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Clare Balding reveals Queen Elizabeth ‘loved the naughtiness of horse racing’ and the jockeys would leave her in fits of giggles


Queen Elizabeth II was known for her love of horses, owning hundreds of thoroughbreds and racking up over 1,800 wins at the races.  

Sports presenter Clare Balding, 52, from Chiswick, London, whose grandfather, father and brother all trained the Queen’s horses, said the late monarch loved the ‘naughtiness’ of horse racing.

Speaking on Gyles Brandreth‘s Rosebud podcast, Clare said: ‘There’s a jockey called Richard Hughes, who was the most beautiful horseman, but he always stood there, very tall, at an angle and it made her laugh. 

‘If you stood and watched a race with her, which I have done, she’d say something like, “Oh, look at Hughesy out the back with his bum in the air, looking like he’s got so much horse”.’ 

Clare, who was a leading amateur flat jockey in the late 1980s, learned to ride on a ‘little fat Shetland Pony’, which was a present from the late monarch.

Sports presenter Clare Balding , 52, (pictured) whose grandfather, father and brother all trained the Queen's horses, said the late monarch, who died in 2022 at the age of 96, loved the 'naughtiness' of horse racing

Sports presenter Clare Balding , 52, (pictured) whose grandfather, father and brother all trained the Queen’s horses, said the late monarch, who died in 2022 at the age of 96, loved the ‘naughtiness’ of horse racing

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne celebrating a win at Derby day horse racing, in 1988

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne celebrating a win at Derby day horse racing, in 1988

She said: ‘She liked that world and was very, very knowledgeable about horses. And she felt most relaxed, and at home, at the stables, away from the pomp of her royal duties. 

‘She loved the way the jockeys or the stable lads and lasses were with her. I think she loved the naughtiness of racing.’

Clare added that the late Queen also had a great rapport with the jockeys and loved Frankie Detorri and Ryan Moore.

She claimed the royal would make Ryan laugh, even though he never ‘smiled for anybody’. Clare said: ‘Because I think she’ would say to him, “Don’t be so grumpy”.’

The presenter revealed the King may now be following in his mother’s footsteps after discovering a love for horse racing late in life. 

The King was overcome with emotion as he watched his horse Desert Hero win the King George V race from the royal box last year.

Clare said: ‘He hasn’t traditionally been a racing man. He loves horses and is a very fine polo player. When he had a winner at last year, I think it overwhelmed him how much he felt it for the first time. He really got it.’

Following her Coronation in 1953, the Queen travelled to the racecourses in Berkshire at least once a year to attend the event – and only missed it in 2020 due to Covid lockdowns. 

The late Queen Elizabeth smiling as she reviewed troops mounted on horses at The Royal Windsor Horse Show

The late Queen Elizabeth smiling as she reviewed troops mounted on horses at The Royal Windsor Horse Show

Queen Elizabeth makes Italian jockey Frankie Dettori (R) laugh during the presentation after he won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2019

Queen Elizabeth makes Italian jockey Frankie Dettori (R) laugh during the presentation after he won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2019

Her Majesty’s fondness of horses began when she was just four after her grandfather, King George V, gave her a little Shetland pony.

By the age of six she had fallen in love with riding, becoming an accomplished equestrian in her teenage years and has continued to ride for pleasure throughout her life.

From her first appearance at the annual Trooping the Colour to 1986, the monarch would attend the ceremony on horseback.

She first attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show as a horse-mad teenager in 1943. Together with Princess Margaret, the 17-year-old showed off her equestrian prowess by winning the Pony & Dogcart class. 

The Queen owned several thoroughbreds for racing after she initially inherited King George’s breeding and racing stock following his death in February 1952.

A lady-in-waiting taking the then Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret on a visit to Pets Corner at London Zoo in 1937

A lady-in-waiting taking the then Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret on a visit to Pets Corner at London Zoo in 1937

In 1974, the monarch's interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title, The Queen's Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated (pictured at the races in 1978)

In 1974, the monarch’s interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title, The Queen’s Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated (pictured at the races in 1978) 

Her Majesty¿s golden era as a racehorse owner was in 1953, her coronation year, when her beloved horse Aureole came second to Pinza, the closest the Queen ever came to winning the Derby

Her Majesty’s golden era as a racehorse owner was in 1953, her coronation year, when her beloved horse Aureole came second to Pinza, the closest the Queen ever came to winning the Derby

Her Majesty’s golden era as a racehorse owner was in 1953, her coronation year, when her beloved horse Aureole came second to Pinza, the closest the Queen ever came to winning the Derby.

She became the patron of many organisations focused on horses, including the British Horse Society, the Fell Pony Society and the Highland Pony Society.

Elizabeth, known throughout the world as a racehorse owner and breeder of true expertise, celebrated her love for the animals by dedicating life-size statues to two of her horses in Windsor.

In 1974, the monarch’s interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title, The Queen’s Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated.

The Queen’s love of horse racing resulted in her becoming inducted into the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame in the Special Contributor Category.

She was awarded the honour due to her unwavering and lifelong dedication to the sport in the last eight decades.

The Queen, who died on September 8th aged 96, sparked a huge love affair with equestrian in the UK, thanks to her own talents as both a rider and a breeder (The Queen, who died on September 8th aged 96, sparked a huge love affair with equestrian in the UK, thanks to her own talents as both a rider and a breeder (

The Queen, who died on September 8th aged 96, sparked a huge love affair with equestrian in the UK, thanks to her own talents as both a rider and a breeder (The Queen riding her horse Burmese at Trooping the Colour in 1969)

John Warren, who oversaw all of the monarch’s racing and horse breeding interests, said at the time that the recognition would be the source of a ‘lot of inner pride’ for the Queen.

The late monarch became the first person to gain membership of the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame within the Special Contributor category after being chosen by an independent panel of industry experts for her outstanding contribution.

In 2022, the Queen attended the Windsor Horse Show and was also the guest of honour at the equestrian extravaganza A Gallop Through History, the first major event of the Jubilee festivities.

According to her racing adviser John Warren, the late monarch was discussing ‘her love for her horses right to the very end’.

Mr Warren said he spent the weekend before the Queen died in Scotland, discussing her horses, as they had done so many times before.

‘We sat there for hours over the weekend strategising and making plans going forward’, he said.



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