Off to the races

TORONTO — As jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva rode toward the finish line of the prestigious Queen’s Plate, the chance to meet the reigning monarch gave him that extra push for the win.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II

TORONTO — As jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva rode toward the finish line of the prestigious Queen’s Plate, the chance to meet the reigning monarch gave him that extra push for the win.

“(I thought) I’m going to do the best I can in my life to see her and I did,” he said moments after she presented him with a trophy.

The Queen received a warm reception from fellow horse-racing enthusiasts Sunday as she and Prince Philip arrived for the 151st running of the race at Woodbine Racetrack.

The Queen’s Plate is the oldest continuously run stakes in North America and comes with a $1-million purse, of which the winners get 60 per cent, but Da Silva said he was just so excited to meet the Queen.

“I come from a long way, working so hard and today meet the Queen,” he said after the race — his second straight Queen’s Plate win. “I’m so, so, so, happy to meet her.”

The Queen, a keen owner and breeder of horses, appeared to enjoy herself at the races, though the day was not without its faux pas. Both Dom Romeo, the owner of Big Red Mike, the winning horse, and David S. Willmot, the chairman of Woodbine Entertainment Group, were spotted placing a hand on the Queen’s back.

Earlier in the day, a carefully co-ordinated church visit was thrown for a bit of a loop when a woman broke free of the waiting crowd and marched right up to the monarch.

The Queen, who moments earlier had stepped blinking into the bright sun after the morning worship at St. James Cathedral, took the unplanned meeting in stride, smiling and chatting with the woman.

Security appeared reluctant to physically stop the woman who ambled up to the Queen and gave the monarch a commemorative St. James Cathedral tea towel wrapped in a black, plastic bag.

Sgt. Marc LaPorte of the RCMP said later that the Queen’s bodyguards saw the woman approach and deemed her not an “immediate threat.”

“As opposed to (creating) a scene or something of that nature, they just allowed it to happen and then slowly removed her out of the way,” LaPorte said.

“Our main focus is to try to balance the public access to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and keeping the security.”

The woman was one of hundreds of people who had been waiting outside the church since the early morning to catch a glimpse of the Queen, nearing the end of her 22nd Canadian tour.

About 700 more people who scored first-come, first-serve tickets packed the sweltering church to attend the service with the Queen and Prince Philip. The worshippers included many women wearing fancy, wide-brimmed hats.

The Queen, wearing a blue and white outfit with cream heels and a cream purse, white gloves and a turquoise hat, and the Duke of Edinburgh, entered the church as God Save the Queen was played, followed by O Canada.

At the Queen’s Plate the Queen had changed into another turquoise outfit. Her skirt had a multicolour pattern, which looked similar to maple keys and flowers.

At St. James Cathedral, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his wife, Progressive Conservative provincial politician Christine Elliott were among the other dignitaries who also attended the service. A very excited looking Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty sat with his wife and Lt.-Gov. David Onley across the aisle from the royal couple.

The Queen presented a set of eight silver hand bells engraved “The Silver Chain of Friendship 1710-2010” to representatives from two Royal Chapels of the Mohawks located on two First Nations territories in Ontario.

She also rededicated St. George’s Chapel, a section of the cathedral named in 1935 for the silver jubilee of King George V’s accession to the throne.

The Queen was given bouquets of flowers by several people outside the church who cheered as she emerged, and she even stopped to chat with a few.

Joan Armstrong was so excited after speaking with the Queen and Prince Philip it was all a blur.

“I’ve forgotten (what I said),” the 87-year-old said after the Queen left.

Her daughter jogged her mother’s memory, saying Armstrong told the Queen she served for England doing decryption work during the Second World War.

The Queen acknowledged her service and said, “Oh good, thank you,” Kate Armstrong recounted.

Even though it went by in a flash it was obviously thrilling for the elder Armstrong.

“Hooray!” she squealed. “I’m so excited.”

So far the royal couple has also visited Halifax, Ottawa and Winnipeg on their nine-day Canadian tour.

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