Prince Andrew sex abuse scandal spurs racecourse to change name of Duke of York Stakes

·4-min read
The Group 2 sprint was not founded in honour of the beleaguered Duke, but of his great grandfather, King George V
The Group 2 sprint was not founded in honour of the beleaguered Duke, but of his great grandfather, King George V

The Queen may have more pressing concerns when it comes to her second son, but as a horse breeding fanatic who still reads the Racing Post every morning, it will serve as yet another blow.

York racecourse has revealed it is to change the name of the prestigious six-furlong Duke of York Stakes in a bid to further distance itself from Prince Andrew.

The course is keen to clarify that the Group 2 sprint was not founded in honour of the beleaguered Duke, who has been stripped of his military titles and patronages as he faces a civil sexual abuse trial, but of his great grandfather, King George V.

For the Queen, 95, the issue is particularly poignant as the title was held not only by her grandfather, George V, but by her father, George VI, too before he became king.

She personally bestowed it on her son when he married in 1986.

James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship at York, said they did not want the name of the race to be a distraction during the next fixture in May.

“It was named in honour of Prince George who went on to become King George V,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“It has never been directly about Prince Andrew.

“With that in mind, however, we are going to explore how we can make the name a lot clearer about its history - and that the name refers to an entirely different Duke of York.”

He told the Racing Post: “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 as a replacement is the 1895 Duke Of York Stakes, which clarifies that it is a long-established race and has a connection other than to the current Duke.

Any change will have to be carried out with the European Pattern Committee, which regulates Group races.

Prince Andrew was appointed York’s first patron in 2015, when he officially opened the course's new weighing room.

However, the position was withdrawn in 2019 when he stepped back from public duties in the wake of a controversial Newsnight interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender, and Ghislaine Maxwell, who has since been found guilty of sex trafficking.

Meanwhile, Lady Victoria Hervey, 44, who once briefly dated the Duke, said she believed she was drawn into Maxwell’s circle because her presence “kept it more interesting for all the men she was entertaining”.

She suggested that Epstein and Maxwell were “definitely a double act”, adding: “It wouldn't have worked with him on his own. It was a lot easier for her to approach other women being female.”

She told ITV documentary, Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and the Paedophile, that Maxwell used her as “bait” to entertain Epstein's friends.

The Duke’s accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed she was forced to have sex with him on three separate occasions in 2001, when she was 17. He denies these claims.

A New York court will hear the case later this year unless Ms Giuffre accepts a potential multi million-pound pay-off.

He is under pressure from members of his family and royal courtiers to draw a line under the case in order to avoid further damaging the reputation of the monarchy.

However, in the absence of a financial deal, he could be grilled under oath as soon as next month as legal proceedings continue.

The Duke’s lawyers have suggested that Ms Giuffre is suffering from “false memories” and have asked to question her psychologist, Dr Judith Lightfoot, in Australia.

They also want to question her husband, Robert Giuffre, about her “alleged childhood trauma and abuse”, her relationship with Epstein and Maxwell and her US citizenship.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyers have asked to take depositions from two British residents, the Duke’s former equerry, Major Robert Olney, whose name appeared in Epstein’s “little black book” and Shukri Walker, who believes she saw the Duke in Tramp nightclub with Ms Giuffre on the night of the alleged attack.

Both sides have until Thursday to lodge any opposition or comment to the proposed witnesses abroad.