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FORMER Gr1 Investec Cape Derby winner Ertijaal (AUS) is to be aimed at the Gr1 Audemars Piquet QEII Cup, to be run over 2000m at Sha-Tin in Hong Kong on Sunday, 24 April. It carries a purse of $HK20-million. South African-born Douglas Whyte, multiple Hong Kong champion jockey, has been confirmed for the ride.

Ertijaal, the former Gr1 Cape Derby winner, ran on strongly for fourth place (beaten a head by the third horse) in last Saturday’s Gr1 Dubai Turf over 1800m on turf and trainer Mike de Kock said: “Ertijaal ran a top race from a wide draw. Douglas Whyte, who’d replaced Dane O’Neill after Dane was injured at the meeting, told us that Ertijaal could’ve finished in the first two if he was drawn in the first five.

“Douglas was most impressed and felt that the QEII Cup would be a well suited race. Ertijaal has really come well the last few weeks, he’s in top form and I believe he is at his best over 2000m.  I had a discussion with his owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum today. We considered things as they stand and Sheikh Hamdan agreed that we should press forward to Hong Kong.”

De Kock, who won the QEII Cup in 2006 with Team Valor’s Irridescence (Weichong Marwing) and again in 2008 with Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Archipenko (Kevin Shea), said that plans for shipping Ertijaal to Hong Kong are being finalised. The colt by Hard Spun will be accompanied by assistant trainers Mathew de Kock and Trevor Brown.

Mike de Kock said about Whyte: “Dougie knows his way around Sha-Tin, he’s won the race a few times too.” Whyte was successful on South African trainer Alec Laird’s London News when he scored his groundbreaking QEII Cup win in 1997; and won the race again on Oriental Express (1998) and Ambitious Dragon (2011).

The Audemars Piguet QEII Cup became an international G1 event in 2001. Back in 1975, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup was established to commemorate a visit to Hong Kong by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip’s visit to Hong Kong in 1975, and the race continued to be run annually each spring. It evolved into an international event in 1995, with Hong Kong horses competing against those representing Australia, France, Japan, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Photo: Douglas Whyte, Sha-Tin specialist.