Pride in royal welcome
It was an honour to be involved in the reception that greeted the queen at the Irish National Stud yesterday morning.
My wife Mary and I were invited, along with the seven other Irish trainers and their partners who were responsible for the 13 Irish winners at this year's Cheltenham Festival in March.
The whole thing went brilliantly, so enormous credit is due to the stud's chairperson Lady O'Reilly, as well as chief executive John Osborne, for putting on such a tremendous presentation of our bloodstock industry.
On arrival, we were treated to a lovely breakfast. With many racing and local people in attendance, we hardly felt the time pass as we chatted away among ourselves. At around 10.30, we were moved into position for the queen's arrival. Jessie Harrington, the only woman in the trainers' deputation, took charge at this point.
She made sure our buttons were done up, ordered hands out of pockets and demanded that Mouse Morris dispose of his chewing gum. No better woman to crack the whip!
When Her Majesty arrived just after 11.0, she was welcomed by four stunning horses and riders from the Irish Army Equitation School. They were representing Horse Sport Ireland, and it was a lovely touch with which to begin.
The queen then went to speak with people from the Racing Academy and Centre of Education, visited the stallions and met and observed the farriers at work. Once she had been to see the retirees Florida Pearl and Vintage Crop, she met the racing folk.
First up were the connections of Arkle, whose skeleton is on view at the stud. Mrs Baker, a daughter of Arkle's breeder Alison Baker, was there, as was Jim Dreaper, whose father Tom trained Arkle. Two of his jockeys, TP Burns and Paddy Woods, were present, along with Willie Robinson, who rode Mill House, Arkle's great rival.
Jessie then introduced the queen to the rest of us trainers. The queen had opened the Montreal Olympics in 1976 with Mouse's father Lord Killanin, who was president of the International Olympic Committee, which immediately gave Mouse something to talk about with her.
She was remarkably generous with her time, and you got the impression that she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
On greeting Ian Ferguson, who told her that he was based near the Giant's Causeway, the queen replied: "Oh, right at the very top!"
When it came to my turn, we spoke of Special Cargo, her mother's 1984 Whitbread Gold Cup hero that I purchased as a foal.
Having won the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Klairon Davis in 1996, when I met her mother, we spoke about that too. I also made sure to invite her to bring Carlton House to The Curragh for the Irish Derby after he has run at Epsom.
The whole experience was fantastic. Thankfully, there were no breaches of royal protocol -- everyone behaved impeccably. Mouse even desisted from smoking until the queen had passed by!
Before heading off to visit Sea The Stars at Gilltown Stud, the queen unveiled a bronze sculpture by Anthony Scott from Enniskillen -- appropriately titled Sea Of Stars, in honour of Sea The Stars, and the word she used to describe it was "ingenious".
It was a fitting conclusion to a wonderful morning, one that showed our industry in the best possible light. It was just a privilege to be invited.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie