A buzz ripples through the packed stadium as word quickly spreads: "He's here."
The jostling crowd surges forward, camera phones held high to catch a glimpse of the superstar flanked by a dense entourage.
But it's not an A-list actor or musician throwing the fans into a frenzy. Instead, a four-year-old horse called Frankel is about to make history by winning his 14th -- and final -- consecutive race.
A sold-out crowd of 32,500 people watched Frankel win Champions Day at Ascot in October -- the highest number for an autumn flat racing event in Britain.
It's a testament to the popularity of the celebrity colt who, much like Madonna, Prince or Beyonce, needs no last name. But it's also an indication of just how far horse racing has come in 2012.
It's the second biggest spectator sport in Britain after football, with around 6 million people heading to the track every year.
But the pomp and pageantry of racing -- think silly hats, freeflowing champagne and manicured gardens -- means that the general public has long viewed it as a fun day out, rather than a competitive sport.
This year however, racing attracted a new audience who knew the names of horses, recognized industry heavyweights and understood the importance of big competitions.
"Probably the most amazing moment of the year was Frankel winning the Champion Stakes. You had 32,000 people all on their feet, cheering him on, it was just the most emotional moment," Simon Bazalgette, chief executive of The Jockey Club, said of the horse's last race.
"It's a bit of an eccentric world, horse racing. But once you understand the theater of it, once you know the big names, it becomes so much more enjoyable."
Rise of the celebrity horse
A lot of the hype was due to celebrity horses such as Frankel and Australia's Black Caviar, who remains unbeaten in 22 consecutive races and even appeared on the front cover of Vogue.
These were champions of a caliber rarely seen in one generation, let alone competing at the peaks of their careers in the same year.
In a new digital age, their fame was carefully cultivated. Marketing teams set up Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, and pedaled merchandise online.
And it seemed to work. Attendance at races starring Frankel were up 20% on last year.
Similarly, a small army of Black Caviar fans -- draped in the horse's native Australian flag or salmon pink silks -- cheered on the mare to victory at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. However, the overall figure of 280,000 for all five days was down 14,000 from last year.
Meanwhile, a record 130,000 punters attended the prestigious Epsom Derby in July, which launched Queen Elizabeth's official jubilee celebrations, making it the largest sports crowd in Britain in 2012.
More people were also watching horse racing on TV, with 11 million tuning in to Britain's biggest competition, The Grand National -- up 2 million on last year.
However, it wasn't a flawless year for racing. The sport's poster boy, Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, was given a six-month ban earlier this month after failing a drugs test in France.
The three-time champion, who earlier announced the end of his long tenure with the Godolphin stable, said it was not a performance-enhancing substance.
"He's admitted it was a moment of madness," Bazalgette said. "It's a shame. He's an important face in horse racing."
"When it comes to talking to the media, jockeys are a bit of a challenge. These guys are living and breathing the sport, putting in a huge number of hours. They can be difficult to pin down."
Far better recognized were celebrity owners such as TV entertainers Ant and Dec, actress Judi Dench and Britain's Queen Elizabeth. Frankel's trainer Henry Cecil, who is battling cancer, was also "hugely loved," Bazalgette added.