Carlton House (right), during training session in Newmarket. Image Credit: Supplied

Legend has it that the Queen never gambles on her own horses. However it is said that she does enjoy the occasional flutter. So traditionally on Derby Day, a sweepstake/raffle is organised in the royal box and everyone wagers a pound. The winner walks away with a prize of £16.

Come Saturday, June 4, there will be a lot more at stake for Her Majesty when Epsom hosts the 232nd running of Britain's premier horse racing, where her horse Carlton House is the red-hot favourite. The race carries a prize of £1,250,000 which seems a lot more than the £16 she would have won in her royal box game of chance.

See video here: Carlton House winning the Totesport Dante Stakes

But money is hardly the motivation for the Queen. She seeks a far greater prize, as the Derby is the one Classic that has eluded her in her 59 years as monarch. In fact it is over 102 years since the race produced a royal winner after King Edward VII's Minoru triumphed in 1909.

The Queen herself has sent nine representatives to contest the 2,400-metre race, with the closest she has come to winning being the time Aureole finished second to Pinza in 1953. Since then she has seen a succession of runners fail to conquer the challenge of Epsom, with her last disappointment coming in 1981 when Church Parade took fifth place behind the imperious Shergar.

But this year, the scenario is a little bit different. Carlton House, gifted to her by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has given her a realistic chance of breaking her duck.

The gift was Shaikh Mohammad's way of repaying a gesture that saw the Queen present him with a horse called Highland Glen, who subsequently became a winner for his Godolphin operation in Dubai.

In 12 days' time she will find out if Carlton House is the best gift she has ever received.

Fingers crossed

Gulf News contacted John Warren, her racing manager and bloodstock adviser, to find out how the Queen is coping with the huge attention her Derby hopeful is getting, the excitement and the mounting pressure leading up to D-day.

"As far as Her Majesty is concerned it's a great thrill to her and she's very much looking forward to seeing Carlton House run at Epsom," Warren said over the telephone from his Highclere Stud in England.

"Unfortunately the hardest part is the wait. Horses are horses and she is aware, perhaps more than anybody else, that anything can happen over the next couple of days. But she's keeping her fingers crossed.

"Winning will obviously mean a lot for her and will be absolutely fantastic for racing. I think we all saw the level of interest that the Royal Wedding generated earlier this month. Most people who follow the Queen know that horse racing is her passion, her deep interest, her hobby," added Warren who has been the Queen's adviser since 2001, when he succeeded his late father-in-law, the Earl of Carnarvon.

"Horse racing allows people to see a side of Her Majesty that they don't get to see when she's doing her public duties. Perhaps if she wasn't the Queen, she would have made a wonderful trainer.

"She has an unique affinity with horses and quite clearly loves being with them. Her understanding of horses is extraordinary and she's very positive. She's always looking forward and never disappointed when a horse loses. She's very accepting."

Despite the Derby being what it is and a destroyer of many dreams, Warren revealed that there was an air of optimism in the Carlton House camp.

"There are several factors that have made us confident. Firstly, the horse ticks all the right boxes," he said.

Turn of foot

"For one both his mother and father were high class horses, so we're not too concerned about him getting the trip. Secondly he's a very good-looking athlete. He's got an almost perfect conformation and a nice turn of foot. Thirdly, he's trained by probably the most successful trainer in the world, Sir Michael Stoute, who is an expert at producing a horse for the Derby.

"And he's also got the services of the leading rider, Ryan Moore, who is a big-race jockey. So, we don't really have too many concerns at this point of time."

Warren also dismissed the notion that being caught up in the tension and additional publicity that Carlton House was generating was something they could do without.

"Every day is a step forward, another step towards the Derby," he said. "A favourite is always bound to attract attention but that's something you can't avoid, you can't control. What you can control is the horse's preparation and to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

"Carlton House came out of the Dante extremely well. Although he was very annoyed that he wasn't given enough food prior to the race and was shouting and hollering. Sir Michael Stoute doesn't like to give his horses too much to eat before a race as it can make them a trifle sluggish.

"But we have no complaints with Carlton House and we couldn't be happier with they way he is shaping at this point," he stressed.

"Sir Michael has always believed in the horse, even from his first race. When he won at Newbury he was pretty certain that he was a Derby horse, and the run at York in the Dante endorsed that belief."

Warren also made known the Queen's conviction in Stoute's horse wisdom.

"I remember her being eager at the prospect of having a possible contender for the Derby after the Newbury win. Then when Carlton House won the Dante, she was absolutely excited," he said.

"Again, with attention that the Royal Wedding garnered I believe that everybody wants the Queen to win the Derby. I think that it would be one of her happiest days if she does."

Great race

Asked what he thought Shaikh Mohammad's reaction would be to that victory, when he himself was attempting to win the great race for the second time after Lammatarra won under the Godolphin banner in 1995, Warren said: "He would be one of the first people to come and congratulate Her Majesty. He's a true sportsman and I think the fact that he gave the horse to Her Majesty tells you what a generous man he is.

"There is no doubt in my mind that should the Queen win the Derby he will be equally delighted.