On Friday 17 May 1957 Frank Conlon, then a 17 year old apprentice lined up against a future Royal Classic winning colt at Haydock Park. The colt was Pall Mall, who was owned by the late Queen Elizabeth II, then only 31 years old.

Stephen Wallis of The Paddock and The Pavilion, looks back to a wonderful day for Queen Elizabeth II at the Lancashire course, at a time when Frank Conlon was just making his way in the racing game.

Frank is from a family of Irish jockeys, his dad and five brothers all rode winners. Frank, born in Cannock, left school at 13 and two years later he joined Bob Ward’s Hazel Slade Stables at Hednesford to begin his apprenticeship.

The six race card at Haydock Park began with the eleven runner Earlstown Plate, for two year old maidens at 2.15pm. The young teenager from Cannock was riding the filly Zurigo, for his own stable.

Pall Mall a son of Palestine, the 1950 2000 Guineas winner, was expected to go on to greater things. Zurigo with Frank in the saddle, had just finished 2nd beaten five lengths in a seller at Nottingham 11 days previously.

Royal jockey Harry Carr was on the 11/10 favourite Pall Mall, while Zurigo was amongst the 25/1 outsiders in an eleven runner field. Other jockeys in the 1st race included Champion jockey Doug Smith, Manny Mercer, Bill Rickaby, and the leading apprentice Greville Starkey.

“I would have been 6st 9Ibs in those days,” said Frank. Zurigo, one of five fillies in the race carried 8st 7Ibs, 3Ibs less than the colts. Before the race Frank remembered his trainer jokingly saying, “Don’t beat The Queen’s horse as I have a treble on her horses.”

Pall Mall racing on his own took the lead just after halfway from Lord Zetland’s filly, Ulupi’s Sister and went on to win comfortably by five lengths. Zurigo, who never reached the leaders finished 6th.

Pall Mall was the first horse to represent Queen Elizabeth II at Haydock and 17th May 1957 proved a special one for her.  The Monarch along with her trainer, Captain (later Sir) Cecil Boyd Rochfort and jockey Harry Carr completed a treble, with wins by Atlas (4th race) and Might and Main (6th race). The Daily Mirror’s racing headline read a “Royal Field Day for the punters.”

Atlas was preparing for the Ascot Gold Cup where he came 5th, while as a three year old, he had won the Dee Stakes and finished 5th in the Derby.

Other jockeys of note to ride that day in Lancashire were Joe Mercer, the winner of the 2nd race and Australian Edgar Britt a winner of seven classics. Frank’s future close friend Lester Piggott was riding down south at Hurst Park.

Pall Mall went on to greater glory winning the New Stakes at Royal Ascot and had a celebrated three year old career, winning the 2000 Guineas and the Lockinge Stakes, a race he won again in 1959. As a complete contrast Zurigo won her next two races, both sellers at Newbury and Haydock Park, but failed to win in her next six races as a juvenile. As for Her Majesty, through the successful exploits of her fillies, she was the leading flat race owner of 1957.

Frank Conlon went on to be Head Lad to legendary trainers Sir Henry Cecil and Sir Michael Stoute, where he rode many of the best horses of the 1970s and 1980s. After working at the British Racing School for seven years as an assistant instructor with many of the top young jockeys of today, he moved to the National Horseracing Museum to work in the King’s Yard simulator room. Nowadays, he continues to coach some of the young apprentices who pop down after riding out as well as entertaining all the visitors with his many racing stories.

Recent news