Plans are being put in place to ensure the Queen will be able to cheer her horses on from the royal box at the Platinum Jubilee Epsom Derby – and perhaps bag the ‘fairytale’ racing win that has so far eluded her.
Although she has been suffering increasing mobility issues and royal aides have indicated that she cannot yet commit to any of the events planned to mark her 70 historic years on the throne, it is understood that staff are ‘moving heaven and earth’ to ensure she can attend the most prestigious race meet of the year.
This includes changing the route of her official car so that it can draw up directly outside the Queen’s stand so that she only has to walk a few yards to get a lift straight up to her seat.
A source said: ‘She really is absolutely determined to attend.’
The Cazoo Derby on Saturday June 4 is one of the official national celebrations over the four-day jubilee weekend in June and one that has particular personal resonance for the monarch, who turns 96 tomorrow.
Plans are being put in place to ensure the Queen will be able to cheer her horses on from the royal box at the Platinum Jubilee Epsom Derby – and perhaps bag the ‘fairytale’ racing win that has so far eluded her. She is pictured at the event in 2019
Known as the world’s most prestigious flat race, it remains the only one of the five ‘Classics’ Her Majesty is yet to win as a life-long racehorse owner, despite having finished second with Aureole in 1953 – just four days after her Coronation – and third in 2011 with Carlton House, the last horse to contest The Derby in her colours.
The Queen, who is patron of The Jockey Club and has had more than 1,800 winners globally, has three contenders in this year’s race: Reach For The Moon, who was also bred at the Royal Stud in Sandringham, Educator and General Idea.
Legendary royal jockey Willie Carson, 79, who rode the Queen’s filly Dunfermline to win two Classics – The Oaks at Epsom Downs and the St Leger – in 1977, said it would be a ‘fairytale’ for her to finally win the Derby in her Platinum Jubilee year after coming so close after her coronation 69 years ago.
‘You never know – him upstairs might just think it’s about time she had a Derby winner,’ he smiled, during an interview at Epsom racecourse yesterday.
Speaking of his pride at riding for the monarch, he said: ‘When you put those colours on…. they are very, very famous colours in the racing fraternity…. especially at Epsom, a jockey grows six inches. It makes you feel important when you put those colours on. Putting those colours on, you’re riding for Her Majesty The Queen and The Queen is the most famous woman in the whole wide world, so you’re privileged. You’re honoured. You want to be doing your best for her.’
Indeed The Jockey Club today announced it will celebrate The Queen’s contribution to horseracing on Cazoo Derby Day, by permanently renaming the building that houses the royal box The Queen Elizabeth II Stand.
Although she has been suffering increasing mobility issues and royal aides have indicated that she cannot yet commit to any of the events planned to mark her 70 historic years on the throne, it is understood that staff are ‘moving heaven and earth’ to ensure she can attend the most prestigious race meet of the year. She is pictured at Prince Philip’s memorial walking with a cane
Her arrival at the race meet will also be greeted by a guard of honour formed on the track by 40 retired and current jockeys that have ridden for Her Majesty, dressed in the monarch’s famous purple, scarlet and gold silks.
They will include four-time Derby winner Carson and Frankie Dettori as well as John Reid, who won The Derby in 1992.
Mr Reid, 66, who rode for Her Majesty The Queen dozens of times, described her as a ‘kind and generous person’ and revealed for the first time just how thoughtful she could be,
He described how once he gave her a CD of his daughter singing and the monarch loved it so much she took it to music impresario Andrew Lloyd-Webber personally.
He explained: ‘She took it and seemingly played it on the way back in the car.
‘But that night she was staying at Highclere [the racing stud] and she was having dinner and Andrew Lloyd Webber was invited. I didn’t obviously know all this until afterwards. But the next morning she got up and she said, ‘Oh, I forgot to give Lloyd Webber the CD of John’s daughter’.
Her Majesty is pictured with Julia Budd, the chair of the Epsom Derby at the 2019 event
‘We’ll drive down there and drop it off. There was a major panic at the house. Got everybody up and ready, and she turned up and gave him the CD. Shortly after that, I had a phone call from John Warren saying, ‘Lloyd Webber would like to meet Jessica and interview her because The Queen says she’s very good’.
‘It was a fantastic thing for The Queen to do for no particular reason, and that’s the sort of person she is.’
Mr Carson said the Queen’s racing knowledge was second to none, still: ‘You’ve got to be careful what you say, because she’ll pick you up if you get it wrong. And I know she’s now an old lady, but she’s sharp. Her mind is still very, very sharp, and her breeding is right at the forefront of her brain.
‘If you just slip up and say this horse is out of the wrong mare, she will be straight on you. Or she goes back four or five generations and tells you about them. I can’t remember last week, never mind five generations!
‘You’re walking around the stud and you’re looking at the foals and the stud groom says, ‘That’s so and so out of so and so’ and you can see her going up to the foal and she starts giving you a story about a grandmother or whatever. She just enjoys touching the foals, stroking them, and that is a great moment for her, just enjoying seeing the future in her horses. It’s her passion that she really loves.
Queen Elizabeth II rides Balmoral Fern in 2020 – she is a keen equestrian and loves watching horses too
‘The winning post is the end result and she enjoys that, of course, but she enjoys everything before you get to the winning post. That gives her the most pleasure.’
Hayler Turner, the first female rider in Flat racing to win 100 races in a calendar year and one of the Queen’s current crop of riders, said it would be ‘amazing’ for the Queen to win the Derby this year.
‘Compared to any other race or big race, all the jockeys and all the trainers, it’s the one they want to win the most. I don’t care what anyone says. It’s the dream,’ she said.
‘It would be amazing for The Queen. It would be so special for her because horseracing is her passion. It’s quite funny, because my family aren’t in racing, and whenever I’ve met Her Majesty they’re always like, ‘What do you talk about?’ and I’m like, ‘You just talk about the horses’.
‘She’s easy to talk to, because her eyes light up and she’s interested immediately. You’ve got her attention. You don’t have to go on about any politics or what not. You just talk about the horses. Easy-peasy.
‘It’s her passion and it’s like a little treat for her. She has a lot on her plate and most of it she just has to deal with it, whereas this is just a joy for her.’
Also described the Queen as a ‘good loser’ recalling how when she once beat one of the Queen’s horses she rung the trainer, Michael Bell, and spoke to him.
‘ [she] said, ‘I was very cross to start with, but then I thought, no, very well done. Well done, Hayley.’ So even though I beat her, she sent on her best wishes, so that was good. She’s a good loser,’ she joked.
She also revealed that the Queen cares ‘deeply’ about what happens to her horses after their racing careers and even helped to rehome them.
She said: ‘My mum rehomes racehorses, and there was one morning that Her Majesty came to look around the horses at Michael Bell’s yard. Afterwards, we all went into the kitchen, and my mum had just started rehoming racehorses and she’d made this really tacky laminated copy folder that she’d just given me to give to Michael Bell in case he had any retired racehorses that need rehoming.
‘Her Majesty came in and we were all sat around the table, and she picked it up and I was like, ‘Oh no’, and she just started flicking through it and she was giving no one any of her attention, and when she stood up to leave she looked at me and was like, ‘May I take this with me?’ And I was like, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and ever since she has sent my mum two or three horses every year.
‘She cares a lot about horses.’
Mr Carson added: ‘She’s the patron of racing. Without her we would be a little bit lost, because her patronage is a very valuable thing. ‘