HONG KONG – The finest local horses will lock horns in a clash of the generations in the Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 2000m at Sha Tin on 29 April, in which four highly talented raiders from Ireland, Japan, France and South Africa are among the 14 selected runners.
This year’s AP QEII Cup brings together the past two G1 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby winners in reigning Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon and this year’s victor, Fay Fay.
This meeting of the generations adds an intriguing twist to a race that is further enhanced by the presence among the selected runners of G1 Irish Derby hero Treasure Beach, high-class Japanese challenger Rulership, redoubtable South African raider Viscount Nelson and returning French contender Chinchon.
“I am pleased with the calibre of horses we have among the selected runners for this year’s AP QEII Cup and I am looking forward to an exciting renewal,” said Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, William A Nader.
“To have our established champion, Ambitious Dragon, going up against Fay Fay and his fellow rising stars of the Hong Kong scene is an intriguing prospect in itself; to also have international Group 1 performers like Treasure Beach, Rulership and Chinchon in the mix is particularly satisfying from the standpoint of this being a renowned global event.”
Treasure Beach is a top-notch international performer whose Irish classic victory came after a narrow runner-up finish in the G1 Derby at Epsom, England, and was in turn followed by a triumph in the G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, USA. The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt’s latest effort saw him finish a fine fourth to Cirrus Des Aigles in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic.
Rulership, fourth to Japan’s Triple Crown sensation Orfevre in December’s G1 Arima Kinen, is a multiple G2 victor for trainer Katsuhiko Sumii and is bidding to become the second Japanese winner of the AP QEII Cup after dual winner Eishin Preston (2002 and 2003).
Viscount Nelson hails from the stable of two-time AP QEII Cup-winning trainer Mike de Kock and heads to Hong Kong after a fine second at Meydan behind ascendant star African Story in the G2 Godolphin Mile. De Kock, who initially took the prize with Irridescence in 2006, trod a similar path with 2008 scorer Archipenko.
Chinchon’s biggest success came in the G1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, USA, in 2010 and Carlos Laffon-Parias’ charge warmed up for the AP QEII Cup with a G3 victory at Saint-Cloud last month.
In the face of strong competition, Hong Kong hero Ambitious Dragon is aiming to bounce back from his recent reversal in the G1 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan and reproduce the brilliant form that has so far brought five (local and international) G1 victories; the most recent being a stunning course and distance win over several re-opposing rivals in the HKG1 Citibank HK Gold Cup in February.
The John Size-trained Fay Fay will spearhead the young pretenders against the champion in a race that marks the first opportunity for Hong Kong’s 2012 Derby crop to test their elders on home turf in international G1 competition.
Fay Fay led home the strong-finishing Same World in the Derby, staged over the course and distance in March, with the David Ferraris-trained HKG1 Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile winner Sweet Orange third. Half a length covered the first three, while HKG1 Mercedes-Benz Classic Cup winner Zaidan crossed the line a further three quarters of a length back in fourth and all have been selected.
John Moore saddled Viva Pataca to a brace of AP QEII Cup wins in 2007 and 2010 and the reigning Hong Kong champion trainer’s trio of runners is headed by proven international G1 contender Irian. The G2-winnig six-year-old, fourth in this race last year, has filled the runner-up berth in the past two renewals of the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup. Moore’s trio also includes the aforementioned top four-year-olds Same World and Zaidan.
Tony Cruz-trained California Memory denied Irian in December’s G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup with a brilliant effort over the course and distance. The talented grey will need to overcome an uncharacteristic below par run in the Dubai Duty Free last time if he is to better his runner-up effort in last year’s AP QEII Cup.
Cruz could also saddle Pure Champion, while Peter Ho is set to run the 2010 HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup winner Mr Medici.
Thumbs Up, trained by Caspar Fownes, warmed up for the G1 test with an impressive HKG3 victory over 1800m at Sha Tin on 18 March. – Hong Kong Jockey Club.