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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 17:52 GMT
Royalty absent and present
Conflicting feelings will be aroused by two royal landmarks at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

The Queen Mother statue, which will be unveiled at this year's Cheltenham Festival
A statue of the Queen Mother will be unveiled at Cheltenham

There will be sadness because it will be the first Festival since the death of the Queen Mother, National Hunt's finest ambassador.

In her honour, a statue will be unveiled by the Queen, an event which will be warmly welcomed by the Cheltenham crowd.

For it will be the monarch's first visit to the home of National Hunt since she ascended to the throne more than 50 years ago.

The bronze statue will be unveiled in the winner's enclosure on Gold Cup Day (Thursday) and will then be permanently displayed at a location close to the royal box.

The artefact, commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire, is a head study by sculptor Angela Conner.

The Queen Mother was a regular at Cheltenham, and many other racecourses, for over 50 years.

As an owner, she had 445 victories over jumps, putting her second in the all-time list.

THE QUEEN MOTHER'S CHELTENHAM RECORD
1965: Antiar won Stayers' Hurdle
1965: Worcran third in Champion Hurdle
1967: Makaldar second in Champion Hurdle
1970: Escalus third in Champion Hurdle
1974: Game Spirit third in Gold Cup
1976: Game Spirit second in Champion Chase

Ironically, her most famous runner was a horse that did not win - Devon Loch, who was leading the Grand National until inexplicably slipping up on the run-in.

The Queen Mother had just one winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Antiar in 1965.

But her best chaser, Game Spirit, did come third in the Gold Cup and second in the Champion Chase.

The latter race, which is the most prestigious on the second day of the Festival, was renamed the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1980 in recognition of her support for the sport.

In contrast, the Queen's appearances at jump meetings have been few and far between.

She is a keen racing fan but her interest has centred on the Flat.

While this is partly her own preference, it is also believed that she kept clear of National Hunt to avoid her horses running in competition with her mother's.

Fittingly, the Queen Mother's first winner - Monaveen in 1949 - was a chaser she jointly owned with the Queen.

First Love, owned by the Queen
The royal colours have returned to National Hunt

After the death of her mother, the Queen inherited her string of jumping horses, who are trained by Nicky Henderson at Lambourn.

Among them is the highly-rated First Love, who won at Folkestone in February to give the Queen her first winner over jumps since she came to the throne.

First Love was also the Queen Mother's final winner, coming home first in a novice hurdle at Sandown just weeks before her death.




CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2003

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SEE ALSO
'First Lady of the Turf' mourned
30 Mar 02 |  Horse Racing
The First Lady of racing
31 Mar 02 |  Photo Galleries

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