Her majesty

Han­nah El­lis looks on the monarch’s long love af­fair with rac­ing

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Han­nah El­lis ex­am­ines The Queen’s love af­fair with the sport

The Queen’s affin­ity with horses has spanned a life­time. In­no­cent child­hood games mim­ick­ing ponies soon be­came re­al­ity when El­iz­a­beth was gifted Peggy at the age of four.

And many char­ac­ters have graced her sta­bles since, sad­dled for pomp or plea­sure. But there is one dis­ci­pline which sits clos­est to her heart, and stirs an out­ward dis­play of emo­tion rarely ex­hib­ited by Her Majesty.

There need be no in­vi­ta­tion – Royal As­cot is in­grained into the royal sched­ule. And de­spite be­ing re­duced to a spec­ta­tor at many of her yearly du­ties, it is an event in which she is very much in­volved.

It was her fa­ther, King Ge­orge VI, who can be cred­ited with ig­nit­ing this pas­sion. He him­self was a keen horse­man and an avid race­goer along­side the Queen Mother.

The Royal Stud, which has sat at San­dring­ham Es­tate since 1886, has gifted a dy­nasty from one monarch to the next. Cou­ple that with their in­nate keen­ness for the sport and you have a lin­eage fated to flour­ish.

Lit­tle could de­ter the pair from the race­course; even the ills of war could not halt their pres­ence, as the loyal pa­trons con­tin­ued to en­joy the pas­time dur­ing this un­set­tled pe­riod. In fact the en­tire fam­ily car­ried on in the same vain, with the two young princesses competing at the in­au­gu­ral Royal Horse Show Wind­sor, held in 1943, in front of their proud mother and fa­ther.

Fol­low­ing his death nearly a decade later, a young Princess El­iz­a­beth in­her­ited a string of thor­ough­breds along­side the crown, who paved the foun­da­tions for her fu­ture within the sport.

One such post­hu­mous gift was an un­raced, two-year-old colt named Aure­ole. The tri-socked chest­nut was bred by the King and sired by the great Hy­pe­r­ion.

He was an excitable char­ac­ter, a trait not dis­cour­aged by his trainer but one which would mar the ma­jor­ity of his starts. His first race was in Au­gust 1952 at York, a con­test he won com­fort­ably de­spite de­lay­ing its off due to his hot head­ed­ness. A two month break was fol­lowed by a run in the Mid­dle Park Stakes at New­mar­ket; Aure­ole fin­ished sixth.

His three-year-old sea­son shared sim­i­lar in­con­sis­tency. A fifth place fin­ish in the 2000 Guineas pre­ceded a win in the Ling­field Derby Trial, al­beit over a greater dis­tance. Derby day ar­rived, and Aure­ole was con­sid­ered a lead­ing con­tender amongst the field of 27. How­ever, he again grew ag­i­tated be­fore the race but man­aged to re­gain his com­po­sure to fin­ish sec­ond be­hind the favourite, Pinza.

A eu­rol­o­gist was con­sulted dur­ing the sum­mer in at­tempts to quell his tem­per­a­ment. But any re­lief was short lived as again he failed to set­tle, this time in the St Leger in front of the Queen. He faded to fin­ish third. He be­gan the 1954 sea­son in the 1m2f Corona­tion Stakes at Sandown, fin­ish­ing an un­lucky sec­ond. Three wins fol­lowed (the Vic­tor Wilde Stakes at Kemp­ton, an im­pres­sive five-length vic­tory in the Corona­tion Cup at Ep­som, and the Hard­wicke Stakes at As­cot) be­fore Aure­ole once again re­turned to As­cot in or­der to con­test the King Ge­orge VI and Queen El­iz­a­beth Stakes. His mis­be­haviour un­seated the jockey on their way to the start, but the 9/2 favourite raced well to win by three-quar­ters of a length. The Queen fin­ished the sea­son as lead­ing owner with a purse of £30,092. And Aure­ole was re­tired to stud.

Three years later the Queen was again crowned lead­ing owner. Car­rozza bet­tered a sec­ond in the 1000 Guineas to run suc­cess­fully in the Oaks un­der the es­teemed Lester Pig­gott. Her Majesty proudly es­corted the filly into the win­ner’s en­clo­sure, and se­cured the ti­tle thanks to the ad­di­tion of a £16,101 prize fund.

The 1970s proved a fruit­ful decade thanks to the tal­ents of two home­bred fil­lies, both of whom would end their ca­reers as Clas­sic win­ners.

High­clere, named af­ter Lord Carnar­von’s res­i­dence, en­joyed three runs as a two-year-old. How­ever, her two sec­onds and a first were deemed as lit­tle more than av­er­age. She re­turned as a three­year-old to con­test the 1974 run­ning of the 1,000 Guineas, and fought deep to pre­vail by a short head. Steered away from the Oaks ow­ing to con­cerns over the dis­tance, High­clere pro­duced a fine dis­play to win the Prix de Diane at Chan­tilly by two lengths.

Af­ter win­ning As­cot’s King Ge­orge VI and Queen El­iz­a­beth Di­a­mond Stakes she failed to re­pro­duce her finest form and

was sub­se­quently re­tired, ma­tur­ing into a suc­cess­ful brood­mare.

Dun­fermline was an­other bay filly, dis­tin­guished by her lean frame and white star stamped high upon her face.She also raced three times as a two-year-old, but although placed, failed to win. She re­turned at three to win at New­mar­ket be­fore join­ing a field of 13 in the Oaks; Dun­fermline was tri­umphant by three­quar­ters of a length. Af­ter a third place fin­ish in the York­shire Oaks, she and Wil­lie Car­son met their match against a horse called Al­leged rid­den by Pig­gott in the 1977 St Leger.The royal pair man­aged to pull ahead dur­ing the fi­nal quar­ter of a mile to win by one and a half lengths.

It would be an­other 34 years be­fore a run­ner of the Queen’s would again cre­ate a storm in the media. Carl­ton House lined up for the 2011 Ep­som Derby as 9/2 favourite.The na­tion was gripped; was this to be Her Majesty’s first clas­sic since 1977?

The strong field proved too great and Carl­ton House fin­ished third, a length be­hind Pour Moi. But the Queen would not have to wait long for a fairy­tale end­ing.

Hav­ing se­cured an im­pres­sive five­length vic­tory in Royal As­cot’s Queen’s Vase as a three-year-old, Es­ti­mate re­turned a year later to con­test the 2013 Gold Cup, her first Group 1 start. Ryan Moore po­si­tioned her read­ily near the front and mo­ti­vated an ef­fort as they turned into the home straight. A chal­lenge en­sued up unto the post with the pur­ple-and-scar­let-clad royal run­ner win­ning by a neck.

The Queen be­came the first reign­ing monarch to win the Gold Cup. Hav­ing planned to present the prize her­self, Prince Andrew awarded the tro­phy on her be­half. Es­ti­mate has now re­tired to be­come one of the Queen’s mod­ern day brood­mares.

Her first win­ner, Choir Boy, passed the win­ning post at New­mar­ket in May 1952, over six decades ago. And yet her pas­sion has never waned. With over 1,600 race wins to her name, each of the clas­sics bar the Derby, some on more than one oc­ca­sion, and a con­tin­u­ing breed­ing op­er­a­tion, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the sport mi­nus such a great am­bas­sador. It would cer­tainly feel the loss without her in­volve­ment.

Es­ti­mate wins As­cot Gold Cup

The Queen

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