NEWS

Will the Queen ever get an Epsom Derby winner?

April 26, 2018

This is a big year for the royal family. The arrival of a new baby and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's upcoming wedding have given both them and royal watchers plenty to get excited about. 

Now in her 90s, Her Majesty will have seen plenty of these occasions down the years as children and grandchildren have married and various royal babies have arrived. 

However, what may make this year particularly special will be if one ambition the Queen has long held but never seen fulfilled finally happens - an Epsom Derby winner. 

They say horse racing is the sport of kings, and it certainly is for the Queen. When she is out and about in Buckingham Palace Gardens, the only person whose phone calls are automatically put through to her are those of her racing manager. And when the big showpieces at Ascot and Epsom come around, she arrives amid plenty of pageantry but also with as much enthusiasm as any punter. 

Few occasions were more notable than the 2016 Epsom Derby Festival, when she celebrated turning 90 at the event itself. The celebrations included her presenting the trophy to the Derby-winning jockey Pat Smullen.

However, neither then nor any other time has the monarch enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing her own jockey riding the winner. The closest she came was actually at the very start of her reign; just four days after the coronation in 1953 Aureole, a horse bred by her late father King George VI, came second. Never since has she come so close to winning the biggest race of them all. 

The 2011 Derby brought huge excitement as the prospect of the royal duck finally being broken loomed large. Carlton House was installed as the 5-2 favourite as the race neared but, despite running well, the horse only came third. 

It is not as if the Queen has not enjoyed successes at Epsom; having missed out on the 1953 Derby, Aureole was back the following year to win the Coronation Cup. In 1957 Carozza, who was leased to Her Majesty by the National Stud, triumphed in the Oaks and she had the joy of leading the horse into the winner's enclosure.

The Queen had to wait a while for her next Oaks winner, but Dunfermline crossed the line with perfect timing in 1977, the year of her silver jubilee. A third Oaks win nearly followed in 2001 when Flight Of Fancy, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, came second. 

Having been involved in racehorse ownership since 1949, the Queen has certainly had plenty of attempts at winning the race and she has two more possibilities this year; Elector, who won on debut at Ascot and the unraced Sextant, a colt of Sea the Stars. Both are trained by Sir Michael Stoute.

The Queen has enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch in British history, one that has featured a huge number of political, social, technological and sporting developments. She has seen it all, but there is one thing she has yet to see and dearly wants to. Could 2018 be the year one of her horses finally triumphs at the one classic race she is yet to taste victory in?

Image: Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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