Remembering Queen Elizabeth II

The recent passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96 will leave an irreplaceable void in the Thoroughbred industry. In addition to a lifetime of achievements steering her country through many momentous times during her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth was an enthusiastic and passionate equestrian. 

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth will be especially missed by the racing and breeding communities around the world, including here at Darby Dan Farm where the Queen boarded horses and even visited the farm in 1984 during her initial trip to Kentucky. All told, she visited the Bluegrass State five times, most recently in 2007 to attend the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

In remembering the Queen’s extraordinary legacy, John Phillips said, “The Queen was a true enthusiast of Thoroughbreds. She enjoyed every aspect of the sport, including science and the art of breeding. She visited many farms in Kentucky in her quest for knowledge, and Darby Dan was one that was privileged to host her. She will be missed.”

Her Majesty began riding horses at three years of age when she was Princess Elizabeth II, and she continued to ride well into the last year of her life. Her affinity for breeding and racing top-class Thoroughbreds was unmatched. She inherited her father King George VI’s stock following his death in 1952 and she enjoyed great success in the ensuing decades as an owner and breeder.

The Queen’s distinct purple and red colors were carried to victory in every English Classic except the Derby at Epsom and visited the winner’s enclosure 24 times at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet. Among her memorable Royal Ascot winners were Phantom Gold in the 1995 Ribblesdale Stakes for trainer Lord Huntingdon and Estimate’s thrilling score in the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. With Estimate’s victory, The Queen became the first reigning monarch to win the race in the event’s storied two-century history.

When asked in 2020 for her five favorite racehorses, The Queen named Doutelle, Aureole, Highclere (a dual Classic winner in the 1970s), Phantom Gold, and Estimate. The Queen enjoyed one of her best years as an owner in 2021, winning 36 races, which placed her in the Top 20 racehorse owners.

Three races—each of them Group/Grade 1s—have been named to honor The Queen—The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland, the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in Japan, and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Australia.

Shannon Arvin, president and CEO of Keeneland, said in a statement following The Queen’s passing, “Queen Elizabeth’s lifelong love for horses and her passion for racing left an indelible legacy on the sport around the world and Keeneland. The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) will be even more special this fall as we honor her memory and celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”