ROYAL ASCOT at York was declared one of the most significant racing events in living memory - by none other than the Queen.

The Duke of Devonshire, Her Majesty's representative at Ascot, said thefive-day festivalhad been "a moment of history".

He spoke as leading figures heaped praise on York for the show it put on for the world last week.

The Duke alsohighlighted the eventplans ofCity of York Council and North Yorkshire Police, branding the traffic scheme "a great success".

He said: "We are delighted to have staged such a successful, popular and high-quality Royal Meeting at York.

"We have been overwhelmed by the way the event has been embraced in the region and the welcome we have received.

"It has been one of the most significant racing events in living memory, something very special and a moment of history, and I say that with no exaggeration.

"Royal Ascot at York will live in many memories for all the right reasons and we hope that many visitors from the region will join us at the new Ascot racecourse."

There was joy at York Racecourse and at Ascot - after the final figures revealed a total attendance of 224,468.

James Brennan, York marketing manager, said: "We started the week making history and I think we have done York proud."

Nick Smith, Ascot's head of public relations, said he could not think of "anything that presented us with any problems". He said: "It has been like a magical dream. The week has just flown by and it has just felt so much like a meeting at Ascot. It could not have transferred better."

Senior York police chiefs hailed Royal Ascot an "overwhelming success" as only 16 arrests were made on or around the racecourse.

Superintendent Martin Deacon, who commanded the operation, said: "I am delighted to say that the police operation has run smoothly throughout.

"Almost a quarter of a million people have visited Knavesmire, yet there has been minimal disruption within the city, the meeting has been virtually incident free and there has been very little reported crime."

Chief Superintendent Tim Madgwick, York area commander, said: "Despite the huge increase in visitors, there was no increase in reported crime, and in some areas crime was actually down." The number of reported assaults fell from 25 to 22 compared with the same period last year.

Council leader Steve Galloway hailed Royal Ascot a "huge success on every level".

"It was the kind of spectacle that people might only get to see once in their lives. I'm delighted with the organisation and the transport planners excelled themselves."

Mr Galloway said residents should not overestimate the importance of the festival on York's future prosperity. "A marvellous show was presented to over 100 million people across the whole world."

Shane Chalmers, Ascot project co-ordinator, said York should now look to bring in sporting events of similar sizes - and push for its inclusion in London's 2012 Olympic plans, should the capital win the bidding war.

"It has been a week which has exceeded our expectations. It has been a tremendous success and shows we can accommodate large-scale sporting events.

"If London wins the Olympic bid, then, through Yorkshire Forward, we will be talking to the London bid about sites in the Yorkshire area. I hope London will take notice of this week."

On the traffic plan, Peter Evely, the city council's head of network management, said: "I want to thank the people of York from the bottom of my heart. A plan - however good it looks - is only effective when everyone does what is required."

Kay Hyde, of York Tourism Bureau, said: "A lot of good business connections will have been made through corporate hospitality. There has been a real buzz in the city."

Updated: 10:44 Monday, June 20, 2005