The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: The Royal Horses


The sale of Height Of Fashion crucially allowed Her Majesty to help balance the books of her racing and breeding operation. It is an expensive hobby, and one that will not last for long unless financial prudence is exercised.

It also allowed her to buy the West Ilsley stables in Berkshire in 1982, where most of her horses were trained at the time. The incumbent trainer at West Ilsley was Dick Hern, who was succeeded by Lord Huntingdon, although his tenure did not bring anything like the success Hern had. A significant reason for a downturn in the fortunes of the Queen’s racing string at this point was the limited access she had to Europe’s best stallions. For tax reasons, many of the top sires were based in Ireland. For political reasons, the Queen did not send her mares to Ireland until recently. The fact that she now does has made a significant difference to her bloodstock successes.

History was made when the Queen had her first runner in Ireland, when Spinning Top ran in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. In another change of tack, the Queen also now has the odd horse in training in America, one example being New Assembly, winner of an allowance race at Keeneland in Kentucky.

Like many owner/breeders the Queen has in recent years been unable to match the massive investment and seemingly endless financial backing that wealthy Arab owners such as the Maktoum brothers are able to bring to their racing operations. She has not won a Classic race, or indeed a Group 1 race, since Dunfermline all those years ago, although the filly Flight Of Fancy showed promise of a revival.

Having sold West Ilsley in 1999 to Mick Channon, the former footballer who is now a successful trainer, the Queen now oversees a more streamlined operation. Under trainers Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Hannon she enjoyed conspicuous success in 1999 with an impressive seven winners over the space of 17 days. The horses might not be of quite the same quality of yesteryear, but the quality of the mares the Queen keeps at stud is such that a quality horse can never be ruled out in the future.

One race that evaded her for decades was the Ascot Gold Cup. That was until 2013, when Estimate and jockey Ryan Moore charged home in front of a roaring crowd to claim a first Ascot Gold Cup win for a reigning monarch in the race’s 207-year history.

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