God Save The Queen

Queen Elizabeth & Estimate

Queen Elizabeth & Estimate share a special moment after the big win

This is not a hard news racing story. This is just a story. Just for me. Just because. Hopefully everyone who has DSTV (or a friend with DSTV and an open door policy!) watched some of the fabulous coverage of the Royal Ascot last week. What an extravaganza. But most of all, what a celebration. Of horses. Of racing. Of having fun.

The Bloodhorse publication kindly and efficiently kept online followers up to date with race reports, photos, etc and a couple of last Thursday’s photographs were particularly arresting. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, those certainly qualify.

On Thursday, 20 July 2013, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, The Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Defender of the Faith, the Head of the Commonwealth and head of the British Monarchy, had a winner at Ascot when Estimate won the Ascot Gold Cup.

All The Queen’s Horses

Queen Elizabeth on Penny

Queen Elizabeth on Penny

‘Queenie’ has been a passionate horse enthusiast all her life, starting with her very first pony, Peggy, which she received as a 4th birthday present from her grandfather, George V. She took her first salute in the famous Trooping of the Colour in 1951 on a Metropolitan police horse called Winston. She has since ridden a succession of horses, most memorably, a black mare named Burmese, who was gifted to Her Majesty by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969.

The Queen rode Burmese in every Birthday Parade after that, until the mare retired after the 1986 ceremony. Not wishing to have a replacement, The Queen has attended the parade in a horse-drawn carriage ever since. The Queen and the royal family have always been keen riders. Prince Phillip is an accomplished rider and skilled at driving teams of horses in harness.

Prince Charles and his sons are keen polo players and of course Princess Anne famously won the individual title at the 1971 European Eventing Championships (later being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year). Anne was part of the British Eventing team for 5 years and individual and team silver medals at the EEC in 1975 and was the first member of the British Royal Family to compete at an Olympic Games at Montreal in 1976, where she rode the Queen’s horse Goodwill.

Having married Captain Mark Phillips, it was inevitable that their daughter, Zara Phillips would also be keen on horses and she has also gone on to win individual and team gold medals at the 2005 European Eventing Championships, individual gold and team silver medals at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics as part of the British Eventing Team.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth taking the salute at the Trooping of the Colour on Winston in 1951

And of course the Royals are a keen Thoroughbred racing and breeding family. The Royal Stud was founded at Hampton Court in the sixteenth century and has been closely linked with the development of the Thoroughbred. The Royal Paddocks at Hampton Court are still in use today and together with the studs at Sandringham and Wolferton in Norfolk and Polhampton in Berkshire, constitute one of the leading establishments in Great Britain.

Horses bred at the Royal Studs over the last 200 years have won virtually every major race in Britain and have exerted an important influence on thoroughbred racing and breeding throughout the world.

In fact, their influence stretches all the way to South Africa, as the Royally-produced stud Right Approach has made his residence at Wilgerbosdrift Stud! The Queen Mother had that famous near-miss in 1956 Grand National. Her well fancied runner Devon Loch was on the final stretch, in front of the royal box just 40 yards from the winning post and with a five-length lead, when he suddenly, and inexplicably, jumped into the air and landed on his stomach, allowing E.S.B. to overtake and win.

Despite the best efforts of jockey Dick Francis, Devon Loch was unable to continue and did not complete the race. With the stoicism that most racing people would sympathise with, the Queen Mother responded with: “Oh, that’s racing.”

The enthusiasm and interest of HRH Queen Elizabeth for both racing and especially breeding has meant that the Royal Studs have had great success in the last fifty-one years. Sandringham stands two stallions, Royal Applause (co-owned) and Derby winner, Motivator (syndicated), who spend their days in luxurious paddocks in the old Walled Garden.



Estimate (left) wins the Gold Cup on Ladies’ Day during day three of Royal Ascot

The Queen keeps approximately twenty-five horses in training each season. With Ascot being the Royal meeting, there is naturally a good deal more focus on the Queen over this festival.

She had her first Ascot winner just two weeks after her coronation with Choir Boy in the 1953 Hunt Cup. Despite So You Think denying Carlton House in last year’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes, her filly Estimate made up for it by giving the Queen an Ascot winner in her Diamond Jubilee year (and her 21st in total) with a 3 length victory in the Queen’s Vase.

The Queen’s team of Estimate, conditioner Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore were back again in 2013, this time for the Gold Cup. One is hard pressed to fault the UK racing coverage, but I think they outdid themselves last Thursday, with the most wonderful coverage of the Queen’s reaction as she cheered her filly home.

The Queen is a consummate professional at maintaining her Royal demeanour, but there was simply no hiding her joy at becoming the first reigning monarch to win the Gold Cup in its 207 year history. Jockey Ryan Moore said: “All we had was this race in mind – it’s great to ride any winner for the Queen but to do it in the Gold Cup is very special. We had a good draw and the pace wasn’t mad at the beginning, she relaxed so well over the final furlongs.” Sir Michael Stoute said:

“I really felt it was a tough task, I wasn’t confident at all with her taking on the boys. It’s a great honour to win for Her Majesty the Queen. Her preparation had gone well and she was bred to have a big chance of getting the trip but she had to step up to beat these boys. It’s a special thrill for the Queen. She said it gave her great pleasure and she thanked everyone involved.”

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth’s excitement over Estimate’s big win is a joy to see

Peter Phillips, the Queen’s grandson, told Channel 4: “It’s amazing, this is her passion and her life and she’s here every year and she strives to have winners. To win the big one at Royal Ascot means so much to her. Everyone is just thrilled, it’s very close to her heart and today is very special.”

However, what really summed it up for me was the wonderful photograph by Trevor Jones showing the Queen in the parade ring. The enclosure is, as one would imagine, a throng of (posh) activity (it is Ascot after all!). But in the midst of the black jacketed and top hatted gentlemen, all seemingly engrossed in terribly pressing business, almost disconnected from the rest, is a bright splash of lilac. Standing quietly on her own, is the Queen. She has a gloved hand on her filly’s nose and a smile of quiet satisfaction.

It is quiet and extraordinarily intimate and touching and somehow that photo summed up so much of what horses and racing is all about. I’m not terribly good at getting those emotional things right, so I hope you’ll forgive me for borrowing some words from someone who is. “Somewhere behind the rider you’ve become, the hours of practice you’ve put in, the coaches that have pushed you, the fences you’ve hit, the bones you’ve broken, the hard falls you’ve taken, the long distance, the short distance, the chip, the strides, the equitation, the sweat, the tears, the blood, the blisters, the ripped jeans, the wool jackets on 100 degree summer July days, the lame horse, the crazy horse, the “are you serious?” horse, and everything in between… Somewhere behind all this is the little girl who fell in love with the horse, the sport, and the idea and never looked back.”

Congratulations, Your Majesty.


Links worth viewing:


Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname – no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the EditorThe Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Popular Posts