LEXINGTON, Ky. – Queen Elizabeth II was in view at Churchill Downs for only a few minutes Saturday, but her presence was felt throughout the track.

Security was tighter than usual at main entrances, and especially in areas that require special tickets or access, such as Skye Terrace and the Director’s Room, where the queen was thought to be watching the Derby.

Ticket takers and security guards said Derbygoers constantly questioned them about the 81-year-old queen.

Is she here? (Yes, she was.)

What gate did she come in? (No comment.)

Does she use a wheelchair? (Um, no.)

What color hat is she wearing? (Pink with cream, not that they’d share that information with you.)

“Everybody’s asking and we don’t know anything,” said Travis Armstrong, a ticket taker who’d been at the Director’s Room post since about 6:30 a.m. “I’ve heard she’s supposed to be taken in there, but she’s going a different way.”

Some caught a glimpse of the queen when she stepped onto a balcony to watch the ninth race, but otherwise, she was kept out of eyeshot of the public.

One man who did spend some time with the reigning monarch was Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who was scheduled to meet the queen Saturday afternoon. First lady Glenna Fletcher was to present her with a music box by Louisville Stoneware that plays My Old Kentucky Home.

The governor, who received an etiquette briefing on how to act around her majesty, offered to let the queen present the Derby Trophy, but her security wouldn’t allow it.

Others in the crowd tried to make her feel welcome in very different ways.

Melissa Perry of Louisville doesn’t usually dress up for Derby, but Saturday’s race was a special occasion because of the queen ­ Liz, or Libby, as her family calls her.

Perry and her children Brandon Hart, and Andrea Rees, both of California, wore plastic headwear fit for royalty.

Hart’s was a plastic crown topped with tiny plastic horses, while the women stuck to rose-bedecked tiaras.

“Liz ­ I mean, the queen ­ I hear she likes when we dress this way,” said Perry, who has been to the Derby more than 20 times. “If I saw her, I’d give her a hug.”

Did it take any prompting to get her kids to play along?

Not at all. They prefer to be part of the royal we.

“It’s more fun this way,” Hart said. “Why do anything if you can’t have fun?”


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