ShareThis Page
News

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II attends Kentucky Derby

| Saturday, May 5, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Queen Elizabeth II, an avid horse enthusiast, got her first look Saturday at Churchill Downs, a racing icon best known for its twin spires and hospitality on Derby Day when mint juleps flow and fancy hats are in fashion.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, arrived a little more than two hours before the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, and went immediately to a private suite. The royal couple had traveled to Kentucky from Virginia on Friday, landing in Lexington, 70 miles to the east.

If ever a person could overshadow the horses at the Derby, this could be the year. Whether the 81-year-old queen planned to publicly acknowledge the crowd remained as much a mystery as which horse would end up in the winner's circle.

Race fans said the queen's presence added to the event's glamour. For at least one day, they were on the same footing with royalty.

"She loves her horses, and this is the place to see beautiful horses," said Mary Vandever, a retired truck driver from Torrance, Calif., who was attending her first Derby in the Churchill Downs infield.

For fans with no chance of getting an up-close glimpse of the queen, there was an alternative. A Queen Elizabeth impersonator drew long lines in the track's paddock area.

For a distinctive Kentucky flair, she posed with a look-alike of Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain.

Judith Gindy of Miami, the impersonator who refers to herself as Queen Elizabeth Too, admitted to being a great admirer.

"I'm very excited. It's my dream to meet her," Gindy said.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, arrived in Kentucky late Friday afternoon, touching down in Lexington, 70 miles east of Louisville.

Wearing a lavender coat over a light blue, lavender and white dress, the queen was greeted by Blue Grass Airport director Michael Gobb, his wife, Kristina, and their 9-year-old daughter, Kirsten. Kirsten Gobb presented the queen with a bouquet of pink and white roses.

Also there to greet the queen was former British ambassador Will Farish, who owns Lane's End Farm in central Kentucky.

The Derby was the queen's only public event in Kentucky. On previous visits to the state — the last time in 1991 — she stayed at Lane's End. Farish is providing the queen's tickets to the race.

Saturday's visit won't be the first by British royalty: Princess Margaret, the queen's sister, attended the race in 1974.

"Queen Elizabeth is certainly the most prestigious guest we've entertained in the modern-day history of the Kentucky Derby," track President Steve Sexton said.

The royal couple's visit to the track is part of a six-day trip to the United States that also includes visits to Virginia and Washington.

In Virginia, the queen addressed the Virginia General Assembly and visited the Jamestown Settlement before traveling to Kentucky. In Washington next week, she's scheduled to attend a state dinner with President Bush.

To prepare for the royal visit, a number of Churchill Downs workers took etiquette lessons and the lead chef planned a sumptuous meal featuring a variety of Kentucky ingredients.

For those in the infield, where the beer flows and a carefree attitude reigns, any view of the queen would be from a distance. While the Derby draws plenty of nattily attired fans, the infield crowd is more apt to be in jeans or shorts and T-shirts.

"I don't think it would be her cup of tea," race fan Betty Lyons said of the infield.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me