There will be no official celebrations when Queen Elizabeth II shortly becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, a record held for more than a century by her great great grandmother Queen Victoria. But the occasion is an opportunity to look at some of the horses which have played an important part in Her Majesty’s success as both owner and breeder over the seven decades of her reign. Some good colts have carried the royal colours, but here are five fillies which have probably been as significant as any for their owner.
Almeria (foaled 1954)
Almeria had the handicap of not being given any classic entries but she would have been well worth her place in the Oaks judged on her record in some of the other top middle-distance races for fillies in 1957. Her wins included wide-margin victories in the Ribblesdale Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks as well as a success in the Park Hill Stakes despite being in season. As a four-year-old, she went on to finish second in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes behind the previous year’s St Leger winner and future Arc winner Ballymoss.
Almeria also proved one of the most successful broodmares early in the Queen’s reign. Her son Magna Carta went one better than his dam by winning the Doncaster Cup, while her daughter Albany (herself fifth in the Oaks and by the Queen’s 1958 2000 Guineas winner Pall Mall), bred some good horses, including another good stayer Buttress, winner of the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
Amicable (foaled 1960)
Bought for 4,500 guineas as a yearling, Amicable was a rare auction purchase to race in the royal colours but she made obvious appeal as a daughter of the Queen’s homebred stallion Doutelle, winner of several good races, including the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot where he was also third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Gold Cup. Amicable raced just five times, winning the Nell Gwyn Stakes on her debut, and then the Lingfield Oaks Trial, and later finished second in the Yorkshire Oaks. She disappointed when fifth in the Oaks itself and pulled up lame in the Park Hill Stakes, both those races on firm ground.
However, it was at stud that Amicable was to really prove her worth. As well as the Lancashire Oaks winner Amphora, she bred two other good fillies, the sisters Example and Expansive, who won the Park Hill Stakes and Ribblesdale Stakes respectively and founded successful families for the Royal Studs.
Example had just one foal, but that filly, Pas de Deux, produced eight winners, including Unknown Quantity, winner of the Grade 1 Arlington Handicap, Starlet, a Group 2 winner in Germany (and dam of the Prix de Pomone winner Interlude) and Insular who was a good dual-purpose gelding and won the Imperial Cup over hurdles for the Queen Mother.
Expansive’s granddaughter Phantom Gold also won the Ribblesdale, while in turn, Phantom Gold became dam of the 2001 Oaks runner-up Flight of Fancy.
Highclere (foaled 1971)
A granddaughter of the 1946 1000 Guineas winner Hypericum (owned and bred by the Queen’s late father King George VI), Highclere was named after the ancestral home (known to many nowadays as ‘Downton Abbey’) of the Earls of Carnarvon, the seventh earl as he was to become, Lord Porchester, being the Queen’s racing manager for many years. The blinkered Highclere emulated her grandam by winning the 1000 Guineas and became a dual classic winner when following up in the Prix de Diane. Beaten by the top-class older filly Dahlia in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Highclere went on to produce seven winners at stud, notably Milford and his half-sister Height of Fashion who both won the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket (the latter, when wearing blinkers like her dam, broke the course record set by Milford three years earlier).
Height of Fashion was to become the most influential broodmare bred by the Royal Studs, but sadly they weren’t to reap the rewards of her own brilliant stud career. Sold to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum after her Newmarket win (for a sum said to be between £1.4m and £1.8m), Height of Fashion went on to produce the 1989 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Nashwan, who, along with half-brothers Nayef and Unfuwain, proved successful sires for Shadwell after top-class racing careers. Height of Fashion’s granddaughter Ghanaati became the family’s latest 1000 Guineas winner in 2009, while great granddaughter Lahudood won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in 2007.
Another highly influential daughter of Highclere to be sold was Burghclere (by Height of Fashion’s grandsire Busted), who fetched 460,000 guineas at the 1981 Newmarket December Sales. Burghclere went on to produce the Oaks runner-up Wind In Her Hair who in turn became dam of Japan’s top-class colt and current sire sensation Deep Impact.
Dunfermline (foaled 1974)
There wasn’t too long to wait after Highclere for another dual classic-winning filly as Dunfermline came along in 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, to win the Oaks and St Leger. She gained a hard-fought win over Alleged at Doncaster but could finish only fourth to the same rival in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weeks later after meeting trouble in running. Out of a half-sister to the Queen’s Eclipse Stakes winner Canisbay, Dunfermline left no legacy like Highclere, though her half-sister Tartan Pimpernel, winner of the Galtres Stakes, was responsible for another of the Queen’s Royal Ascot winners, Colour Sergeant, winner of the 1992 Royal Hunt Cup.
Estimate (foaled 2009)
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, 2012, was marked by a Royal Ascot win for the filly Estimate (pictured) in the Queen’s Vase (the original trophy was donated by Queen Victoria when the race was inaugurated shortly before her coronation in 1838). A year later, Estimate returned to the Royal meeting to win the Gold Cup and became the Queen’s first Group 1 winner in Britain since Dunfermline, having won the Sagaro Stakes, also at Ascot, beforehand. Estimate’s bid to win the Gold Cup again in 2014 failed only narrowly, though she was subsequently disqualified from second place after failing a post-race test as a result of contaminated feed. However, Estimate did win the Doncaster Cup later in 2014, emulating Magna Carta over thirty years earlier as well as a couple of royal winners in the fifties, Atlas and dual winner Agreement.
Another former Doncaster Cup – and Gold Cup – winner was Estimate’s half-brother Enzeli. Besides two Gold Cup winners, their dam Ebaziya also produced the Irish Oaks/Prix Royal-Oak winner Ebadiyla and the Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Edabiya, making a record four Group 1 winners in all. Although she carried the royal colours, Estimate was very much a product of the Aga Khan’s Studs which gifted the use of six of its broodmares to the Queen in all, with the Royal Studs providing the stallion nominations (in Estimate’s case that was to Monsun). Association between the families of the two owner-breeders dates back a long way, in fact. The current Aga Khan’s grandfather presented the filly Astrakhan, who went on to win a maiden at Hurst Park as a three-year-old in 1950, to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift.
[Image of Estimate and Ryan Moore before 2014 Gold Cup by Chris Joffey]