Proudly South African

Audemars Piguet QEII Cup

Viva Pataca

Top Record. The legendary Viva Pataca

The South African flag will fly proudly again at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Sunday for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, where Mike De Kock continues his unbroken support of the race since 2004.

De Kock has former SA Horse Of The Year Igugu as well as the 2011 Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach, the only Dubai World Cup runner to make the lineup this year, in the probable field. South African born Tony Millard’s Ambitious Dragon is also a likely runner.

Great Record

Labelled as the strongest international supporter of the race, De Kock sent over his first Audemars Piguet QEII Cup runner in 2004 and has not missed a year since . He has won the race twice, with Irridescence, who was ridden by Weichong Marwing, in 2006 and Archipenko, the mount of Kevin Shea, in 2008.

While the brilliant Igugu did not enjoy a vintage season in Dubai this year, Treasure Beach remains a powerful support under the guidance of the wily De Kock. He last won in 2011 when scoring in the Arlington Million. He is very good horse who rarely runs a poor race, but does seem a touch off his best at the current time. He ran unplaced last year.

Tony Millard’s Amazing Dragon, a winner in 2011, is worth considering. Hong Kong’s two-time Horse of the Year, is also in the preliminary field for the Gr 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse next Sunday.

“We will focus on the APQEII as our first hurdle and, as long as he comes out of it in good shape, we intend to give the Champions Mile a go,” trainer Tony Millard said last Thursday.

Champions Mile

The prospective field for the Champions Mile also includes last year’s 1-2 finishers, Xtension and Glorious Days, as well as a small international contingent headed by New Zealand star King Mufhasa. Ambitious Dragon arguably will face a tougher challenge in the QE II Cup.

Another ‘SA connection’ is the Gr1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup winner Military Attack, who is trained by John Moore. He is a son of the newly relocated Coolmore stallion Oratorio, who now stands at Avontuur Stud in Somerset West.

Proud History

The QEII Cup was first held on 5 May 1975 to commemorate the visit to Hong Kong by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip. The Royal Couple were greeted by the then Club Chairman, the Hon. P G Williams, other Stewards as well as 40 000 cheering racing fans at Happy Valley racecourse. The inaugural running was won by outsider Nazakat who was owned by local Indian residents Mr & Mrs H T Barma, ridden by visiting Singapaorean rider A K Cheam and trained by Hong Kong trainer H M Cheung.

The Queen returned to Hong Kong in 1986 and attended the race in her honour on 22 October. The royal renewal was won by the 20-1 outsider Forever Gold (by Whistling Deer), owned by Mr & Mrs E C Lowe, trained by G Smyth and ridden by P H Chan.

The race has been sponsored by Audemars Piguet since 1999. The Audemars Piguet QEII Cup became an International Group One event in 2001, in 2002 becoming part of the now defunct World Racing Championships (former World Series Racing Championship).

Good Money

The prize money for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup has been rising dramatically since its humble beginnings. It started off as a race offering a small sum of HK$50,000 in 1975 but the sponsorship of Audemars Piguet saw prize money shoot up to HK$5.35 million in 1999. Ten years down the road, the purse money of the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup stands at HK$14 million or 280 times what it was in 1975.

The horse with the greatest Audemar Piguet QEII Cup record is undoubtedly Viva Pataca. Hong Kong’s retired greatest ever money earner, ran in the race six seasons in succession between 2006-2012, finishing second in 2009, third in 2008 and emerging victorious in 2007 and 2010.

Champions

Many top-class champions including Vengeance of Rain, Irridescence, Viva Pataca and Archipenko have all continued to build their reputations after taking the Audemar Piguet QEII Cup; and the great mare Ouija Board, following her defeat by two heads in the Audemar Piguet QEII Cup of 2006 which cost her the bonus after her Vase victory the previous year, went on to her second triumph at the Breeders’ Cup.

Back-to-Back Hong Kong Horse of the Year (2010-2011 & 2011-2012) Ambitious Dragon was victorious in 2011 while late maturing Japanese star Rulership easily defeated a strong international field by more than 3 lengths in 2012.

It should be a great race!

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