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Harry and Meghan light up Royal Ascot as racing carnival begins

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, as she has done for over 60 years, led the Royal Procession down the finishing straight on Tuesday to get probably racing’s most famous carnival Royal Ascot under way.

Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, (L) and Britain’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (2L) react after presenting the trophy to jockey Frankie Dettori (R) following his win on Without Parole in the St James’s Palace Stakes race on day one of the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London, on June 19, 2018.
The five-day meeting is one of the highlights of the horse racing calendar. Horse racing has been held at the famous Berkshire course since 1711 and tradition is a hallmark of the meeting. Top hats and tails remain compulsory in parts of the course while a daily procession of horse-drawn carriages brings the Queen to the course. / AFP PHOTO

The greatest cheers, though, were reserved for newly-married couple Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who are appearing together at the historic meeting for the first time.

Harry and Meghan — who were in the third of the four carriages — later presented the trophy for the prestigious St James’s Palace Stakes.

The race went to Without Parole — ridden by Italian legend Frankie Dettori and trained by John Gosden — whose Canadian owner John Gunther said it was the best day of his life.

“To meet them in person is like climbing Mount Everest,” Gunther told the media.

“Base camp four is Without Parole winning and the peak is meeting the Royal couple,” added Gunther, who has had quite a season as he bred the US Triple Crown winner Justify.

The Queen for decades has favoured the more sedate carriage to bring her, members of the Royal Family, and guests to the meeting — almost as famous for its fashion than for its racing — compared to when in 1960 she galloped up the course on a racehorse.

The Queen — whose passion for the meeting is reflected by her not having missed a single one since her coronation in 1953 — was wearing a strking yellow ensemble with her yellow hat adorned by a blue flower.

She was accompanied in her carriage by her daughter Princess Anne, also a noted racing enthusiast, and her middle son Prince Andrew.

Princess Anne had become a grandmother for the fourth time on Tuesday as her daughter Zara Tindall, wife of Mike Tindall former England rugby international and a member of the 2003 World Cup winning squad, gave birth to the Queen’s seventh great grandchild.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, who has several horses in training, were also in the procession.

– ‘Tasted success’ –
The 92-year-old monarch will be hoping to add to her 23 winners at the meeting this week which memorably included Estimate winning the most historic race The Ascot Gold Cup in 2013.

Her hopes of a winner were boosted on Tuesday with Seniority — victorious in his two races this season — obtaining a spot in Wednesday’s 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup.

The Queen has tasted success in the race on three previous occasions, including Choir Boy, who won the year she was crowned.

She also has runners in the shape of Fabricate, who lines up later on Tuesday in the Wolferton Stakes, and Elector, who is entered in Friday’s Group Two race the King Edward VII Stakes.

The Royal meeting — inaugurated by Queen Anne in 1711 — is anticipating welcoming 300,000 spectators over the five days where the best European thoroughbreds will face off against runners from across the globe including the United States and Australia.

They will compete for prizemoney totalling £7.3million ($9.7million) on a card including eight Group One contests.

The meeting will also feature heightened security measures principally to guard against the unsavoury brawls that occurred at Ascot and Goodwood earlier in the flat racing season.

Random breathalyser tests at the entrance and extra sniffer dogs to winkle out those with recreational drugs have been introduced.


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