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History

On this day 64 years ago: The Queen Mother’s devastating bellyflop at the Grand National


PHOTO CREDIT: Allan Warren

March 24 marks exactly 64 years since The Queen Mother suffered one of the cruelest defeats in the history of sport when her horse bellyflopped at the finishing line of the Grand National.

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was a huge horse racing lover, with it being estimated that she had owned more than 500 winners in her lifetime. 

In 1956, Her Majesty was about to achieve what no royal had achieved before, and indeed what no royal has yet achieved – victory in the world’s most famous horse race.

Devon Loch, The Queen Mother’s horse, was storming the race in impeccable style, leaving the other horses trailing behind.

It looked impossible for Her Majesty to lose the race – having successfully jumped all 30 fences, Devon Loch raced to the finishing post many lengths ahead of his competition.

As he approached the finishing line, the racing commentator said: “Devon Loch can’t lose.”

But then, as he passed the Royal Box in front of a jubilant Royal Family, the unthinkable occurred.

Out of nowhere, Devon Loch jumped into the air for no apparent reason, landing on his stomach. Her Majesty’s race was over.

Devon Loch immediately got back to his feet, and made a full recovery from his fall.

To this day, why the horse fell just a few yards from the finishing post for no apparent reason remains one of racing’s biggest mysteries.

It has been speculated that he may have seen the shadow of another fence, mistaking it for an obstacle in front of him which caused confusion and a half-jump in the air.

It is also possible that he had cramp, or was startled by the nearly 100,000 strong crowd.

After the race, The Queen Mother simply said: “Oh, that’s racing.”