ROYAL ASCOT: The Queen Through The Decades

Features | 10th June 2021

The Queen first attended Royal Ascot over 70 years ago, it's an event Her Majesty absolutely loves and as an owner The Queen has enjoyed quite a few winners over the years.

There can be little doubt about how huge an impact Her Majesty the Queen has made on British racing.

Ever since she first began attending the meeting over 70 years ago her tireless affection for racehorses has helped to ensure it remains such a huge moment in the British summer today.

Since she ascended to the throne in 1953 she has supported the Royal meeting with unwavering dedication. Her Majesty has attended every day of the meeting arriving along the track in a horse-drawn carriage with the one exception being last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

This year, The Queen will be attending Royal Ascot but due to Covid-19 restrictions Her Majesty is only likely to be at Ascot on days that she has runners which currently stands as Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday (according to The Times) which is subject to change depending on which races certain horses run.

Nonetheless, racegoers and many at home watching TV will very much like seeing The Queen enjoy her favourite sport!

Over the years at Royal Ascot, The Queen has visited the winners’ enclosure on 24 separate occasions from the 1950s right up to the last year’s meeting.

The Queen at Royal Ascot through the decades

1950's

Following the death of her father, King George VI, in 1953 Queen Elizabeth II inherited the family's breeding operation.

She didn't have to wait long for her first Royal Ascot winner as Choir Boy obliged in the 1953 Royal Hunt Cup. This started a golden spell of impressive wins for the monarch, who visited the Ascot winners' enclosure seven times over the first two years of her reign.

The Queen cheers on Choir Boy in 1953. Credit: PA Archive

1957 saw the emergence of a hugely promising young two-year old, Pall Mall.

The pacey youngster motored away to win the  'New Stakes' (a race which was renamed the Norfolk Stakes in 1973). before going on to bigger and better things as he placed in the July Stakes, the Gimcrack Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, alongside winning the 2,000 Guineas in 1958, the Queen's second Classic victory as an owner.

Aureole battles hard to claim victory in the 1954 Hardwicke Stakes. Credit: PA Archive

1960’s

The 60’s proved to be a quieter time for Her Majesty’s horses at Royal Ascot, though she wasn’t without success. The most prestigious winner came when Aiming High who eased to victory in the 1961 Coronation Stakes by the legendary rider Lester Piggott.

Her other victory came in 1968 as Hopeful Venture won the Hardwicke Stakes.

1970’s

However, the 1970’s provided the Queens string with a new lease of life as her fortunes were drastically improved through the emergence of two marvellous fillies, Highclere and Dunfermline.

However, neither of these two champions contributed to here 23 Royal Ascot winners. In 1974 Highclere captured the 1,000 Guineas before following up in the French Oaks but never ran at Royal Ascot. The other, Dunfermline, was victorious in the Oaks and St Leger in 1977, although sole her visit to the Royal Meeting came as a runner-up in the 1978 renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes.

The Queen did however have three successes within that decade. Magna Carta wont the 1970 renewal of the Ascot Stakes, Expansive battled to Ribblesdale Stakes victory in 1979 and Butress won the 1979 renewal of the Queen’s Vase.

The Queen and Magna Carta after the 1970 Ascot Stakes win
The Queen and Magna Carta after the 1970 Ascot Stakes win
Jockey Willie Carson stands with (left to right) Princess Margaret, The Queen and Queen Mother after Expansive's Ribblesdale Stakes victory
Jockey Willie Carson stands with (left to right) Princess Margaret, The Queen and Queen Mother after Expansive's 1979 Ribblesdale Stakes victory

1990’s

A lean spell then followed in the 1980s, but thankfully the 90s proved more fruitful as the Queen added a further three victory’s to her Royal tally.

The 1992 Royal Hunt Cup went the way of the Lord Huntingdon-trained Colour Sergeant, whilst the Queen also took the spoils in the 1995 Ribblesdale Stakes as Frankie Dettori claimed victory on Phantom Gold. It was another 4-years before the British public saw another Royal winner as Blueprint won the 1999 Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap.

2000’s

Nine years would pass before the Queen’s next Royal winner; as the sport’s top prizes became harder and harder to win with a stream of wealthy international owners now vying for glory at Britain’s most prestigious meeting

Much like a football side looking for a new spark of life, it took a Free Agent to reverse nearly a decade of disappointment.

Only this time this Free Agent was a promising juvenile trained by the multiple champion trainer Richard Hannon Snr and a horse which The Queen held a great deal of faith in.

His victory in the 2008 renewal of the Chesham Stakes was only his second career start and, such was the manner of his performance, there was talk of a the horse having a significant part to play in the Classic’s the following year.

After the race, the Queen’s racing manager, John Warren, said: “The Queen was absolutely thrilled and after they passed the post she said ‘I’ve done it!’ which was great.”

Free Agent and Richard Hughes winning the 2008 Chesham Stakes
Free Agent and Richard Hughes winning the 2008 Chesham Stakes
Richard Hughes talking to The Queen after their victory with Free Agent
Richard Hughes talking to The Queen after their victory with Free Agent

2010’s

Finally and arguably the Queen’s most cherished winner was that of Estimate, the first horse to give a reigning monarch a win in the biggest prize of the Royal meeting, the Gold Cup.

Having won the Queen’s Vase the year before, both the Queen and the British Public had high hopes for the then four-year-old filly.

She came into the race as a well backed favourite and, despite the close finish, prevailed to provide one of Royal Ascot’s most memorable moments.

2021

The Queen has four top notch horses entered for this year’s Royal meeting.

King’s Lynn is entered in the Group 1 King’s Stand and the Wokingham Stakes. Tactical is in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Series St James’s Palace Stakes. Tactical gave Her Majesty a winner in the Windsor Castle Stakes as he ran out an impressive winner in the two-year-old listed race but this year he’s stepping up to Group 1 company.

Two horses entered on Wednesday is outsider Pied Piper in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase and Spring Is Sprung in the Windsor Castle Stakes who has a good chance in a big field.

Her Majesty’s horses will as always be facing tough competition but there’s a chance that the milestone 25 winners could be brought up this year!