``I want to try to give back´´

SHE IS THE QUEEN’S SEC­OND EL­DEST GRAND­CHILD, BUT ZARA PHILLIPS AND HER HUS­BAND HAVE FORGED A LIFE FREE OF PALACE CON­STRAINTS

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Joe Hildebrand - Pho­tog­ra­phy PHILIP SINDEN Styling BRAD HOMES Words LIZ DEE­GAN

It’s the end of a ca­sual din­ner in a bistro in Paris’s fash­ion­able Saint-ger­main district and Zara Phillips and hus­band Mike Tindall want the evening to con­tinue. “Karaoke, any­one?” they ask, keen to re­cruit fel­low guests to join their midnight cause.

The pair per­suades a few, and as they dis­perse out onto the Rue de Lille, they lead the search for the near­est venue to test their vo­cals.

This is the real Zara Phillips. A fun, no-non­sense, down-to-earth woman with an in­tel­li­gent world view, an in­fec­tious ap­petite for hu­mour and a sharp, dry wit.

It’s the same woman who warmed the hearts of fel­low trav­ellers at Coolan­gatta Air­port last Jan­uary when, dressed in shorts and T-shirt, she made her way with Tindall through the reg­u­lar se­cu­rity check­point, grap­pling with an en­er­getic two-year-old and an awk­ward ar­ray of hand lug­gage.

No airs, no graces, no en­tourage. Real peo­ple, real royalty.

Phillips, 35, is the Queen’s sec­ond el­dest grand­child, and 16th in line to the throne, but very much her own woman de­spite her lin­eage. Un­like her cousins Prince Wil­liam, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eu­ge­nie, she is not deemed an “of­fi­cial” royal, for she and her older brother Peter have no royal ti­tles – a con­scious de­ci­sion made by their par­ents, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. While this means they re­ceive no state in­come, the de­ci­sion has al­lowed them to live rel­a­tively free of palace con­straints, mak­ing their own choices and fol­low­ing their own paths.

Phillips’s success is in­de­pen­dent of her royal con­nec­tions and at­trib­uted to her com­mit­ment to hard work and her en­dur­ing pas­sion for all things eques­trian.as an Olympian, she’s en­joyed the highs of medal vic­tory, win­ning sil­ver at the Lon­don Games in 2012 in the de­mand­ing dis­ci­pline of event­ing, and the lows of not be­ing se­lected, miss­ing out on in­clu­sion in the Bri­tish eques­trian team for the Rio Olympics.

Since Lon­don she’s also be­come a mother to daugh­ter Mia, in 2014, and just last week an­nounced she’s ex­pect­ing a sec­ond child, due in April 2017.

“Mike and I are over the moon to be wel­com­ing an­other lit­tle one into the fam­ily,” Phillips tells Stel­lar ex­clu­sively of the baby news. “So far, things seem to be on track. I feel great and Mia was such a good baby – we have got our fingers crossed for the sec­ond time around.”

BE­FORE THE BISTRO and the karaoke, Phillips’s work ethic was on full dis­play. Twenty-four hours ear­lier, she and the

for­mer English rugby union captain had trav­elled from their home in Glouces­ter­shire, on the out­skirts of Lon­don (and royal life), to Paris to join Aus­tralian busi­ness­woman Katie Page for the launch of her 2017 Magic Mil­lions car­ni­val; a schedule which be­gan with a lengthy, early morn­ing, mag­a­zine photo shoot, fol­lowed by an af­ter­noon of more photos and a round of tele­vi­sion in­ter­views at the Polo de Paris club.

Phillips has been an of­fi­cial am­bas­sador for Magic Mil­lions since Page of­fered her the role in 2012, hav­ing be­ing im­pressed by the busi­ness­woman’s in­fec­tious en­ergy and drive. “[Katie] has small goals that are way big­ger than any­one else’s and she def­i­nitely hits them ev­ery time – if not more – so you can’t not want to be in­volved with some­one like that,” she says.

For the past five years, Phillips has trav­elled to the Gold Coast each Jan­uary for the week-long event, which in­cor­po­rates glob­ally recog­nised year­ling sales and Aus­tralia’s rich­est race meet­ing. Un­til last year, it was an an­nual cal­en­dar high­light she en­joyed sans hus­band.

Then Tindall came to the Gold Coast with daugh­ter Mia and he, too, was hooked. “Un­til Zara and I got to­gether, I was never into rac­ing in any way;

I watched the Grand Na­tional [horse race in the UK] and that was about it. Now I’m part of a horse-owner syn­di­cate and go to pretty much ev­ery race there is. To come to Aus­tralia once a year in sum­mer for this race is even bet­ter. This is the coun­try I al­ways loved tour­ing the most – I love the peo­ple and the laid-back life­style. And the sun.”

For the first time, hus­band and wife will to­gether serve in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity in 2017 (she as the Magic Mil­lions Rac­ing Women Pa­tron; he as am­bas­sador for the car­ni­val), hav­ing both just signed a new five-year con­tract. It fur­ther ce­ments the bond be­tween the Bri­tish cou­ple and Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous re­tail and horse cou­ple, Page and hus­band Gerry Har­vey, who, cour­tesy of 1400 thor­ough­breds and five horse studs, are among the big­gest horse own­ers in the world.

“It’s a huge hon­our to be asked back to help drive it fur­ther for an­other five years and watch where it will go,” says Phillips.

Tindall shares a sim­i­lar ad­mi­ra­tion for what Page rep­re­sents as an en­tre­pre­neur and cor­po­rate leader. “[Katie] sets the bar in terms of what girls should as­pire to, and is what girls should aim to be. She shows how you can take your pas­sions and turn them into business. When you meet her, you see that when she be­lieves in some­thing, and when she be­lieves in some­one, she will go to ex­tremes to help them suc­ceed. It’s some­thing to ad­mire.”

As for he and Har­vey, well, some say they’re “a lethal com­bi­na­tion”, some­thing which amuses him greatly. “Gerry has his own ways of do­ing things and wears his heart on his sleeve; I quite like that,” says Tindall. “And yes, we have a sim­i­lar sense of hu­mour. I like the Aussie sense of hu­mour, full stop. It’s all about giv­ing peo­ple a hard time.”

The Har­veys once owned the Magic Mil­lions in part­ner­ship with mates John Sin­gle­ton and Rob Fer­gu­son, but re­tained full own­er­ship in 2011, af­ter buy­ing the oth­ers out. For the fol­low­ing year’s event, Page set about mak­ing her big dreams a re­al­ity. Sign­ing Phillips was a trans­for­ma­tional in­vest­ment and not with­out its risks, but she was adamant it would al­ways work. “I can’t do with­out Zara, she is such an im­por­tant part of it,” says Page, while she watches on dur­ing the photo shoot.

A mutual bond has de­vel­oped, thanks to a shared vi­sion for the event and a healthy dis­re­gard for the pre­ten­sion and pos­tur­ing which typ­i­fies some rac­ing car­ni­vals. Like Page and Har­vey them­selves, the Magic Mil­lions is stylish and un­der­stated.

How­ever, also like its own­ers, it has its se­ri­ous sides: firstly, the business of its year­ling sales, which last year grossed $130 mil­lion; and se­condly, the real pur­pose of pro­mot­ing women in the horserac­ing in­dus­try.

And therein lies the other rea­son for Phillips’s com­mit­ment to the car­ni­val. As the Magic Mil­lions Rac­ing Women Pa­tron, she lends her name to a pro­gram de­signed to high­light and pro­mote women in­volved in the thor­ough­bre­drac­ing and horse-breed­ing in­dus­try.

“I’ve al­ways been in­volved in horses and in a sport where men and women are equal,” says Phillips. “It has al­ways been nat­u­ral for me to com­pete against the guys.

“I see my role [as] to try to lead by ex­am­ple, in what I’ve done. I want to try to give back and en­cour­age women to do the same thing.”

To prove she walks the talk, three years ago Phillips put her money into the cause, join­ing an all-fe­male syn­di­cate with Page, celebrity food stylist Donna Hay, Sin­gle­ton’s part­ner Ve­nessa Mer­rin, Cool­more Stud’s So­phie Mag­nier and Se­gen­hoe Stud’s Suzanne Grosvenor to pur­chase a $460,000 two-year-old colt, Meadow Lane, trained by Gai Water­house.

She is also keen to call out the gen­der dis­par­ity for women in other sports, an is­sue which is now very much on the pub­lic radar, cour­tesy of the un­avoid­able glare of so­cial me­dia.

“Now every­one is find­ing out about [such in­equal­ity] and think­ing, hang on a minute, that’s not right. It’s about mak­ing it known and do­ing some­thing about it.”

In ad­di­tion to her of­fi­cial du­ties, Phillips was due to com­pete this year in the in­au­gu­ral Magic Mil­lions polo tour­na­ment. How­ever, she’s now moved to a com­men­ta­tor role due to her preg­nancy. In the UK, she is a reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pant on the polo cir­cuit. She’s also of­ten on the side­lines, watch­ing rel­a­tives Prince Wil­liam and Prince Harry play in var­i­ous char­ity tour­na­ments. In many ways, she con­sid­ers it a bet­ter spec­ta­tor sport than rac­ing and was ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete on the Gold Coast.

“Polo is a fan­tas­tic game, I ab­so­lutely love it,” she says. “It’s a mix­ture [of] hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion and be­ing able to ride a horse at speed. It’s fast, full of adrenalin and, as a spec­ta­tor, you can get right up close to the ac­tion.”

It’s also, as Tindall chimes in, a very so­cial sport. “There’s Pimm’s. And champagne. And rosé,” he chuck­les, adding that he wouldn’t mind play­ing be­cause, al­though he doesn’t have any idea about polo, “if it’s about go­ing shoul­der to shoul­der, I should win.”

Phillips laughs, but makes it clear he won’t be get­ting a game. “He’s go­ing to take all the rules out of it,” she re­torts.

Be­ing am­bas­sadors to­gether means the cou­ple will en­joy the rare op­por­tu­nity to work and travel side by side. “This is our last Christ­mas and trip to Aus­tralia as a fam­ily of three, so we are go­ing to make the most of our time there,” says Phillips. “The Gold Coast is the per­fect place to spend some time with Mia – when we aren’t at the sales or race­course, we will be mak­ing the most of the amaz­ing beaches and show­ing Mia a bit of Aus­tralia.”

Both also have more time for it – Tindall no longer has rugby union re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and Phillips’s eques­trian com­mit­ments have less­ened.

They laugh at the ques­tion as to who works harder, and Tindall diplo­mat­i­cally of­fers his wife as the real toiler in their fam­ily. She says that life with fewer horses and no rugby gives her time to do the two jobs that mat­ter most to her.

“It’s dif­fer­ent now; I have less horses in terms of quan­tity, but the qual­ity is bet­ter,” she says. “It means then I can look af­ter Mia – I want to be able to do both jobs prop­erly.” The Pa­cific Fair Magic Mil­lions Polo tour­na­ment is on Jan­uary 8, 2017; the Jeep Magic Mil­lions Race­day is on Jan­uary 14, 2017. Visit mag­icmil­lions.com.au.

“I’VE AL­WAYS BEEN IN­VOLVED IN A SPORT WHERE MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL. I SEE MY ROLE AS TO TRY TO LEAD BY EX­AM­PLE”

ZARA WEARS Cé­line skirt (worn through­out), ce­line.com; Roger Vivier shoes (worn through­out), mytheresa. com; her own blouse; her own jew­ellery (worn through­out)

MIKE WEARS J.crew knit, jcrew. com; Acne pants, ac­nes­tu­dios.com; R.M. Wil­liams boots, rmwilliams. com.au ZARA WEARS Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo shirt, fer­rag­amo.com; (be­low) Zara Phillips with daugh­ter Mia and Prince Harry at a UK polo event; the royal cou­ple wit

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