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 has opted not to attend her favourite event in the sporting calendar.
Instead, Her Majesty will watch 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.
This year, she has four runners.
King’s Lynn is entered in the King’s Stand Stakes today, and the Wokingham Stakes on Saturday, while Tactical, who won for the Queen last year, in the Jersey Stakes on Saturday.
Pied Piper is entered in the Queen’s Vase and Spring Is Sprung in the Windsor Castle Stakes, both on Wednesday.
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 will be 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."
Mr Warren tipped Tactical as a potential winner, adding: “He won at Royal Ascot last year, he won the Windsor Castle, so it would be marvellous if he was able to follow up for the Queen.”
Although the Queen will be absent, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are attending 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 Princess Royal is also in attendance, joined by her daughter and son-in-law Zara and Mike Tindall. The Countess of Wessex was also seen arriving at the racecourse.
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.