The exact origins of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes could be considered slightly confusing, on account of the fact that it was a race known as the Knights’ Royal Stakes that was first run in 1947, but was re-named as the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1955. That isn’t too confusing in and of itself, but the race is considered to have begun in 1955, with former records all but forgotten. Regardless, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was first run in 1955 and was held at Ascot in September. As a curious quirk, the first three of the race’s winners were all trained in France.
Run over one mile on the straight, the race is open to horses aged three and over. Three-year-olds have weight information of nine stone and one pound, whilst four-year-olds and over take nine stone and four pounds. Fillies and mares, as has become commonplace in such races, are given an allowance of three pounds. When the present system for grading races was introduced, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was given Group 2 status. It was upgraded to Group 1 in 1987 and has remained there ever since, being moved to be part of British Champions Day from the very start.
Queen Elizabeth II became the monarch in 1952 and was coronated in June of the following year. She is the longest reigning British monarch, although that obviously wasn’t known at the time that the race was named in her honour. She did have a life-long love of horses, coming to represent a solid link between the Royal Family and Ascot Racecourse. There are other races named in her honour, either directly or tangentially, that take place during the week of Royal Ascot. This race was given its title in 1955, two years after the Queen’s coronation and thanks to the renaming of the Knights’ Royal Stakes.
The idea of knights sacrificing themselves for the monarch is entirely fitting, of course. Quite how fitting it is that the first three winners were French-trained horses is a difficult one to assess, but the race has been won by horses trained in Ireland, England and America since then, such is the multi-national nature of British Champions Day. When the decision was taken to move to race to the October in order to have it feature in the newly formed meeting, it was decided that there was no need to rename it and it kept its moniker. A Group 1 event since 1987, it enjoyed a jump in the prize money when the new meeting was created.
Having been worth around £250,000 in 2010, the race was worth £1 million when it was run a year later. That was part of the appeal of the meeting, making flat racing more profitable for all those concerned. Both Brigadier Gerard in 1971 and 1972 and Rose Bowl in 1975 and 1976 managed to win the race twice, though no horse has done so in the British Champions Day era. Similarly, Willie Carson won the race eight times as a jockey and Saeed bin Suroor won it five times as trainer, both before 2011. Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden and Freddy Head have all won it more than once as trainers since it became part of British Champions Day.
About The Race
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is one of the richest one mile races in Europe, such is the prestige surrounding the event. In 2008 it was added to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, meaning that winners of the race gained an invitation to take part in the Breeders’ Cup Mile automatically. That lasted until 2012, at which point it was removed from the series. When it was moved to October in 2011, that was in order to allow it to become part of the British Champions Series, which means that it is the culmination of that season’s mile-long races that are run on the flat.
There are six races that give horses the chance to qualify for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. The first is run in Early May and is one of the country’s flat racing Classics. The 2,000 Guineas is run over the mile at Newmarket racecourse, followed later in the same month by the Lockinge Stakes. That is also run over the mile, but the race takes place at Newbury Racecourse. The Queen Anne Stakes, meanwhile, is one of two of the qualifying races that takes place at Ascot, being run during the week of Royal Ascot in mid-June over one mile, giving horses a taste of what the October race will be like.
The other race that does the same thing is the St James’s Palace Stakes. Its place in Royal Ascot’s meeting means that it presents horses with effectively the same conditions that they’ll face when running in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, perhaps offering a slight advantage. The Sussex Stakes is run over the mile at Goodwood in late July, whilst the Sun Chariot Stakes is the second of the qualifying races to be run over the mile at Newmarket. As you can imagine, this is a popular race for horses to run in and often has a competitive field, making it a thrilling one to watch.
There is plenty of trivia that we’ve already given you about this race, with the following being another thing you might find interesting:
The Finishing Time Is Around 1 Minute 45
When you’re looking at which horses to back in this race, it helps to get a sense of how good they are at running the mile in the time necessary to win the race. The quickest time that a horse has completed the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in at the time of writing is the 1:38.53 that Minding managed in 2016.
That was slightly faster than Frankel’s impressive run in 2011, when he won the race with a time of 1:39.45. Generally speaking, you’re looking at about one minute and 45, with the longest time taken to date being the 1:46.28 that Charm Spirit required to win it in 2014.
First run as the Knights’ Royal Stakes, the race was renamed as the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1955 in honour of the newly coronated Queen. The official history dates back to then, with the most successful jockey of all time being Willie Carson thanks to his eight wins. They were all before the race was moved to October in order to become part of British Champions Day, with the same being true of Saeed bin Suroor’s five wins as trainer. Three trainers have won the race more than once in the British Champions Series era, with Aidan O’Brien, Freddy Head and John Gosden all managing it to date.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the culmination of the mile category of races run in the British Champions Series, with horses having numerous opportunities to qualify in order to take part in it. The Queen Anne Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes both take place during the week of Royal Ascot, giving horses a chance to effectively try out the course and conditions before the final. Open to horses aged three-years-old and above, there are several rules in place around weight in order to try to make the event as fair as possible to all of the horses running in it.