Berkshire was bracing itself this week for the arrival of an estimated 300,000 racing fans as the Royal Ascot returns for 2017.
The first day of the annual gala is set to be this coming Tuesday, June 20th, with events taking place right across the week until the grand finale on Saturday, June 24th.
During that time, punters, fashionistas and top VIPs are expected to join the world's racing media, along with members of the Royal Family, for an event that has introduced several major changes for its 2017 iteration.
Back in March, Ascot Racecourse unveiled its first new public enclosure in over 100 years. According to a press statement released at the time, the newly christened "Village Enclosure" will offer race goers a unique vantage point of the action, whilst also alleviating safety concerns by reducing the capacity of over long-established enclosures.
Speaking to the media, Ascot Racecourse Commercial Director Juliet Slot said:
"Opening the new Village Enclosure allows us to make reductions [in enclosure capacities] while accommodating the demand the Royal Meeting and appetite of a section our customer base for this more contemporary option."
The biggest change this year however, is the introduction of ITV as the event's terrestrial broadcast partner.
In 2016, the media giant won the rights to broadcast the Royal Ascot, as well as the Derby, Cheltenham Festival, and the Grand National, as part of a deal reported to be worth £30 million.
Yet whilst 2017 is undoubtedly set to be a year of firsts for an event which dates back all the way to the 1700s, much that contributes to Royal Ascot's status as one of the world's most celebrated racing festivals will remain.
Bookmakers are once again expected to profit enormously for the event, and have already begun enticing new players with free bets and sign-up bonuses linked into the event.
Punters too, have been quick to get in on the act, taking advantage of such offers and placing a wager on Royal Ascot at William Hill Online and other leading UK bookmakers.
As a result, the UK sports betting industry is once again set to enjoy one of its most profitable weeks of the year. As in previous years, race fans and ardent punters alike are expected use online betting sites and high street bookmakers in conjunction with ITV’s widespread coverage to bet on the event, whilst on-the-day gambling at Ascot itself is predicted to remain as popular as ever.
This opportunity to wager in person at the racecourse is only part of the reason why Ascot continues to enjoy a lofty reputation in the racing world, and why it continues to draw crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands with each passing year.
As renowned for the attire of its patrons as for anything which takes place on the track, Royal Ascot typically attracts the attention of the fashion press and mainstream media, all of whom will be watching closely as racegoers head to Ascot dressed in the latest designer outfits.
As in previous years, most of the attention in 2017 will be centered around Thursday's Ladies Day, which along with being the pinnacle of the event's celebration of highbrow fashion, will also serve to host the annual Gold Cup, a 2 metre, four furlong race held every year since 1807.
There influence of the Royal Family itself can not be understated. Just as with every year, Her Majesty The Queen is expected to be in attendance for at least part of the festival, only adding to the stature of the event and ensuring that it continues to attract record breaking crowds year upon year.
Royal Ascot takes place at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire from Tuesday, June 20th to Saturday, June 24th.