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I write this blog at 36,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic whilst returning from a hugely successful 2011 Royal Ascot meeting. The annual trip home reminds me exactly what got me hooked into the horse racing business. For the majority of my teenage years, I would make the trip to Royal Ascot to see arguably some of the best racing in the world surrounded by all the pomp and pageantry of a true British Royal occasion. This year was no exception. The only thing missing was the anticipated attendance of Prince William and his new bride Princess Catherine. I suppose we will have to wait for their visit to California later this month. The Royal family’s involvement in horse racing dates back hundreds of years. It was Queen Anne who first commissioned a race on August 11th 1711 on Ascot Heath with a prize of 100 guineas. That single race has now grown 300 years later to become the permanent home of Ascot Racecourse as we know it today, providing us with a Royal meeting that is run over 5 days with $6,000,000 in purse money. The Queen has owned horses most of her adult life and came very close to winning the Epsom Derby this year with Carleton House (finished 3rd). He will likely be one of the favorites for the upcoming Irish Derby. She also owns two stud farms and maintains a small band of brood mares and has had 19 winners over the years at the Royal meeting. My journey from Ascot is eventually taking me to Woodbine racetrack this weekend for the Queen’s Plate. With Canada’s strong ties to Great Britain it should not come as a surprise that there be a race named in Her Majesty’s honor. However if it were not for two gentlemen, Sir Casimir Gzowski and Thomas Patteson, the Queen’s Plate as we know it today may not exist. It was these two men who brought the race into close association with Buckingham Palace. On April 1 1859 the Toronto Turf Club, chaired by Gzowski, petitioned Queen Victoria to grant a plate for a race in Ontario. That petition was granted and “a plate to the value of fifty guineas” was granted as an annual prize and so the Queen’s Plate was inaugurated with Royal blessing, on June 27th 1861. Canadian racing fell on bad times in 1881. It was left to Thomas Patterson, the Toronto postmaster to right the ship. He was an astute businessman who had funded the Toronto Mail when it fell on bad times. He was a man who had had a privileged education in England having attended Harrow and Oxford University. He was adamant to bring the elite standards of the British upper class to the then rough and ready city of Toronto. Patteson formed the Ontario Jockey Club in June 1881 and with Sir Casimir as chair, they agreed that horse racing would be established as a Canadian institution if a member of the Royal family could be persuaded to attend the races at Woodbine. The incumbent Governor General of Canada was the Marquis of Lorne. The Marchioness of Lorne was Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. Sir Casimir then invited the Lornes to be his house guests in Toronto. Just by pure coincidence of course, their visit coincided with the spring race meeting and they decided to accompany their host to the races. Their plot had worked and Sir Casimir and Thomas Patteson had established Canadian racing as “the sport of Royalty”. Join us this Sunday for coverage of the Queen’s Plate, North America’s oldest continuously run horse race.