The Queen: A lifelong passion for horses at Epsom and Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II during day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse.
The Queen seen during day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse in 2018 Credit: PA

Racing may be the sport of kings but it is where the Queen seemed most at home, particularly on a day out at Royal Ascot or the Epsom Derby when one of her horses came in.

Willie Carson won The Oaks at Epsom on the Queen’s horse Dunfermline in 1977 her Silver Jubilee year.

"What a day that was!" Willie Carson said.

"That was just a dream come true, not just for me but for the whole country.

"She was always very appreciative – always thanked you for winning the race.

"But she was always more interested in how you won the race.

"What the feeling was you were getting from the animal," he added.

Queen Elizabeth II meets former jockeys, including Willie Carson (2nd R), who have previously won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket Credit: PA

The Queen’s passion for horses was sparked at the very start of her life and by the time she was aged 17 the Queen was already a fine horsewoman with a growing interest in thoroughbred races.

"Her father, King George VI was an Epsom Oaks winner called Sun Chariot – was a brilliant mare," said former jockey Brough Scott.

"The Queen went to see the filly at Beckhampton and stroked its beautiful soft, satin skin and she supposedly refused to wash her hands for two days because it was such a good feel," he explained.

The Queen rarely missed the major races and attended the Epsom Derby just four days after her coronation in 1953.

But over more than 60 years of breeding and racing horse she did have plenty of success and the enjoyment she took from riding them lasted her entire life.

Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1954 watching the parade before the Epsom Derby is run Credit: PA

Brough Scott added: "Horses were an escape, something she could do physically, right on into her nineties she was still riding.

"But also, without being trite about it, they didn’t talk.

"Everybody wants to talk to The Queen but the horse will be the same whether it’s you, me or The Queen."

Away from her public duties racing was the Queen’s great pleasure, a precious past time she couldn’t have done without. The sport will certainly miss her.