Dubai: One very illustrious man at Epsom Racecourse today will be rooting for two horses when the gates fly open for the 232nd running of the Investec Derby (Group 1), considered by many as the greatest flat race in the world.
He is His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, one of the world's most famous racehorse owners, who is seeking to win the Derby with Ocean War, a lightly-raced Godolphin colt who is unbeaten in two starts this year.
However, Shaikh Mohammad will also be cheering for the Queen's Carlton House, a horse that he had presented her in an extraordinary gesture for a horse that she had earlier given him.
While Shaikh Mohammad has won the Derby in 1995 with Lammtarra, who raced under the Godolphin banner, the Queen has yet to win Britain's premier classic in over 60 years.
The Queen has won every other Classic as an owner other than the Derby with Aureole's second to Pinza in her coronation year of 1953 being the closest she has come to winning the Epsom showpiece.
Trained by five-time Derby winner Sir Michael Stoute, Carlton House will be the tenth horse to carry her famous racing colours of a purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with a gold fringe, at Epsom.
Carlton House, who is a son of 2002 Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry, was presented to the Queen by Shaikh Mohammad as a two-year-old. The Queen named him after the famous London town residence of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, which was demolished in 1825, to be replaced by Carlton House Terrace.
However, his journey to Epsom has been headline news in most parts of the world. In the week leading up to today's race he suffered an injury scare that left his participation in serious doubt and only yesterday confirmed his place in the line-up with an error-free final workout at Stoute's Freemanson Lodge stables.
Carlton House, who was made 2/1 favourite for the Derby after winning the Dante Stakes last month, is being challenged for favouritism by Andre Fabre's French hope Pour Moi (3/1) and the Aidan O'Brien duo Recital (9/2) and Seville (11/2).
Godolphin's Ocean War, a Dalakhani colt whom trainer Mahmoud Al Zarouni describes as "improving all the time", is priced at 16/1.
"Ocean War is in very good form at the moment. He is improving all of the time and we don't know how good he could turn out to be," said the Emirati handler.
"He won nicely at Newmarket but was running a bit green in the closing stages. He was very sharp on his seasonal return but I don't know why he started watching everything on his next start. I am sure that he won't get the chance to start thinking too much around Epsom Downs and Frankie is taking the ride, which will also help."
Dettori, the most popular jockey in horse racing, won the Derby for the first time in 2007 on Authorized.
The Italian said he is ready to ride the race of his life aboard Ocean War and give Al Zarouni a first success in the historical race.
"I'd love to win it for my boss [Shaikh Mohammad] for the first time, although all eyes will be on the Queen's horse," said Dettori, 40, who has been riding for 24 years.
"I have only had a real chance of winning the Derby once, in 2007, because I was on the best horse," he told the Daily Star.
"This time I will give it a right go and told the Queen this when we chatted the other day. She knows I will be trying to ruin her day."
So will all the other riders as well.
Little known facts and figures
The Derby would be called The Bunbury had a coin tossed between two aristocrats, the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury, landed the other way round. Bunbury got his own reward when his horse Diomed won the first Derby in May 1780.
1840: A tale of two Queens
Queen Victoria preferred Ascot Racecourse to Epsom, especially after the caterers on the Downs — in 1840 — failed to provide bread at her luncheon. She never returned. In contrast, the current Queen tries to be at The Derby every year and, this year, has the added thrill of owning the favourite, Carlton House.
The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, won the race three times, the final time with Minoru in 1909, the only horse owned by a reigning monarch to triumph to date. It could change 102 years on.
1913: Death and disqualification
The only disqualification in the race's history happened in 1913, when the race was marred by the death of suffragette Emily Davison who was killed when running in front of the King's horse.
The 1952 drama film, Derby Day, starring Michael Wilding and Anna Neagle, is set around The Derby.
Lester Piggott was 18 when he won on Never Say Die in 1954 and he rode in the race 36 times, winning an unequalled nine times. His eight further winners were Crepello (1957), St Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1983).