There is a story that once as a child Queen Elizabeth II was asked what she would most like to become. Promptly she answered: "A horse." The tale may be apocryphal, but there is no doubt that love of the thoroughbred has always been with her.
The Queen today is not only a passionately interested horsewoman but also the industrious and ambitious owner of a considerable racing stable. Next month Americans will get a chance to look one of her horses over when Elizabeth's black three-year-old, Landau, runs in the Washington International at Laurel Race Course on Nov. 3. This will be the first time in British history that the colors of the sovereign will be raced outside the British Isles.
Landau is one of the latest of a succession of horses the Queen has owned since she was a small child. Her first mount, a Shetland pony, was given to her by her grandfather, George V, when she was four.
By the time she was five, the London
wrote that Elizabeth was already "an accomplished and keen little horsewoman," and in that same year her grandfather christened a three-year-old filly "Lilibet." Another time, when she was 12, Captain Moore, her father's trainer, took her with the King on a tour of inspection of the royal stud at Sandringham. When showing one of the mares, Bread Card, Moore's memory temporarily deserted him. "I can't remember her pedigree offhand, sir," he confessed apologetically. "I know it!" piped Lilibet's shrill, treble voice in the background. "She is by the Derby winner, Manna, out of Book Debt by Buchan." And she was quite right, too.
When Elizabeth was 16 her father's Big Game was favored to win the Derby. Elizabeth and Margaret listened to the race on the radio, and Big Game failed. "Isn't that a shame," bemoaned the 11-year-old Margaret. But her sister corrected her primly:
"No, it's just horse racing."
In 1948 Elizabeth got her first race horse?the filly Astrakhan, a wedding present from the Aga Khan?and the next year the Princess registered her colors. Under steeplechase rules, she also registered a partnership with her mother, and each owned a half share in the Irish jumper, Monaveen.
One afternoon in April, 1950 Elizabeth was watching Philip play polo in Malta when she got a telegram telling her of her first win under flat-racing rules?Astrakhan had taken the Merry Maidens Stakes at Hurst Park. Elizabeth "smiled very happily," according to bystanders. In December she got another and sadder cable in Malta: Monaveen had broken a leg and had been shot. The Queen has never owned a jumper since.
Racing is the Queen's great pastime. She is devoted to the sport and the traditions which govern it in Britain. It is her single interest outside her family and duties, and she approaches it as she does everything else?studiously, persistently and ardently.
A SERIOUS MANAGER