brought some light relief from the pressures of social distancing and much needed live entertainment.

“Royal Ascot is the premier highlight of the racing calendar, and it’s fitting that the profits betting companies make from today’s Britannia Heritage Handicap will go towards some fantastic causes.

“The betting and gaming industry has stepped up to the plate to help the national effort, and I’m delighted that again we can show our support for those on the front line with this fantastic initiative.”

The 20-time Champion Jump jockey and William Hill brand ambassador, Sir A P McCoy, said: “I am looking forward to Royal Ascot, even though it will be very different this year.

“Betting operators have done a lot to help the national effort in tackling the coronavirus, and this is another good initiative that will hopefully result in big donations to some wonderful charities. It has my full support.”

Leading Flat jockey and Champion Jockey in 2016 Jim Crowley, who has four winners already at Royal Ascot this week, said: “Royal Ascot is the biggest week of the year for Flat racing, and it is fantastic that Britain’s bookies have come together to turn the Britannia Heritage Handicap into a major charity fundraiser for some really worthy causes. It was great what the betting operators did on the Virtual Grand National, and I am delighted that it is being repeated on the Flat, this time on a real race and such a historic and competitive one too.”

Betfair brand ambassador and three-time champion jockey Ryan Moore commented: ”Royal Ascot is our summer highlight and now, more than ever, due to the present circumstances, will be the focus for existing horse racing fans and new viewers to the sport, so this is a nice way from Betfair and other BGC members to hopefully help generate additional funds for the frontline charities which are working at the coal face of this pandemic.

“This year there are 35 races over five days and the Britannia is always one of the most competitive handicaps of the season to win. I have been lucky enough to land it twice in the last eight years and hopefully this year I can make it three and help swell the charity contribution in the process.”

Former England football international and BetVictor brand ambassador Michael Owen said: “Royal Ascot stands alone in terms of prestige in the Flat racing calendar. It is fantastic to see so many bookmakers unite behind a common goal and turning the Britannia Heritage Handicap into a charity race will make it even more special as it will be raising funds to support many worthy causes. I for one expect it to be one of the week’s many highlights.”

Ed Chamberlin, anchor of ITV Racing’s Royal Ascot coverage this week, said: “Just like the Virtual Grand National, this is another example of the power of the racing family and how the sport can be a force for good. I hope lots of money is raised for such good causes.”

Alastair Warwick, chief operating officer at Ascot Racecourse, said: “This is a tremendous gesture from so many of the powerhouses of the betting world. After the success of the Virtual Grand National initiative, we are thrilled that the betting industry has chosen to follow up at Royal Ascot and to complement our own fundraising initiatives for those on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis.”