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The Queen Mother's Passion for Horse Racing

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HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Her Early Years (1900 - 1923) | Duchess of York (1923 - 1936) | The Abdication of Edward VIII
Queen Consort (1936 - 1952) | Her Passion for Horse Racing | The Queen Mother

In 1949, when Monaveen won at Fontwell, the Queen Mother became the first Queen of England to win a horse race in Britain since Queen Anne in 1714. In a career spanning over 50 years, she had 449 winners, in her blue and gold colours, her last being One Love, who won just 222 days before she died.

Flat racing had always been the sport of Kings, but the new Queen with her upbringing with the landed gentry, preferred the thrill of national hunt racing. Her love for the sport began at Royal Ascot in 1949 when the leading amateur jockey of the day Lord Mildmay of Flete came to stay at Windsor Castle, along with his friend, the trainer Major Peter Cazalet. Between them they managed to persuade the Queen to buy a steeple chaser and have Cazalet train it. Within the year, the Queen had a number of winners and said she was 'completely hooked'.

Cazalet was to carry on training the Queen's horse until his death in 1973. His first success for her came on the first running of the Queen Elizabeth Chase in 1949 when Monaveen allowed her to take home the trophy she had come to present. In 1950, the King George VI Chase was won by Monicou for her at Kempton Park.

Her most famous racing moment, though, is not any of her successes, nor the many races named after her, but Devon Loch's failure in the 1956 Grand National. The Queen Mother, like all national hunt owners, longed for a horse worthy and capable of winning the big one at Aintree. She was cheering her horse on as it had a substantial lead coming off the Elbow into the final run. As it ran alongside the rail, its feet gave way and within site of the line it collapsed, to trail in defeated.

Fulke Walwyn was to take over the training of the Queen's stable after Cazalet's death. At the time of her death, she had 12 horses in training, though that figure was down from 22 in the 1960s. She also had some young horses ready to be raced in 2006, which showed the optimism of the lady.

Other Racing Highlights

Some of the most memorable horses in the Queen's Mother's stable include Double Star, unbeaten in 50 outings and gathered three victories for the Queen Mother. In the early 1970s, the Queen Mother's most successful horse Game Spirit notched up 21 wins. Special Cargo pulled out a spectacular result in the 1984 Whitbread Gold Cup at Cheltenham for her, when seemingly long defeated at the last, the horse spectacularly came good up the hill and took the race, which the Queen Mother had previously agreed to present. Her other big winners include The Rip (13 wins), Laffy (12), Makaldar (15), and Chaou II (17).

1964-65 was her most successful season, 27 times her horses took line honours and she was the third most successful owner of the season.

The Passion Inherited

Though neither of her daughters inherited her passion for national hunt racing, Queen Elizabeth II having a successful string of flat horses, the passion did pass on to the following generations. Two of her grandchildren (Prince Charles and Princess Anne) both had a go at racing over the jumps - but their love affair was short lived. The person who maintained any sort of interest in national hunt racing at the time of her death was her great-granddaughter, Zara Philips, who was going out with top jockey Richard Johnson, who ironically won the last running of the Queen Elizabeth Chase at Cheltenham in 2002.

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