Following the recent series of injury scares for Queen Elizabeth II, her trainers have said they expect to make a decision in the morning on whether Her Majesty will be fit to run in the classic Derby race at Epsom on Saturday.
The majestic royal mare has been suffering with strained withers since landing awkwardly at Haydock Park in May, and has yet to really loosen up in training canters. There would be great disappointment if the monarch is indeed unable to compete in the Derby, as the sight of Her Majesty's steaming figure thundering around the Epsom turf has become almost synonymous with the "Sport of Queens'.
Even though the canny punter may be of the opinion that Queen Elizabeth is getting a little long in the tooth to keep up with the finest racing field in the world, she is traditionally a very popular mount, and has given many jockeys excellent service over the years. She has long been a favourite with the public, ever since breaking the record in the Queen Anne Stakes, held for so many years by the original Queen Anne.
The Queen has an excellent sporting pedigree, being of course by George VI out of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Few can forget the dam Queen Mother's spectacular victory by 30 lengths and a nose at the Gordon's Gin Handicap at Aintree in 1964.
Trainer Sir Michael Stoute insisted this morning that the Queen would not race on Saturday unless fully fit. "If Her Majesty were to sustain a serious injury on the track it would be a tragedy for the sport," he explained. "Prince Charles is definitely not ready to take on the great horses of today, even if he did marry one. And when we tried him out in the Grand National he just kept stopping and talking to the hedges."
Faced with a recent surge in accusations of cruelty to monarchs, the racing industry is keen to emphasise the relative safety of the sport. A spokesman for the Jockey Club was quick to point out that not since 1649 has regicide occurred at one of the classics, when Charles I broke a leg at Cheltenham and had to be beheaded by the course vet.