Queen Elizabeth II is off to the races today at the start of a four-day celebration of her 60 years on the throne.

 

Later in the weekend she'll make a trip down the River Thames, then take in a concert -- all accompanied by tens of thousands of her subjects, coming out to fete a monarch whose longevity has given her the status of the nation's favorite grandmother.

Diamond Jubilee festivities officially begin Saturday with a 41-gun salute fired by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade in central London.

Later, the 86-year-old monarch will attend the Epsom Derby, one of the year's biggest horse-racing meetings, where she will be driven down the racecourse in an open-topped car before watching the races from the royal box.

The monarch is a racing fan and horse breeder, although unlike many of her subjects she does not gamble.

The queen took the throne in 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI, and most Britons have known no other monarch.

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