Prince Andrew has plenty on his mind but the latest ignominy following the Virginia Giuffre scandal will not be missed by his mother, whose most fervent passion is horse racing and whose first read in the morning is the Racing Post.
York racecourse have decided to rename the Duke Of York Stakes, a prestigious race for sprinters run each year at its May meeting, in a bid to distance themselves from the embattled royal and the story will certainly make headlines in Wednesday’s edition.
The track’s head of marketing and sponsorship James Brennan told the daily turf bible: “The race has been with us in different guises, over different distances and at different times of the year, since 1895.
“It was introduced in honour of the then Duke of York, who went on to become King George V, and I think most of the pubs that are wrestling with this question come from the same root.
“We don’t want the name of the race to be a distraction from what is a good contest and we’re seeking to clarify the history and connection. The current favourite, though we need to go through the protocol of the European Pattern Committee, is something like the 1895 Duke Of York Stakes.
“That clarifies that it is a long-established race and has a connection other than to Prince Andrew.”
The current Duke of York is being sued by Giuffre, who is American, and has claimed that she was lured into the service of Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender who died in custody in New York in 2019.
Her lawyers claim Giuffre was “lent out” to Andrew for sex in Epstein’s New York home, his property in the US Virgin Islands and in London while she was a 17-year-old minor, meaning the prince is responsible for her “battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress”.
Andrew has strenuously denied the allegations.
The Duke Of York was actually appointed York’s initial patron in 2015, and at the time he officially opened the course’s new weighing room. Andrew gave up that role, along with a number of others in 2019, following his disastrous BBC Newsnight interview.
York is not seeking to change the name of the May contest completely, not wishing to sow confusion in the minds of the sport’s followers.
“Any new race title takes time to settle in and the whole reason we have [major race] titles is to allow everyone to track that highest echelon of the sport,” Brennan said.