9 December 2007

|The racing world is holding its breath. Whatever any closet republicans may whisper, it realises the astonishing advantage that royal patronage brings.

It will also dare to hope that the news of the immodestly named Royal Superlative may allay their greatest fear, which is that when Her Majesty finally passes away, no member of the Royal Family will pick up her racing legacy. It remains racing’s, and her own, greatest regret, that the second place in the Derby that Aureole achieved in the royal colours in 1953 has never been bettered into Epsom triumph.

But she has won all the other classics, was champion owner when her Dunfermline won both the Oaks and the St Leger in 1977 and the Royal Stud and the horses that colour the famous black and scarlet silks are leading players on the racing stage.

The Royal Family’s fondness for thoroughbred racehorses goes back centuries – hence the reference to the “sport of kings” – and it was Queen Anne, who in 1711, ordered the construction of Ascot racecourse. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will rightly wish to play down their entry on to the scene but they will both be conscious of the implications of where they are going. What’s more, the former has a score to settle.

Back in 1981, he was publicly and wrongly humiliated when a short-necked horse called Good Prospect got a fence wrong and shot him over its head at both Sandown and Cheltenham within the week. The world was told that this was something between incompetence and attempted suicide. In fact it was merely a couple of unlucky unshippings on an unsuitable replacement for his horseAllibar, who had dropped dead coming back from the gallops, and I can directly testify that at the time Prince Charles was fitter and more competent than any normal racing beginner.

He has never been one of nature’s great spectators, preferring involvement to viewing. But the hope has to be that Royal Superlative and the whole cradle to grave involvement will hook him as it has his forebears.

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