The ITV Racing reporter Oli Bell tells H&H about his run-in with The Queen following an emotional win at last year’s Royal Ascot
Rewind 12 months and the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange was accelerating towards the winning post at Royal Ascot to clinch the Gold Cup by a short head. What followed was a sight to raise the blood pressure of the most seasoned security guard; a seemingly rogue morning dress-clad man charging onto the track, a Colgate white grin fixed across his face.
“I’ve always told myself that if my uncle had a big race winner and I was lucky enough to be on air, that I’d be ice-cool. I’d be so professional and everyone would say, ‘Wow he dealt with that really well, you’d never know that he had a connection with the horse’,” says Oli Bell with an embarrassed smirk when we meet at Sandown at the start of the Flat season.
“And then the horse crossed the line, and the emotion of everything was phenomenal. I literally threw my microphone on the floor, lobbed my hat somewhere and just charged down. I got about 50 yards, realised I was on my own and thought, ‘What am I doing?’
“When I look back at those shots it looks quite self-indulgent of me but I think it’s really important for people in racing to convey that excitement to the audience.
“It showed that at the most regal occasion it was OK to be a bit of an idiot and get carried away by this sport, because that’s what it does to people.”
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The following day it was business as usual for the now 31-year-old, who got the call-up to be part of the ITV Racing team when it replaced Channel 4 at the beginning of 2017.
“I was looking around gormlessly for an interview in the paddock, as I normally do, when [The Queen’s racing advisor] John Warren came over and said, ‘Someone would like to meet you’.”
After congratulating Oli on his uncle’s winner, Her Majesty proceeded to tell him that she had “looked out of the box and thought, ‘Who is that lunatic running on to the track?’”.
“I think moments like that with Big Orange, whether you’re The Queen or working in a betting shop, make you realise how emotional it is and how much it means to everyone involved,” he says.