Harry and Meghan light up Royal Ascot as racing carnival begins

Prince Harry attends Royal Ascot and his wife Britain’s Meghan, their first appearance together at what is one of the highlights of the horse racing calendar. (AFP pic)

ASCOT: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, as she has done for over 60 years, led the Royal Procession down the finishing straight on Tuesday to get probably racing’s most famous carnival Royal Ascot underway.

The greatest cheers, though, were reserved for newly-married couple Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who are appearing together at the historic meeting for the first time.

Harry and Meghan — who were in the third of the four carriages — are also to present a trophy later in the day for the prestigious St James’s Palace Stakes.

The Queen for decades has favoured the more sedate carriage to bring her, members of the Royal Family, and guests to the meeting — almost as famous for its fashion than for its racing — compared to when in 1960 she galloped up the course on a racehorse.

The Queen — whose passion for the meeting is reflected by her not having missed a single one since her coronation in 1953 — was wearing a striking yellow ensemble with her yellow hat adorned by a blue flower.

She was accompanied in her carriage by her daughter Princess Anne, also a noted racing enthusiast, and her middle son Prince Andrew.

Princess Anne had become a grandmother for the fourth time on Tuesday as her daughter Zara Tindall, wife of Mike Tindall former England rugby international and a member of the 2003 World Cup winning squad, gave birth to the Queen’s seventh great-grandchild.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, who has several horses in training, were also in the procession.

The 92-year-old monarch will be hoping to add to her 23 winners at the meeting this week which memorably included Estimate winning the most historic race The Ascot Gold Cup in 2013.

Her hopes of a winner were boosted on Tuesday with Seniority — victorious in his two races this season — obtaining a spot in Wednesday’s 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup.

The Queen has tasted success in the race on three previous occasions, including Choir Boy, who won the year she was crowned.

She also has runners in the shape of Fabricate, who lines up later on Tuesday in the Wolferton Stakes, and Elector, who is entered in Friday’s Group Two race the King Edward VII Stakes.

The Royal meeting — inaugurated by Queen Anne in 1711 — is anticipating welcoming 300,000 spectators over the five days where the best European thoroughbreds will face off against runners from across the globe including the United States and Australia.

They will compete for prize money totalling £7.3million ($9.7million) on a card including eight Group One contests.

The meeting will also feature heightened security measures principally to guard against the unsavoury brawls that occurred at Ascot and Goodwood earlier in the flat racing season.

Random breathalyser tests at the entrance and extra sniffer dogs to winkle out those with recreational drugs have been introduced.