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The Queen: England's 1966 World Cup triumph, Virginia Wade's Wimbledon, and a lifelong passion for racing

London, Sept. 9: The Queen held a lifelong passion for horse racing, and that will be her great legacy in sports, but she was also present for a number of great sporting moments during her reign.

It was the Queen, the UK's longest-serving monarch who has died at the age of 96 at Balmoral on Thursday, who famously handed over the Jules Rimet Trophy to Bobby Moore after England's World Cup final triumph against West Germany at Wembley on July 30 1966.

She also made an appearance on Wimbledon's Centre Court in 1977, handing over the Venus Rosewater Dish to Virginia Wade, Britain's home women's singles champion in the monarch's silver jubilee year.

More recently, she presented racing's Derby trophy to winning jockey Pat Smullen in 2016 after his successful ride on Harzand.

Crowning glories at the racecourse

The then Princess Elizabeth was said to have first been on horseback at the age of three, before receiving her own pony, Peggy, as a four-year-old. Later, she became an enthusiastic and accomplished rider, and this passed through the generations.

Her daughter, Princess Anne, and granddaughter, Zara Phillips, were both voted winners of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for their achievements. Anne was an individual European eventing champion in 1971, while Zara won individual gold at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics.

The Queen inherited a stock of horses from her father, King George VI, upon his death in 1952, and became passionate about the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses, some of which went on to compete in and win major races.

One of those, Aureole, finished second in the Derby at Epson in 1953, the Queen's coronation year.

She was patron of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association from 1954 until her death, with her own thoroughbreds based at Sandringham's Royal Stud.

There were Classics winners that emerged from the ranks of the horses she has bred with Pall Mall winning the 2,000 Guineas in 1958, Highclere landing the 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane in 1974, and Dunfermline prevailing in the Oaks and St Leger in 1977, the Queen's silver jubilee year.

Carrozza, leased by the national stud to the monarch, won The Oaks at Epsom in 1957, with Lester Piggott on board.

"She adores breeding racehorses," her racing manager John Warren told CNN in 2014. "The British bloodstock industry is very lucky to have a patron such as the queen."

In a 1974 BBC documentary, The Queen’s Racehorses: A Personal View, the Queen said: "My philosophy about racing is simple. I enjoy breeding a horse that is faster than other people's. And to me, that is a gamble from a long way back. I enjoy going racing but I suppose, basically, I love horses, and the thoroughbred epitomises a really good horse to me."

In 2013, she became the first reigning monarch to own the Ascot Gold Cup winner when favourite Estimate, trained by Michael Stoute and ridden by Ryan Moore, took the honours.

Moore later said: "It doesn't happen very often, but we got to parade Estimate down past the crowd, past the stands, and the Queen's box is very central above the winning line. I remember being able to look up and tilt my hat to her and sort of say, 'Thank you', and you could see how excited she was."

Away from the track

There was no sport to rival racing in the Queen's affections, yet she was famously present for those historic wins by the England football team in 1966 and by Wade in a year of flag-waving pageantry.

Her presence added to the gravitas of those victories, indelible moments in which millions were already heavily invested.

The Queen would often send messages of congratulations or support to sporting figures at pivotal moments.

Recently, she told the England women's football team – the Lionesses – their home triumph at Euro 2022 would serve as "an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations".

In a message to England's men's European Championship finalists in July 2021, she told Gareth Southgate's team: "Fifty-five years ago I was fortunate to present the World Cup to Bobby Moore and saw what it meant to the players, management and support staff to reach and win the final of a major international football tournament."

The Queen's Wimbledon visit in 1977 did not give her the tennis bug, and she returned only once, in 2010, walking the grounds of the All England Club before settling down on Centre Court to watch Andy Murray beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

She met a host of tennis greats on that visit, including Roger Federer who described it as "a big honour".

Federer said: "After 33 years there is huge happiness that she should visit this year for the fans. I'm just so glad I got a chance to meet her."

In 2013, she sent Murray a private message when the Scot became Britain's first men's singles champion at Wimbledon for 77 years, while she also praised successes of teams including England's 2019 Cricket World Cup winners, and New Zealand's 2011 Rugby World Cup conquerors. She also held a reception for the England team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

London's triumph, and a passion undimmed

The London Olympics was the biggest sporting event on home soil during her lifetime, and the Queen gamely took part in a James Bond comedy sketch alongside 007 actor Daniel Craig that was shown at the opening ceremony, pretending to show her jump from a helicopter and parachute into the Olympic Stadium.

She gave the speech that declared the Games open, and later saluted the efforts of those who made the 17 days of competition such a roaring success, declaring: "I offer my congratulations to the athletes of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, whose efforts across the range of Olympic disciplines have truly captured the public's imagination and earned their admiration."

Her granddaughter's medal success would have been one of the sweeter personal moments for the head of the Royal Family.

In her final years, the Queen's passion for equestrian sport remained undiminished, and one of her final public appearances came at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May 2022.

It was there that her five-year-old grey dun mare Balmoral Leia won the Highland Class 64 event and was also awarded the overall mountain and moorland honour, a timely triumph in her owner's platinum jubilee year.

Source: OPTA

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Story first published: Friday, September 9, 2022, 0:08 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 9, 2022