The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: The Royal Horses

Despite the disappointment of Hopeful Venture’s disqualification, many of the Queen’s finest racing moments have come on French racecourses. The outstanding cross-channel achievement came at Chantilly, the stunning racecourse that sits in the shadow of a magnificent chateau built by Louis XIV. It is here that the filly Highclere, who had already won the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, provided her owner/breeder with a victory in the French Oaks.

It was without doubt one of the Queen’s most significant victories, one rivalled only by the performances of Dunfermline in 1977, the Silver Jubilee year. Dunfermline won the Oaks and went on to beat the colts in the St Leger. The runner-up that much-celebrated day at Doncaster, Alleged, was no slouch either, and went on to win back-to-back runnings of France’s top prize, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

While both had immense talent on the racecourse, Highclere’s legacy has turned out to be more significant than that of Dunfermline. She produced a daughter, Height Of Fashion, who was not only a talented racehorse but a wonderful broodmare.

Sadly for the Queen, Height Of Fashion proved her worth at stud after she had been sold for a reputed £1 million to Hamdan al-Maktoum, a member of the ruling family of Dubai. Height Of Fashion, bred to the top US stallion Blushing Groom, went on to produce Nashwan, a ‘wonder horse’ of recent decades.

Trained by Dick Hern, ironically one of the Queen’s most successful trainers, and ridden by Willie Carson, who had also partnered Dunfermline, Nashwan made a sensational three-year-old debut to win the 1989 2,000 Guineas. He then went on to win the Derby, the Eclipse Stakes, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Obviously, there was a major sense of what-might-have-been: could Height Of Fashion have been the broodmare, if correctly mated of course, to give the Queen that elusive Derby winner? We will never know, although given the Queen’s intimate knowledge of the broodmares she bred from, which all hailed from the families she inherited with the Royal Studs, it cannot be ruled out.

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