Queen Elizabeth II: Trainers who enjoyed racing success with royal runners recall their memories of The Queen

Some of the biggest names in horseracing have come together to share their personal tributes to and memories of Queen Elizabeth II.

As one of the most prominent British owner-breeders of thoroughbred horses, The Queen enjoyed many high-profile successes over the years with a wide range of trainers and jockeys.

She won every Classic except the Derby at Epsom, as well as cheering home 24 Royal Ascot winners in the famous purple and red royal silks.

Trainer Sir Michael Stoute provided The Queen with one of her most memorable days on a racetrack, winning the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup with Estimate.

Stoute told Sky Sports Racing: “One is trying to adjust because there is a great sadness because she was such a very special lady.

“I think that we were seeing her in a great environment because she was such a profound horsewoman so she was in her element around horses and very relaxed.

“It was her great hobby. We will miss her greatly.”

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Trainer John Gosden spoke to Sky Sports Racing about the love Queen Elizabeth II had for horseracing and her many triumphs as an owner-breeder.

Recalling that great day with Estimate, Stoute added: “We only knew afterwards that she really coveted that race and it was a great evening because Coral [Stoute’s late wife] and I and Ryan [Moore, jockey] and Michelle had dinner at Windsor Castle afterwards so that was a great thrill.

“As we were departing, she was just chatting with Ryan and said: ‘I understand you got a two-day suspension – what was that for?’

“‘Interference’, he said.

“She said: ‘An error?’.

“[Moore replied] ‘No, ma’am’.”

“He felt very privileged and loved his conversations with her because she knew so much about it all. He found it fascinating.”

John Gosden trained 13 winners for The Queen and reflected on what she meant, not only for racing, but for the country as a whole.

“I think I’m like everybody with a great sense of loss in that someone who has basically been the foundation of our whole system in this country as head of state for so many years,” Gosden said. “What an amazing reign and a selfless sense of duty, done with a great understanding of people and institution and always with a twinkle in the eye and humour.

“Her Majesty liked visiting her stables around the country but particularly Newmarket. She would come here and see the horses on the gallops and in the yard.

“I remember very well we presented her horses to her about three years ago. She said she’d like to see Enable and Frankie Dettori suddenly decided to become Master of Ceremonies!

“So Enable was walked around the corner and Frankie pointed to Enable and said: ‘You might think you’re The Queen, but that is the real Queen!’

Queen Elizabeth II greets trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori before a race at Royal Ascot in 2021
Queen Elizabeth II greets trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori before a race at Royal Ascot in 2021

“She was passionate in her knowledge of the thoroughbred and I think that is totally unique. To her it was her great joy and relaxation.

“The trainers would call between 10 and 10.10am, you were given your slot everyday your horse was going to run for The Queen.

“They were always wonderful conversations because you’d talk about the horse and the race and then you’d talk about other things.

“For us it was very thrilling to talk one-to-one on the phone like that, knowing that was a 15-minute period in her incredibly busy day that she set aside to listen to what were sometimes known as her miscreant children, the trainers.

“King Charles III and Camilla are very keen on horses and I hope that great tradition in the Royal Family will continue.”

Richard Hughes rode over 50 winners for The Queen as a jockey before later going on to train horses in her colours.

“Just to be a part of it was an absolute privilege and I couldn’t believe my luck when she rang up after I retired and asked would I like to train for her,” Hughes said. “The fact she even asked if I would like to train goes without saying.

“When I was a jockey, I probably took that for granted at the time and even now training, I’m sure in decades time when my children come along they will say my father trained for The Queen. It’s very special.

Queen Elizabeth II and Richard Hughes (left) assess horses in the paddock at Ascot
Queen Elizabeth II and Richard Hughes (left) assess horses in the paddock at Ascot

“She came down to Richard Hannon’s in Easter time and we had a horse called Free Agent. Her Majesty hadn’t had a winner at Ascot for 10 years and the new grandstand had just been built so it was a huge thing.

“So we planned that he would go to the Chesham after Leicester in a maiden and he won. These things never happen but Richard [Hannon] did a great job training the horse and it all worked out and it was a fabulous day.

“I would ring The Queen before and after her runner and you would get anxious before dialling the number but once Her Majesty said good morning to you, you were at total ease which was quite amazing.

“All the conversations I had with Her Majesty, not once did she not understand my Irish accent – a very sharp woman and we had some lovely conversations and I will cherish them.”

The Queen with Richard Hughes (left) in the parade ring
Queen Elizabeth II with Richard Hughes (left) in the parade ring

Clive Cox trained The Queen’s most recent winner, a filly called Love Affairs, at Goodwood on Tuesday, September 6.

“I spoke to her on Tuesday morning which will be a very deep and lasting memory,” Cox said. “It was really nice to have that winner with Love Affairs at Goodwood at a special racetrack.

“It’s quite surreal really. She was just such an amazing person – I think everybody knows and agrees we all feel the sadness in losing her.

“She was just so nice to talk to and that is a special memory.”

Michael Bell trained 48 winners for The Queen.

“She used to just come and stand and spend half an hour looking at the horses,” Bell said. “She would notice the physical development and say if a horse needs more time or whatever.

“She had a very keen eye and always wanted the best for her horses. Her knowledge for the horse was incredible and she had a wealth and depth of experience.

“She would pick things up in a race if a horse was pulling or uncomfortable on the wrong leg. She wouldn’t miss a trick and just loved it. Her enthusiasm was infectious.”

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