London – The Olympic torch relay received a royal boost Wednesday as Zara Phillips, herself a contender for the British equestrian team, rode onto Cheltenham race course brandishing the torch.

Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was cheered by thousands as she rode the entire length of the famous track in south-west England at the end of the fifth day of the Olympic torch relay.

Among those watching was her mother, Princess Anne, who last week accompanied the Olympic flame on its journey from Athens.

Earlier Wednesday, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was mobbed by fans as he carried the Olympic torch for the London Games through the city of Swindon.

The relay, which started Saturday, has drawn enthusiastic crowds along the route. A total of 8,000 torchbearers will carry the flame across Britain before it arrives at the Olympic stadium in London for the opening of the Games on July 27.

Phillips, who rode Toytown – the horse on which she has won world and European titles – said she was overwhelmed by the occasion.

“It was unbelievable, actually. I'm shaking,” she told a cheering crowd. – Sapa-dpa