Horse racing is known as the Sport of Kings, but it’s also very much the sport of The Queen. Her famous silks have been a fixture on British racecourses for decades given her position as a prominent owner, however she’s also a great advocate of the sport away from ownership and breeding.
The Royal Family as a whole have a rich and long-running history within the sport, with Queen Elizabeth having always been a keen and eager watcher.
The Queen developed an interest in horse racing very early, joining the Queen Mother on a visit to the Fred Darling yard way back in 1942.
As a wedding gift, the Aga Khan gave Queen Elizabeth her first racehorse in 1949, Astrakhan, and a very short time later she managed her first win as an owner with Monaveen.
Since then, Her Royal Highness has gone on to own many a top-class winner including the winners of five British classics.
In racing terms, The Queen is most closely associated with the Royal Ascot meeting in June. Even those who aren’t avid watchers of the sport know all about her connection to Ascot, with many tuning in across all five days of the meeting simply to see what she is wearing as she enters the track on her carriage.
In fact, Royal Ascot can trace its roots back to Ascot’s first four-day meeting back in 1768, and began to take shape following the introduction of the Gold Cup in 1807.
The Queen attends the royal meeting every single year, across all five days, presenting the trophies to the winning owner, trainer and jockey of the Gold Cup.
What many casual watchers may not understand is that, behind all the pomp and ceremony, Royal Ascot is also simply Britain’s biggest and best flat racing meeting with multiple Group 1 races taking place. It is the centrepiece of the British flat racing season.
The Queen’s Biggest Wins
In the modern day, The Queen remains a big owner but in terms of number of wins and prize money garnered she’s not in the top rank.
Nowadays ownership operations such as Godolphin, Coolmore, Cheveley Park Stud and Qatar Racing would be of much higher importance but down the years Queen Elizabeth has landed some massive races.
While The Derby at Epsom has so far eluded her, The Queen has managed to win the following races as an owner:
- 2000 Guineas – Pall Mall won the colt’s classic in 1958.
- 1000 Guineas – Highclere landed the fillies’ classic in 1974.
- The Oaks – The Queen landed the 1957 Oaks at Epsom with Carrozza, ridden by a young Lester Piggott. The Queen was prominent enough this season to finish the year as champion owner. She also landed the 1977 running of the Oaks with Dunfermline.
- St Leger – The last classic of the 1977 season was taken by Dunfermline, the brilliant filly landing a classic double.
- Gold Cup – Frankly, the one she wanted to win! As recently as 2013, The Queen landed the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot when Estimate, ridden by Ryan Moore, landed the spoils.
Races Named in Her Honour
There are many, many races the names of which have a rather royal bent, especially of course at Ascot. Those named specifically after Queen Elizabeth however are:
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes
Staged at the fabled Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, this race was inaugurated in 1984 and is run on the turf track over 1 mile & 1 furlong. The event is for three-year-old fillies and has Grade 1 status which makes it an important prep race for those being targeted at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November.
Queen Elizabeth II Cup
Over in Japan, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup is an 11-furlong turf race at Kyoto for the fillies and mares, this time an all-age race. A Group 1 event, the race is held in extremely high regard and carries massive prize money.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes
Down in Australia and as part of the autumn carnival in Sydney, Randwick Racecourse hosts the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Once more a Group 1 race, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is run over a mile-and-a-quarter with prize money topping $4 million. It was taken in 2020 by British challenger Addeybb.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
The biggest race named in The Queen’s honour, the QEII as it is affectionately known is one of the top mile races in Europe.
Now part of Champions Day at Ascot in October, those winning the QEII are often considered to be the mile champion of Britain, if not Europe, with horses having come from the Guineas or the Lockinge early in the season via Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood often taking part.
Past winners of the QEII include genuine racing greats such as Brigadier Gerard, Selkirk, Dubai Millennium, Frankel and Roaring Lion.