LONDON – Don't call her at the office Saturday — Queen Elizabeth II will be off to the races.
The horse-obsessed queen plans to kick off her Diamond Jubilee celebrations by attending the Epsom Derby. As one of her favorite events on Britain's horse-racing calendar, it marks a fitting place for the start of the four-day national celebration of her 60 years on the throne.
In a life filled with duty and public engagements, and with a family that has often been troubled, diversion in the gilded life of Queen Elizabeth II often comes on four hooves. It is possible that no other event on the crowded Jubilee schedule will give the aging monarch so much pleasure — even though it is the only major British race in which she has never entered a winner.
She has long been not just a fan and an owner but an avid rider as well.
RACING POST BROUGHT TO HER EVERY DAY
One constant in the queen's daily routine is the time she puts aside to scrutinize the racing press. It's a highly competitive field, and to stay ahead, she has to stay informed.
Her longtime racing manager, John Warren, said the queen has the Racing Post brought to her every day for careful scrutiny and thinks about racing "every day of her life."
Warren told BBC Radio that she "misses very little" in the racing world.
CHILDHOOD OBSESSION STILL GOING STRONG AT 86
Horses were a childhood obsession, and breeding horses and racing them have amused the monarch throughout her 60-year reign.
Biographers say that on the morning of her coronation, when Elizabeth might have been expected to be thinking about her challenging new role as queen, she was really thinking about horses. When a lady in waiting asked the queen if all was well, according to Elizabeth Longford's biography, the queen said that things were going fine, indeed.
"Oh yes, the captain has just rung up to say that Aureole went really well," the queen replied, referring to a favorite horse who was training that day.
Four days later, Aureole just missed giving the queen a coronation year victory in the Derby, finishing second.
A SPECIAL CURE
Longford recorded that the queen later suggested that Aureole's excitable temperament might be tamed by a neurologist who recommended "the laying on of hands" — placing head and hands on the horse while he ate.
The treatment, Longford said, turned Aureole from an also-ran in 1953 into a winner at Epsom in the 1954 Coronation Cup and went on to make the queen the leading British owner in terms of prize money the following year.
Aureole was the first of 10 horses which have carried her royal colors in the Derby.
Last year her horse Carlton House was the favorite but finished third.
"The only thing the queen said, staring at the television with her hands behind her back, was 'I think he's just too far back,'" Warren said.
"She would make a wonderful racehorse trainer because she's got the wonderful attribute of not hitting a down when there are issues. She keeps her mind on a level plain," Warren added.
Carlton House gave the queen a victory on Thursday, winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park.
WAS THAT THE QUEEN?
The bit of video that shows the queen at her most animated in public was made at a horse race, showing the usually reserved monarch grabbing her binoculars and dashing out of the royal box as one of her horses surged to the front.
The queen's bet paid 16 pounds ($25).
TRAVELS WITH THE QUEEN
When she made her historic visit to Ireland last year, the first by a British monarch to the republic, she made sure to visit the Irish National Stud, spending long hours in private conversations there.
On a private visit to the United States in 1984, she headed to Kentucky to visit top breeders. She returned several times, often as a guest of William Farish, a breeder and former U.S. ambassador to Britain. In 2007, the queen attended the Kentucky Derby, one of America's premier horse races.
Among the 600 charitable organizations of which the queen is patron are The British Horse Society, The Fell Pony Society, The Highland Pony Society, The Shire Horse Society, The Welsh Pony and Cob Society and the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association.
The queen knows the names of all 30 horses kept at the Royal Mews in London, according to her website.
The Royal Stud, founded at Hampton Court in the 16th century, now includes studs at Sandringham, Wolferton and Polhampton. The queen has about two dozen horses in training each season.
One of the queen's favorite horses was Burmese, a black mare donated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. The queen rode the horse at every Trooping the Color parade, an annual birthday celebration, between 1969 and 1986.