The Queen will be watching the opening day of Royal Ascot on television

Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo

The Queen is as regular a fixture at Royal Ascot as the horses and jockeys themselves.

But today, for the first time in her 69-year reign, the racing enthusiast opted not to attend her favourite event in the sporting calendar.

Instead, Her Majesty watched the opening day of racing on television at Windsor Castle.

The Queen had no option to attend last year, when the entire event took place behind closed doors. This year marks the first time she has chosen to miss the races of her own accord.

Royal sources said she may attend later in the week, but would play it by ear.

“It’s Royal Ascot but it’s not a traditional Royal Ascot,” one said. “There are restrictions, you can’t move around freely or host as many people."

The Queen arrives at Royal Ascot in 2019

Credit:  John Phillips/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

John Warren, the Queen’s racing manager, said she would “love to attend”.

He told the BBC: “She’s fanatic about racing, watching racing and breeding horses and has been going to Ascot all of her adult  life so it’s a shame to miss an event. 

“The plan at the moment is to see how it goes towards the latter part of the week and if the Queen’s able to come because she’s got runners, then fingers crossed it will happen.”

The monarch attended her first Royal Ascot in 1946 and, with the exception of last year, is thought to have attended every day of the meeting annually. 

The daily 2pm arrival of the Royal family in state landau carriages is considered one of Britain’s great traditions. 

The Queen has been in the winners’ enclosure on 24 separate occasions between 1953 and 2019.

More than 300,000 guests usually gather for the five-day sporting and social event.

The Queen pictured at Royal Ascot in 2019

Credit: Eddie Mulholland

But this year there was no royal carriage procession and a maximum daily crowd of 12,000. 

If the Queen does attend later in the week, she will not be able to examine horses in the paddock, as she usually does, because of the restrictions on movement between areas.

Mr Warren said: “In the past, she would have gone to look at the horses in the paddock even though they weren’t hers, because she’s so fascinated in the breeds, so she’d want to go and look at the stallion prospects of the future.”

He said the Queen was “totally fascinated” by horse breeding, reading the Racing Post every morning and following “every race that takes place every day of the week.”

“It’s a deep fascination and a very broad escapism for all the other things that the Queen has to deal with in her life,” he said.

“The Queen’s energy levels are incredible. She’s 95. She went down to the G7 this week, and trundled back on the train in the middle of the night and the energy will be raised higher again for a week like Ascot."

 Although the Queen was absent, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended today.

Mr Warren described the Prince’s interest in racing as a “slow burn” having generally followed the sport “at arm’s length”.

But he does own a few horses in partnership with the Duchess, who is “absolutely besotted” by racing.

The Duchess of Cornwall described horse racing as the Queen’s "passion in life" as the royal family joined racegoers for the start of Royal Ascot.

Charles and Camilla attend day one of Ascot

Credit: Max Mumby

 Camilla gave an interview to ITV Racing which will feature excerpts throughout its Royal Ascot coverage this week, and commenting on the Queen and racing, she said: "Well I think this is her passion in life and she loves it, and you can tell how much she loves it.

"She could tell you every horse she’s bred and owned from the very beginning – she doesn’t forget anything. I can hardly remember what I bred a year ago but she’s encyclopaedic about her knowledge."

Asked about Royal Ascot the Duchess replied: "Everybody who loves racing, it is the most special week, isn’t it?"

Charles and Camilla – who wore a cream dress by Bruce Oldfield, with a matching mask, and a blue straw hat by Philip Treacy – gave racegoers something to cheer when they arrived by car, and not the traditionally carriage procession, ahead of the first race.

A group of royal women entered the racecourse on foot, with the Princess Royal joined by her daughter and son-in-law Zara and Mike Tindall.

Zara Tindall and friends

Credit: PAUL GROVER

The Countess of Wessex was also seen arriving at the Berkshire racecourse.

The monarch, whose horse King’s Lynn is running in the King’s Stand Stakes on the first day of the famous meet, will be watching the racing on television from Windsor Castle.

Her racing manager echoed Camilla’s words and described the head of state as "fanatic" about horse racing, and said her energy levels were "incredible" despite being five years away from turning 100.

Mr Warren told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: "It’s remarkable. The Queen’s energy levels are incredible.

"She’s 95. She went down to the G7 this week, and trundled back on the train in the middle of the night, and the energy will be raised higher again for a week like Ascot."

Bookmaker William Hill has already opened a book on a favourite bet among racegoers, the colour of the Queen’s hat, with blue the early favourite with odds of 3-1.