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The Queen was owner, breeder and number 1 fan – the hopeful royal family will follow in her footsteps
In our social media driven world, the support of celebrities is the fuel that powers the engines of companies and organizations and promotes their products and messages. Racing had the ultimate reinforcer in the late Queen, both as a participant in the breeding and ownership of racehorses and, perhaps more significantly, as the No. 1 fan.
The Queen attended other sporting events. She gifted England captain Bobby Moore the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 and Virginia Wade the Venus Rosewater platter after she won the Wimbledon singles title in 1977, its silver anniversary year.
She also memorably ensured the 2012 London Olympics kicked off on the perfect note, taking part in a spectacular Games opening ceremony, and playing her part to perfection in a spoof sketch featuring Daniel Craig’s James Bond.
The Queen, in the photo a meeting with lady amateur jockeys in Beverley, ultimate sponsor for racing
But we all knew that racing was the sport that was truly at the heart of the Queen, someone who loved to be immersed in it and a human magnet who drew interest in it that exceeded even the wildest global marketing budget.
Some rightly believe that sport will never be able to replace its greatest benefactor.
Ed Chamberlin, who will present ITV’s coverage of today’s rescheduled Doncaster St Leger meeting, which will open with a 20-minute tribute to the Queen and alternate heavily with tributes and films from her best-known winners, agrees.
He said: ‘She was definitely the most important person in our sport. The influence I see of her as owner and breeder, on the Royal Ascot meeting and Derby day can be seen there, but her impact on the sport goes much further than that.
Her Majesty with Frankie Dettori – who rode 30 years before her – at Royal Ascot after his 2019 Gold Cup win over Stradivarius
“You just have to look at the tributes from all over the world to see that and that’s what the horse and the race is connected to.
“Her devotion to the horse and encyclopedic knowledge shone through. You cannot replace her. Only now in the coming years will we begin to see the impact she has had on our sport.’
After the formalities and ceremonies have all taken place in the coming days, many in the racing world will not be without hesitation pondering what the effect will be of the loss of its greatest ambassador.
No formal announcements have been made, but it is expected that the royal suit and colors will now be passed on to King Charles III. He has a racing connection and raced as an amateur jockey in his youth, but his passion for racing lags far behind that of his mother.
It’s a family affair in Epsom in 1993 as the Queen is joined by her mother (left) and Prince Charles (right) for the Derby
And while the younger members of the royal family, led by the new Prince and Princess of Wales, enjoy the occasional day at the races, there’s no evidence that they inherited the late monarch’s passion for the sport.
More encouragingly, Camilla, the Queen Consort, loves racing. She and the King have bred, owned and ridden a few horses in their colors since 2008, but the feeling is she is much more interested.
This year it included two fillies in training with Ralph Beckett, including Pride Of The Pack, who finished third in Doncaster last month. Horses have also played a big part in the lives of Princess Anne and her daughter Zara Tindall, both successful three-day eventers on the world stage and frequent visitors to the racecourse.
Zara is on the Racecourse Committee of Cheltenham Racecourse, Britain’s premier show jumping circuit.
This season, 37 different horses had run in the Queen’s colors and won 20 races. Four of those successes had been achieved in the past two weeks, including victories full of promise for the future of two-year-olds Circle Of Fire at Salisbury and Theme Park at Kempton.
The Queen leads in her Oaks winner, Carrozza, with Lester Piggott – who was her favorite jockey – in the saddle in 1957
But whatever scenario develops, there are huge footprints to follow. No one can claim to share the same passion and knowledge of the royal chord as the late monarch, who loved her visits to the royal stud at Sandringham, Norfolk, and was also a patron of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. Passing on the affection that racers have for the Queen will be equally difficult.
This was evident at Royal Ascot in June, when the crowd in front of the royal procession, which was not attended by the Queen, who watched only from Windsor Castle, was noticeably muffled.
The disappointment was also palpable that in the Platinum Jubilee year there was no royal winner at the biggest gathering of the year. In the spring, Royal Racing Manager John Warren had instructed the Queen’s Flat trainers – Andrew Balding, Michael Bell, Harry and Roger Charlton, Clive Cox, William Haggas, Richard Hughes, John and Thady Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute – to aim their big guns . at the fixture. But the result was painfully close to second for the Gosdens’ Reach For The Moon, whose Derby aspirations had been thwarted by injury, and Saga.
You have to go back to the 1950s – 1954 and 1957 to be exact – for the last time the Queen was champion owner and last year, even with her 36 successes being her best finish this century, she only finished in 19th place in the owners championship.
But her participation struck with a much greater weight than those numbers indicate.
Then-Princess Elizabeth feeds a horse from a trophy in 1944 after it won first prize at the Royal Windsor Horse Show
Many of those above her at the owners table, especially those from the Far and Middle East, were drawn to invest in the sport because of the rich heritage that continued to propagate her participation.
The chance to be invited to join the carriage procession at Royal Ascot, receive a trophy from the Queen, or be invited over a cup of tea in the Royal Box to discuss the foal that had just won the Derby were also money-can’t-buy moments.
Foreign runners were sent to the country to run to Royal Ascot from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and the US, not because of the prize money – they could earn a lot more and have less hassle racing in their own country – but to get a bit of the stardust that brought the Queen and the royal connection to British racing.
After 48 hours in which the sport was respectfully discontinued to mourn her death, one can only speculate how much the loss of the Queen will reach her profile in the coming years.
But there are plenty who run and participate in the sport who will nervously watch the events unfold.