Origin of QEII Cup
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 captured 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), an English Private Purchase owned by Mr & Mrs E C Lowe, trained by G Smyth and ridden by P H Chan.
Audemars Piguet QEII Cup entered International Gp. 1 in 2001
The QEII Cup was just a local Class 1 or 2 handicap race from the 1970s to 1980s. In 1995, in line with the increasing importance and popularity of the Hong Kong International Races, the QEII Cup became an international open race carrying for the first time local Group 1 status. Four years later, Audemars Piguet entered into a sponsorship agreement with the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Audemars Piguet was added to the race name. In the same year, the Cup was granted International Group 2 status by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee.
The race has been proudly 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).
Prize money for the race increases 280 times
Prize money for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup has been rising dramatically since its humble beginnings in the 1974/75 season. 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.
Special notes about this race
The horse with the greatest Audemar Piguet QEII Cup record though is undoubtedly Viva Pataca. Hong Kong’s greatest ever prize money winner, now retired, ran in the race six seasons in consecutive fashion between 2006-2012, finishing second in 2009, third in 2008 and emerging victorious in 2007 and 2010.
Perhaps the strongest international supporter of the race has been South African trainer Mike de Kock who sent over his first Audemar Piguet QEII Cup runner in 2004 and has not missed a year since (to 2012). 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.
There is no doubt that the Audemar Piguet QEII Cup has captured worldwide attention from owners and trainers in the last decade. 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.
Lets not forget the achievements of 2010 winner Viva Pataca who went on to retire as the highest monies earned in Hong Kong with over HK$83 million. Back-to-Back Hong Kong Horse of the Year (2010-2011 & 2011-2012) Ambitious Dragon was victorious in 2011 while late matured Japanese star Rulership easily defeated a strong international field by more than 3 lengths in 2012.
The 2013 renewal saw trainer John Moore winning the race for the third time after Viva Pataca in 2007 and 2010 with multiple Group winner Military Attack under a superb ride by the talented young Australian jockey Tommy Berry.