Horses were Queen's passion

Horses were Queen’s passion

The Queen, pictured with her race director John Warren, scooped more than £150,000 in prize money for winning the Estimates Gold Cup

The first thing you notice upon arriving at the Queen’s vacation home is a life-size sculpture of her racehorse Estimate.

Sandringham’s statue is testament to his undying love for horse racing, a sport that offered a rare glimpse of the person behind the crown.

When to Estimate won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2013, it was the first time a reigning monarch had possessed the winner in 207 years. She was filmed beaming with joy from the Royal Box, alongside her race director John Warren.

“When it ends with a result like that, it’s effectively the end of an incredible journey,” he said.

Estimate’s triumph was part of a total of over 1,800 victories in his jockey’s racing colours, purple, gold and scarlet. And the Queen was recognized for her contribution to the race as an owner and breeder by being inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame in 2021.

The races diverted the queen from the more sober affairs of world and national affairs.

“She used to say to me, ‘It’s nice to come to a place that doesn’t smell of fresh paint’,” says coach Richard Hannon. A copy of the Racing Post newspaper always accompanied his daily correspondence.

An Estimate racehorse statue outside Sandringham
An Estimate racehorse statue takes pride of place in Sandringham

Horses were a feature of his life from early childhood. The Queen learned to ride a Shetland pony called Peggy, a fourth birthday present from her grandfather George V.

Her interest in racing developed during the Second World War, when she accompanied her father to watch the royal horses train in Wiltshire. “I was able to pet them in the stables afterwards,” she later recalled. “I had never felt the satin softness of a Thoroughbred before.”

The Queen’s first public appearance at a race meeting came a fortnight after the end of the war in Europe, in May 1945, when she first accompanied her parents to Ascot.

The Royal Ascot reunion would become one of her favorite social occasions and she won a total of 24 wins. Each year the Queen would arrive in procession on the trail to Windsor Castle and punters bet on the color of hat she would wear – blue proving a popular choice.

Queen Elizabeth II inherited from her father, King George VI the Royal Stud,external link a racehorse breeding center in Sandringham which has produced several of its winners.

Her first victory came with Monaveen over jumps at Fontwell Park in 1949, and she was twice owner’s champion in flat racing in Britain – in 1954 and 1957.

“She recognized her horses by sight, was fascinated by their mental and physical development and always spoke in detail to the groom who cared for each one,” said journalist Clare Balding, whose grandfather, father and brother all trained horses for the Queen.

“A small example of the attention to detail is that the Queen never wore perfume when visiting the yard to see her horses, as it can excite young foals fueled with testosterone,” she said.

“The Queen was an avid follower of horse whisperer Monty Roberts and adopted many of his techniques on her colts and yearlings – for example, riding them on a blue plastic sheet so they weren’t afraid of walk in water.

“The result was that they were more responsive and behaved better when they arrived at their various racing yards.”

She named the horses, often with a clear message – like Duty Bound, Constitution and Discretion.

A keen rider herself, the Queen showed off her prowess in the saddle by setting up her mount after she was shot by a gunman during the Trooping of the Color parade in 1981.

The Queen continued to ride until she was 90
The Queen continued to ride until she was 90

Coach Sir Michael Stoute, who has overseen more than 100 royal winners including Estimate, said it was a pleasure working for her.

“I found training for the Queen to be pressure-free, due to her understanding, deep knowledge and thirst for more,” he said.

“She was always thinking about the future – what am I going to do with this animal, am I going to breed it, who should I breed it to, temperament, speed, stamina. She was fascinated by the whole idea.”

One of his favorite jockeys was Frankie Dettori, and the pair often shared a joke after big race wins, as Dettori recalled after winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

“‘This is my fourth King George,’ I said. The Queen looked at me and raised an eyebrow: ‘Lester (Piggott) has won seven.’ That’s what I was told,” he said.

The Queen with jockey Frankie Dettori
Frankie Dettori was among a select group of jockeys to ride for the Queen

As owner, the Queen has won four of the five British Classic races.

Dunfermline won the Oaks in 1977 three days before their Silver Jubilee celebrations and also won the St Leger after earlier successes with Carrozza (Oaks 1957), Pall Mall (2000 Guineas 1958) and Highclere (1000 Guineas 1974) .

The biggest prize of all, the Derby, eluded him, coming closest to his crowning year of 1953 when Aureole was second to Pinza as newly knighted jockey Sir Gordon Richards finally clinched the Epsom race at his 26th try.

Another near miss came in 2012 when Carlton House finished third.

The estimated triumph at Ascot 12 months later brought in over £150,000 in prize money and the Queen will have won millions over the years, although much of that will be offset by training and d other costs, and gains seemed secondary to the fascination of participating.

Warren said the horses were a “great escape” from other duties and his support had been a major boost for British racing.

“I’m sure if the Queen hadn’t been raised to be a monarch, she would have found a calling with horses. It was just in her DNA,” he said.

#Horses #Queens #passion

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.