Horse Racing

The Queen's own sport

That may have been enough but following a below par effort at York, Dunfermline inflicted the only defeat in the career of the legendary dual Arc winner Alleged in the St Leger. It was a win that gave the Queen the fourth leg of the five English Classics, with only the Epsom Derby still eluding her. Dunfermline then finished a somewhat unlucky third in the Arc de Triomphe behind Alleged and failed to ever sparkle in the same way again.

The Queen of England

In 1981 the royal colours received a further boost on the female line when Highclere's daughter Height of Fashion took to the racecourse. She built upon an unbeaten first season by winning further races at three years of age, culminating in a brilliant success in the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket, in which she beat the outstanding stayer of the era Ardross.

However, the filly was then sold for a reported £1m to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, as the Dubai-based Maktoum family began to build its equine empire. The royal entourage felt that the filly was too big to be a successful broodmare but this proved a costly error of judgement as she went on to produce three outstanding colts Unfuwain, the dual Classic winner Nashwan and multiple Group One winner Nayef.

Once again the Queen's racing and breeding fortunes declined, interspersed with occasional moments of success through horses like Colour Sergeant in the 1992 Royal Hunt Cup, Phantom Gold in the 1995 Ribblesdale Stakes and Blueprint in the 1999 Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

In all, she has had 20 Royal Ascot winners to date, her most successful races being the Royal Hunt Cup and the Ribblesdale Stakes, contests she has won three times, while Free Agent gave Her Majesty the most recently victory in the 2008 Chesham Stakes.

The Royal Meeting is of course intrinsically linked to the Royal Family and Queen Elizabeth first attended the annual June festival in 1945, as a nineteen year old. While the connoisseur picks through the form guide each day of the meeting, many other tongues debate the colour that the Queen will wear, a subject that the hardened gambler can even bet on!

Her most successful meeting by numbers was 1957, when she owned four winners during the week, while in 1954 she achieved a notable double on the card when Landau won the Rous Memorial Stakes and Aureole followed up in the Hardwicke Stakes.

Her Majesty very much changed public opinion on the Royal Family's engagement with horse racing. Queen Elizabeth attended her first Royal Ascot as Sovereign in 1952 and Cope's Royal Cavalcade of the Turf, quoted bookmaker Alfred Cope describing the Royal entourage: "On this occasion racegoers were astonished to see an absorbed young woman leaning casually on the paddock rails while watching the saddling of the horses. They rubbed their eyes, looked again – it was the Queen. So strange it was to see her mingling freely with her people as she walked back to the Royal Enclosure she went unrecognised by many."

Top hat at the horse racing
His Highness The Aga Khan

Her Majesty's passion for the sport remains unbowed and she retains the Royal Stud at Hampton Court, which was founded in the 16th century, along with the Sandringham and Wolferton Studs in Norfolk and Polhampton in Berkshire.

The Queen meets her racing adviser John Warren each year to decide which stallion would best suit her 20 or so broodmares, as Warren has explained: "The Queen takes a very close interest in all aspects of the breeding process, so she will not only decide on the matings, she will decide their rearing policies and how they're reared."

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