The Hong Kong Derby was first staged in 1873, 11 years before the formation of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and, with the exception of the war years, has been annual social and sporting highlight ever since. The race is the most prestigious local event in Hong Kong racing and nowadays offers once-in-a-lifetime glory to each winner.
Happy Valley Racecourse
Babsie, Champion of 1953 Hong Kong Derby
Corvette in 1976 is one of two fillies have won the Hong Kong Derby in the professional era.
Since Hong Kong racing turned professional, the first Viva Pataca, owned by Dr Stanley Ho in the 1980s, remains the only horse to have participated in the Hong Kong Derby twice (1980 and 1981).
Since 1981, the Hong Kong Derby has been exclusive to four-year-old horses and is the race that often determines that generation’s outstanding champion. The race was established, as with all Derbys around the world, in the tradition of the original Derby, first staged at Epsom, England in 1780.
Initially run at 2400m, the distance of the Hong Kong Derby has varied down the years, but was constant at 1800m from 1977 until it was increased to its current 2000m in 2000.
In tandem with Hong Kong racing as a whole, the overall quality of Hong Kong’s four-year-olds has improved since the turn of the century. The 2005 Derby winner, Vengeance Of Rain, went on to become the first Hong Kong horse to win an overseas Group 1 when he collected the 2007 edition of the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Derby hero Designs On Rome (2014) crowned Hong Kong's Horse of the Year and added the G1 AP QEII Cup and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup to his big-race haul.
The quality on display in the Hong Kong Derby is also reflected in the beaten runners. In 2014, Designs On Rome defeated his stablemate Able Friend. The latter ended the year as the co-third best horse in the world with an official rating of 127 - a new high for a Hong Kong horse - after an imperious victory in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
The Shamardal gelding went on to become Hong Kong's Champion Miler and Horse of the Year and was, for the first portion of 2015, rated the world’s best racehorse.
The winning time of 2015 victor Luger, at 2m 1.28s, was the fastest time since the race distance changed to 2000m in 2000.
The Hong Kong Derby is today the second most lucrative of all the world's Derbys and this year's (2016) 139th edition offers total prize money of HK$18 million, compared to a purse of HK$30,000 when Hong Kong racing turned professional in 1971/1972.
The John Moore-trained Werther took the 2016 BMW Hong Kong Derby. He followed the footsteps of his stablemate Designs On Rome in 2014 and Ambitious Dragon in 2011 to become the 3rd four-year-old who later won the AP QEII Cup and the Horse of the Year title in the same season.
The 140th edition of Hong Kong Derby (2017) offers total prize money of HK$18 million, compared to a purse of HK$30,000 when Hong Kong racing turned professional in 1971/1972.