CNN  — 

Queen Elizabeth II will miss Royal Ascot for the first time in her 68-year reign with the iconic race meeting being staged behind closed doors for the first time in its history.

The festival of horse racing is one of the highlights of Britain’s social calendar and has been a permanent fixture on the monarch’s calendar.

Whilst the racing can go ahead as planned, the global pandemic has prevented Ascot’s usual traditions.

There will be no royal procession, no trophy presentations and none of the pomp and ceremony so closely associated with the event.

“I send my best wishes to the thousands of racing professionals and enthusiasts who will join me in celebrating this year’s Royal Ascot,” the Queen wrote in her introduction to the racecard.

“In these challenging times, we are once again delighted to welcome the best horses and jockeys from across the world and pay tribute to those who have helped make this race meeting possible.

“This year Ascot will feel different for many, as it is so often a chance for friends, families and colleagues to gather together and enjoy a shared passion.

“I am sure however, that with the valiant efforts of the organisers, owners, trainers and stable staff, it will remain one of Britain’s finest sporting occasions and a highlight of the racing calendar.”

READ: A day in the life of Royal Ascot

Social distancing signs are seen inside Ascot Racecourse this year.

The meeting usually attracts hundreds of thousands of eager spectators but this year’s edition will be limited to only those people essential for race days.

The focus will be on an extended schedule of world-class racing with 36 contests being held over five days.

However, the overall prize pot has been drastically reduced to an estimated $4.65 million – in 2019 it was $9.11 million – due to what Ascot Racecourse chief executive Guy Henderson called “unprecedented times.”