Horse Racing

The Queen's own sport

Thus it came as little surprise when Queen Elizabeth's historic visit to Ireland in May 2011 included a trip to the Irish National Stud. During her visit, the Queen met the seven trainers who provided Ireland with a record haul of 13 winners at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival and relived the life and times of legendary chaser Arkle with those who knew him best.

Her Majesty also met pupils and staff at the Racing Academy and Centre of Education and John Osborne, the chief executive at the Irish National Stud, stated that a quarter of the people she would meet would be young people trying to build a future within racing.

While the Queen's horse racing links have predominately focussed on Flat racing, she has an appreciation of the National Hunt scene and attended Gold Cup Day at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, witnessing the second victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Kauto Star. The race may have proved a bittersweet affair for Her Majesty, who owned Barber's Shop, her first big name performer in the winter sport.

Barber's Shop had gradually climbed the jumping ranks as a novice chaser before finishing a gallant second to future Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham.

In the Gold Cup itself, Barber's Shop ran commendably to finish seventh to Kauto Star, over a distance that proved just too far. Her Majesty maintains her jumping interests, inherited from her mother, with horses trained by Nicky Henderson.

While retaining a deep passion for the sport, the Queen has also demonstrated a razor sharp wit, as jockey Jamie Spencer can attest; "She actually caught me out with a joke after I had fallen off going to the start in a previous race and she asked me what the ground was like."

Her Derby Day sweepstake has also become the stuff of legends, as John Warren explained, "On Derby Day, there's one in the Royal Box, and everyone puts in a pound."

In June 2011, the great race had greater resonance with Carlton House's participation and given her deep understanding of the sport, it is likely she greeted her horse with a mixture of pride and acceptance rather than disappointment.

"If the Queen wasn't the Queen, she would have made a wonderful trainer, "says Warren, "she has such an affinity with horses and is so perceptive."

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