The Royal Family have a rich history of owning and watching race horses, and Queen Elizabeth has always been an enthusiastic supporter of horse racing. To celebrate her 90th birthday, Great British Racing looks back on her lifelong passion.
The Queen’s interest in racing developed at an early age and flourished when she joined her mother and father on a visit to Fred Darling’s stables in the spring of 1942.
It was there that the then 16-year-old Princess Elizabeth was introduced to Big Game, the recent winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket for George VI - and she was left awe-struck. Later, on getting married, she was given her first racehorse Astrakhan, bu the Aga Khan. Astrakhan ran second on her debut at Ascot in October 1949.
Her first winner came three days later at Fontwell Park when Monaveen, who she owned with her mother, won a steeplechase under Tony Grantham for trainer Peter Cazalet.
Queen Elizabeth has owned numerous stunning thoroughbreds throughtout the years, and has had great success in the races too. Her horses have won five British Classics:
- Pall Mall won the 2000 Guineas in 1958
- Highclere won the 1000 Guineas in 1974
- Carrozza won the Epsom Oaks in 1957
- Dunfermline won the Epsom Oaks in 1977 and also won the St Leger Stakes that same year
The Derby remains the only British Classic to elude Her Majesty to date. Aureole finished runner-up in the 1953 Derby, four days after her Coronation, whilst Carlton House finished third in 2011, having started out as a well-fancied favourite.
Her Majesty’s Best Horses
Although Aureole could not fashion a Derby victory in Coronation week, he returned the following year to win the Ascot race named after the Queen’s parents, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1954. It was thus a poignant triumph. The Queen was present to see Aureole win but she was unwell on the day Pall Mall won the 2000 Guineas. However, Her Majesty was on hand to witness Highclere’s triumph in the 1000 Guineas 16 years later.
In 1954 and 1957 the Queen was named British Flat Racing Champion Owner, the first reigning Monarch to ever do so twice.
Royal silks and fashion
The jockeys riding Her Majesty’s horses can be identified by The Queen’s racing colours: purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves, and black velvet cap with gold fringe – the same as those of King Edward VII and George IV as Prince Regent.
The Queen herself always brings a splash of colour to the racecourse and there is always great interest in what the Queen will be wearing. At Royal Ascot, viewers wait in anticipation and often have a small wager on what shade the Queen will be wearing each day which will be matched perfectly to her hat.
“The Queen doesn’t want to have hat brims that are too big as she’s got to get in and out of cars and she wants people to see her," says her millner Rachel Trevor-Morgan, "The Queen does tend to like a lot of bright colours, clear colours because she’s seen and she stands out.” [From an interview in the Daily Telegraph in 2012]