Racing returns to Ascot on Saturday, February the 18th when thousands will flock to the Berkshire track for Ascot Chase Raceday.
It is a well-attended fixture including the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase, but it is the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in the summer that will draw the biggest crowds, including none other than Her Majesty the Queen and several other members of the Royal Family.
The Queen has always been a big fan of horses and horseracing in particular, taking great delight in seeing one of her animals take the honours.
She inherited a number of thoroughbred horses following the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952, and has taken a keen interest in the breeding an bloodlines of her stock ever since.
Indeed, it is more than fair to say that Racing has always been in the Queen’s blood, with her mother, Queen Elizabeth, an avid racing fan and regular at Royal Ascot and on Derby day.
The latest generation of royals such as Princes William and Harry might not share the same passion as their grandmother and are more likely to be seen at Twickenham or Wembley than on the Epsom Downs but Her Majesty will forever be associated with all things equine.
Her Majesty’s success over the years
Her Majesty has achieved a great deal of success over the years and was named British flat racing Champion Owner in both 1954 and 1957.
She has never won the Derby but did come second with Aureole back in 1953 – the year of her coronation – with the same horse securing Grade One success in Epsom’s Coronation Cup and Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1954.
Highclere had a brief but successful spell for Her Majesty, winning the Grade One 1000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket in 1974 while also taking the French Oaks at Chantilly in the same year.
The Queen won two fillies Classics with Dunfermline and took the Oaks in 1957 with Carrozza, while the aptly-named Pall Mall was another Grade One winner for the monarch, taking the 2000 Guineas in 1958 plus Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes in 1958 and 1959.
However, Forth Bridge staked his claim for honours at Cheltenham when carrying the Queen’s colours to victory in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh on Saturday.
In total, Royal horses have won 66 races over the past three years but it remains to be seen how many enter the winner’s circle in 2017 with so much competition from the Middle East and across the Irish Sea.
Cheltenham is fast approaching and while the Queen favours Flat racing, there will be plenty of interest in the build-up to the Festival.
The Ascot Chase will provide punters with an indication as to which horses might fare well at Prestbury Park as previous winners include Cue Card and Kauto Star, who both scored at the Gloucestershire showpiece – the latter a two-time Gold Cup winner.
Silviniaco Conti won last year for Paul Nicholls while Nicky Henderson has also enjoyed considerable success in the contest down the years.
In-form trainer Colin Tizzard saddled Cue Card to glory in 2013 and it would be folly not to watch out for the Somerset handler’s string this time around.
For those who need help to pick a winner or two, a glance at the free tips on My Racing should provide plenty of help for those looking to have a flutter.