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Ad Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Chester Manifold, VRC Chairman, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Flemington Racecourse. (Argus Collection, Fairfax Photographic)

1954: A Royal visit remembered

27 February 2024 Written by VRC

In 1954 the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Flemington Racecourse as part of three Royal Tours to Melbourne. Seventy years since that first visit, we remember her times at Flemington and her ties with our Australian horses, jockeys and trainers.

Her Majesty visited Flemington on three occasions in 1954, 1963 and 1977 and the Queen’s horse Arabian Story finished sixth in the 1997 Melbourne Cup. Her love of horses and the sport of racing is well-documented, and she was an incredible ambassador for the animal and the industry.

Her Majesty visited Flemington on three occasions in 1954, 1963 and 1977 and The Queen’s horse Arabian Story finished sixth in the 1997 Melbourne Cup.

She was just a young, newly crowned Queen when she first visited Flemington in 1954. As part of the Australian Royal Tour, the VRC held a special Royal Race Meeting in February to mark Her Majesty’s visit, featuring the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Duke of Edinburgh Australian Cup.

Accompanied by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty visited on Saturday 27 February 1954. A Melbourne Cup-sized crowd of 71,000 packed into the course in the sunshine to greet the royal couple, who arrived via the straight in an open-top limousine escorted by mounted police. Sir Chester Manifold, Chairman of the VRC, greeted the Queen and Prince Philip at the mounting yard.

From left: Sir Chester Manifold, VRC Chairman, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. (Argus Collection, Fairfax Photographic)

Flemington’s big autumn races had been brought forward for this super Saturday, including the Newmarket Handicap, won by Birdwood. Champion jockey Bill Williamson won the Duke of Edinburgh Australian Cup on Sunish. The feature was the inaugural VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes, won by favourite Cromis, ridden by Jack Purtell.

The Queen presented a special trophy to proud owner and club Vice-Chairman, E.A. (Ted) Underwood who had sat with her in the Royal Box in the Members’ Stand during the race. Some racegoers spent the afternoon watching out for the Queen, while she characteristically had her focus on the horses and the races.