The Queen celebrates a remote win at Royal Ascot with Tactical and looks back at the horses who have influenced her life
The Monarch missed the Royal meeting for the first time in her 68-year reign but was able to enjoy the victory of her horse and race favourite, Tactical in the Windsor Castle stakes.
The return of horse racing has been taking place behind ‘closed doors’ with only essential participants allowed on the courses. Like all owners and racing fans the Queen will be watching proceedings from home.
Her Majesty’s love of horses has been as much part of her reign as her official duties and to celebrate her official birthday she revealed the ones who were especially dear to her.
“Her Majesty has a fountain of knowledge in all things equine, you might say a living encyclopaedia,” said Terry Pendry, her stud groom and manager at Windsor Castle.
“Her knowledge and expertise is well known. She names all of her horses and ponies herself and can remember the parentage of every single one.”
The 94-year-old monarch, who was photographed riding Fell pony Balmoral Fern in Windsor Home Park at the beginning of June, selected eight “special horses” she and her family have loved riding and watching.
She also chose five of the most memorable racehorses she has bred and owned.
The list she produced for Horse and Hound included Aureole, a stallion she inherited from her father, George VI, the chestnut gelding Doublet on which her daughter, the Princess Royal, won the eventing European Championships at Burghley in 1971 and Estimate the horse which triumphed in the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup – the first time in the event’s 207-year history that it had been won by a reigning monarch.
Mr Pendry said the Queen still considers horses to be an important part of her life.
Her list allows a rare glimpse into her private life and the love she has for every type of horse and pony.
Topping her list is Betsy, a black-brown mare bought from a farmer in the 1950s and which the Queen rode for several years. “Betsy was full of character and spirit and much loved by the Queen,” Mr Pendry said.
Another very personal choice is Sanction, the last home-bred horse Her Majesty rode before making the decision to ride native ponies, Mr Pendry said.
He described the horse and Monarch as having “an almost telepathic bond”.
“The Queen doted on him. She only had to think of going somewhere and he’d go,” he said.
The Queen’s tribute to her father is in her choice of Aureole, which she names at the top of her list of favourite racehorses.
John Warren, her bloodstock and racing adviser, said that although the animal was “feisty and highly strung”, the Queen knew how to get the best out of him. The whole nation appeared to be behind his bid to win the Derby for her in her Coronation year of 1953. In the event, he finished second, but went on to become a leading stallion standing at Sandringham Stud throughout his career.
Mr Warren said the Queen, who had her first riding lesson at three, had continued to work on her understanding of equestrian matters over the decades, having “developed a deep, profound knowledge” of the subject.
“It takes the same sort of precise expertise as a watchmaker to produce a somewhat fragile racehorse to perform on the big occasions and indeed any occasion at all – especially when they are expected to race at speeds of up to 40mph,” he said.
“These incredibly highly charged creatures, full of blood and muscle, are developed from birth with kid gloves and the sophisticated jigsaw of trying to put all the pieces together is a constant challenge that continues to intrigue the Queen.
“To deal with the constant challenges and disappointments, as all horse people will know, the greatest asset you need to have with horses is patience – which luckily the Queen has in spades.”
The Queen’s love of equestrian has passed down to her daughter Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, and her granddaughter, Zara Tindall, having both ridden at the Olympics.
One the list is Doublet the polo pony on which her 21-year-old daughter triumphed at Burghley in 1971. The same year she was named Sports Personality of the Year.
“The Queen bred both the horse and the rider,” Mr Pendry observed.
But behind Betsy, the Queen chose the horse presented to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Burmese.
The black mare was her mount for 18 consecutive years during the Trooping the Colour ceremony until she retired in 1986 and the Queen chose not to replace her but travel in a carriage.
Her love of native ponies is reflected in her choice of Balmoral Jingle and Balmoral Curlew, two Highland ponies and Emma, one of her Fell riding ponies.