Monarch gets chance to indulge love of horse racing

AS a rule, heads of State don’t really get to have a holiday when performing official duties overseas.

However, as a ruler, Queen Elizabeth is certainly allowed to have input into the itinerary for her four-day state visit to Ireland.

It is no surprise that some element of the official tour would include a visit to some venue associated with Ireland’s famed horse racing industry, especially given the queen’s well-known love of the sport.

Also few people would begrudge the British monarch a bit of down time after two days of formal and highly symbolic ceremonies in a hectic schedule.

The third day of the State visit could therefore be charitably characterised as a rest day for the royal tourists.

Today the queen will be allowed to indulge in one of her great passions at events that will undoubtedly enable the 85-year-old grandmother to consider her itinerary to be more pleasure than business.

While horse racing is traditionally known as the “sport of kings,” the queen’s love of all things equine is of the purest variety and not necessarily linked to her royal status.

For that reason her first visit to the National Stud near Kildare Town, where she will meet breeders and trainers as well as trainee jockeys for the Racing Academy and Centre for Education, will effectively constitute a holiday for Queen Elizabeth.

Among the horses which she will inspect is Invincible Spirit, the flagship stallion at the National Stud who commands a cover fee of €60,000, before unveiling a sculpture by Anthony Scott to commemorate her visit.

Afterwards, the queen will travel through the heartland of Irish horseracing — The Curragh, albeit not the famous racecourse — to the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

There she will witness one of the greatest flat racing horses of the modern age — the recently retired, See The Stars, who was unbeaten in his final year of racing when he won six Grade 1 races.

Separately, the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, will attend a function at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park hosted by Gaisce — the President’s awards scheme.

This evening they will attend a gala concert and fashion show at the National Convention Centre with 2,000 invited guests of the British Embassy.

Among the various acts due to entertain the royal party are Westlife, X-Factor finalist, Mary Byrne and The Chieftains.

Tomorrow, the queen will begin the final day of her visit with a tour of the Rock of Cashel, followed by a private visit to the famous Coolmore Stud at Ballydoyle in Co Tipperary before moving on to Cork for a number of events, including a visit to the English Market.

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