THE continent’s oldest race day, the Queen’s Plate, will be staged for the 159th time on Saturday, having first been run back in 1861 in honour of Queen Victoria, who had gifted the South African Turf Club with a silver plate and 500 sovereigns for the winner.

After her death in 1901, it was run as the Kings Plate during the reigns of Edward VII and George VI but reverted back to the Queen’s plate in 1952 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took the throne.

Whilst the race still maintains strong links with the monarch, being represented on course every year by the British High Commissioner, much about the race itself has changed since its inception. Today, the Queen’s Plate is run for total prize money of R1.5million and is contested over 1600m, where originally it was run over 3200m before being shortened in 1948.

The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate has become South Africa’s premier weight-for-age race over a mile which means that horses carry set weights, as dictated by the official weight for age scale, ensuring that the race is a true contest of talent and the winner is a genuine champion.

Some of the illustrious champions who have won in years gone by include, to mention but a few, Sea Cottage, In Full Flight, Sledgehammer, Politician, Wolf Power, Empress Club, London News and of course the undisputed King of the course, Pocket Power, who won the Queen’s Plate no less than four successive times.

L’Ormarins, the home of Anthonij Rupert Wyne in Franschoek, has been the main sponsor of the Queen’s Plate since 2005, shortly after Johann Rupert, an avid horse racing enthusiast, took over the reins (pun intended!) from his late brother in 2003.

In 2017, a decision was made to extend the Queen’s Plate into a two-day festival of racing. With no less than 18 races on the card over the two days and some of South Africa’s top equine athletes on display, coupled with world class entertainment and the signature blue and white dress code, The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Racing Festival has become one of the premier events on the horse racing calendar.

In 2014, it was listed by The Telegraph in the UK as one of the top five race days in the world – alongside renowned race meetings including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Paris), Breeders Cup (California), the Melbourne Cup and The Dubai World Cup – race days which require little introduction and provide a good indication of just how thrilling the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate race meeting is both on and off the track.

The 2020 edition of the LQP looks set to be yet another humdinger as reigning LQP winner, Vodacom Durban July winner and current horse of the year, Do It Again, and Champion 3-year old, Hawwaam, tackle the mile head to head. The in-form Adam Marcus stable yard saddles two entrants including Vardy, the recent World Sports Betting Green Point Stakes (Grade 2 winner) who is also likely to be in contention.

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