British horse racing resumes with tribute to queen
DONCASTER, England (AP) — British horse racing paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday as the late monarch’s favorite sport returned after a two-day pause following her death.
Two minutes of silence was held at Doncaster before the first race of a schedule that included the St. Leger flat-racing classic, which the queen’s horse Dunfermline won in 1977 for one of her most prestigious victories.
A video showing the queen at various races through the years, along with some of her greatest triumphs as an owner, then played on the big screens.
“No one person ever has, or ever will, do so much for so long for horse racing, than did her majesty the queen,” narrator Brough Scott, a former jockey turned TV presenter, said during the video. “The sport worldwide will forever be in her debt.”
It was followed by a long ovation from the jockeys and officials who lined up for the tribute ceremony.
The day of racing took place as the queen’s coffin was passing through the Scottish countryside Sunday in a hearse driving from her summer estate Balmoral Castle — where she died Thursday at the age of 96 — to Holyroodhouse palace in Edinburgh. The journey took the hearse through Dunfermline, the small town after which her classic-winning horse was named, where a crowd lined an overhead bridge to watch it pass.
At Doncaster, Eldar Eldarov produced a late surge over the final furlong to win this year’s St. Leger by two lengths.
“The whole nation is saddened by the loss of the queen, everyone in racing has been hit hard as we’ve lost our patron really,” Eldar Eldarov’s trainer Roger Varian said. “We’re grateful racing went ahead today, I think it’s what she would have wanted.”
Horse racing was the big sporting fascination of the queen, who became one of the biggest faces of the sport both in Britain and globally.
She had more than 1,800 winners as a racehorse owner, with her jockeys always wearing purple, gold and scarlet — the colors of the storied royal racing silks also used by father and great grandfather.
Jockey Frankie Dettori rode more than 50 winners for the queen over the last 30 years. On Sunday he won the Coral Champagne Stakes on Chaldean but refrained from his usual flying dismount for a more muted celebration.
“There is a bit of an empty mood in the weighing room,” Dettori told Sky Sports. “I didn’t jump off out of respect. Listen we’re carrying on, but it’s still fresh in our memory and we have to deal with. But we’re going to miss her a lot.”