The Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup
(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)
“THE CUP RUNNETH OVER”
Seasoned racing fans will remember the days when the bulk of the Durban July field subscribed itself for the running of the Gold Cup a month after the continent’s greatest racing extravaganza. The difference between the two races was marked. In the case of the July, it was the richest race in the country, and while the Gold Cup was well endowed in prize money terms, it lagged the July by quite a margin, but what it did have in its favour was the most magnificent prize in our sport.
Owners and their connections couldn’t resist the allure of the spectacularly embossed trophy, solidly constructed of the most desirable metal on earth. And so the roll calls of the two races were populated by some of the best horses in the land, and the age old tradition of breeding honest, durable horses with the talent to shine at ten furlongs and the stamina to stick it out for two miles, flourished on the stud farms of the nation.
Somewhere along the line, we took our eyes off the ball and money became king. We forgot that in sport, the trophy is what counts, if not for everything, then at least for a sizeable proportion of the prestige that comes to one rich man, when he beats another. Let’s face it, when the Springboks win the Tri-Nations, we talk about the trophy, not the remuneration, and so it is that in the hearts of all of us, the emblem reigns supreme.
Much has been done to raise the profile of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run sale, including the inauguration of the associated Ready To Run Cup, where the prize money has already reached R1,5 million, and where the stakeholders intend to take it to a staggering R2 million for next year. However, their respect for the history and traditions of racing, told the Summerhill team that the big prize alone didn’t do justice to a race that has thrown up so many outstanding competitors, and so the quest for the best trophy in the game began.
The search included the trophy cabinets of Phumelela and Gold Circle, and enquiries to the best silversmiths in London, Zurich and New York. In the end, the race got lucky. A Summerhill connection dating to the visit of King George V’s sister-in-law, Princess Alice, to the farm in 1922 was the source of the most splendid cup imaginable. During that same visit, the princess had made a gift of it to the Johannesburg Turf Club and somehow, as the race commemorating the visit had fallen into disuse, this beautifully worked piece of solid silver had been gathering dust for decades. Appropriately, together with four glittering “take-home” trophies, it is the centrepiece for the events scheduled for Saturday 6th November. Make a date - its one of the most thrilling moments in our sport.