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Picture: Michael Roberts with artist John Meyer, who in 2016 for the Queen’s 90th birthday conjured an image of her 69 years earlier as a young princess, riding on a beach in Durban in 1947, in what must have been a rare moment of unbridled freedom for the young woman who was to become the world’s oldest reigning monarch, as well as Britain’s longest-lived. The painting hangs in the Royal Box at Epsom. (Supplied).


Michael Roberts was so confident of winning The King George And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in 1988 on Mtoto he sought advice beforehand on how to address the Queen Mother. It was usually the Queen Mother who presented the trophy, so it was a welcome surprise when it turned out to be The Queen herself who was doing the trophy presentation that day. 

He recalled, “I was very nervous and then she said to me ‘I enjoy watching this horse run because he reminds me of his father Busted.’ and she said, ‘Busted had the same style of racing’. I remember thinking how knowledgeable she was, because I did not know that myself obviously! She then said,  ‘He must be a nice horse to ride,’ and I replied, ‘Yes, Ma’ am, all you got to do is aim him really and just don’t press the button too soon.”
Michael had been told, upon seeing her, to lower his head momentarily in the bowing gesture and to then address her first as “Your Majesty” and thereafter as “Ma’am”. He was also told to never extend his hand until she had first extended hers. 
Michael used to ride for the Queen’s racing manager Lord Carnavon, so was privileged to speak to her on a number of occasions. 
He confirmed she was very easy to speak to. 
He said,  “In the first sentence she puts you at ease and it then becomes like just talking to another owner.” 
He recalled, “I was riding one day at Newbury (in 1995) when Lord Carnavon came to me and said ‘Her Majesty would like a word with you.’  We went to the parade ring and I greeted her and she said she had just come back from South Africa and they had very kindly taken her to Greyville, but it had been so sad because the racing had to be abandoned (torrential rain in the preceding week). However, she said they had kindly driven her around the track (she came to the course to greet thousands of well wishers) and said, ‘It looks like a very difficult track to ride.’ I replied, ‘No, Ma’ am, it’s not that difficult,’ and she said, “Oh, but you’re turning all the time,” and I said, “Yes, a good draw does play a big part.’ She had also remembered the track from going there back in the day with her parents in the year the King’s Cup was presented (1947 and it has been run every year since) and she said, ‘What really fascinated me from the stands was how Durban has developed , all the buildings and this lovely racecourse in the middle of it.’ She was very impressed.” 
He added, “It was so fascinating for her to call me, I wasn’t even riding for her that day, to tell me about her trip to South Africa. It really felt special.”
Michael continued, “I saw her many a morning at Newmarket on the gallops without any security. We used to be told ‘The Queen is in town, behave yourself! She used to love coming to the gallops. She used to stand there just watching the horses go past with Sir Michael Stoute and then she would go back to the stables and have breakfast with him and with the head people. She used to love that apparently. As they say when she was with animals she was at her happiest.”
Michael revealed, “I felt privileged, so last Monday I didn’t come to the races and stayed at home to watch the funeral and pay my respects. I wish I could have been there to show respect for her because she was a phenomenal woman, it doesn’t matter what anybody says about her, and she loved her racing. That is really where her passion was, especially breeding, and to think she actually owned the dam of Nashwan (Height Of Fashion) but sold her to Sheik Hamdan!”