On the 40th anniversary of Grundy’s famous defeat of Bustino in the 1975 King George, race sponsors QIPCO and Ascot Racecourse are celebrating “the race of the century” and denoting it the inaugural recipient of a new award entitled “QIPCO King George Diamonds & Pearls," which will annually honour a vintage running of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
To mark the anniversary of the race and the first “Diamonds & Pearls” Award, QIPCO and Ascot commissioned a new three-minute film featuring original archive footage of the famous race together with newly recorded interviews with Grundy’s trainer, Peter Walwyn, and Bustino’s jockey, Joe Mercer. At a celebration of the 1975 race at Kensington Roof Gardens today, Peter Walwyn was presented with a print celebrating Grundy’s victory, featuring memorabilia and newspaper cuttings from the race.
Interviewed for the film, Joe Mercer admitted he still gets emotional thinking back to the day his mount, Bustino, narrowly lost out to Grundy and said: “I feel very proud to be associated with that particular race because it was the race of the century.”
Meanwhile, Peter Walwyn reveals in the film his memories of training Grundy: “I knew we were on the verge of greatness (with him) and it was the King George that brought the greatness out.”
Given the moniker of “the race of the century," by racing fans young and old, the 1975 running of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes has become embedded in racing folklore. Appropriately, it was also the first time that the race had ‘diamond’ in its title, which referenced the then race sponsors De Beers, who supported the King George from 1972 until 2006.
As in 1975, this year’s running of the race sees the Derby winner going to post as a warm favourite to beat the older horses. The winner of the 2015 Investec Derby, Golden Horn, carries the colours of Anthony Oppenheimer, whose family ran De Beers throughout their thirty-five year sponsorship of the King George.
In a further initiative that celebrates previous runnings of the race, Ascot and QIPCO revealed that the floral sculpture commissioned this year to promote King George VI Weekend will become a permanent feature at the fixture. The floral sculpture of a galloping horse will be dressed in the colours of the previous year’s winning owner. This weekend the sculpture will be unveiled in the blue and white of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, owner of Taghrooda, winner of the 2014 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes following her victory in the Oaks.
Guy Henderson, Chief Executive at Ascot said: “We are appreciative of the excellent field that has assembled for the King George, which is always particularly special when the Derby winner runs.
“Our thanks go to QIPCO for their support of our great midsummer championship and their annual partnership with us.
“The Diamonds & Pearls winners, those involved in the famous 1975 renewal of the King George, are worthy recipients of the inaugural award.
“We are delighted that, going forward, we will have an appropriate tribute to the latest King George winner in the shape of the floral sculpture in the Grandstand, for all to see.”
It was announced in June that QIPCO had extended their partnership with Ascot for a further ten years, until 2024. The terms of the partnership include sponsorship of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, Director of QIPCO, added: “No other country can match the quality and heritage of racing in Britain, it is the reason why we support British racing through our sponsorship and our partnership with Ascot.
“The King George is among the greatest races in the world and it is important that its heritage is celebrated as we believe to do so serves to uphold its contemporary status as well.”
Each year the “QIPCO King George Diamonds & Pearls” Award will revisit and highlight a vintage running of the King George, celebrating the races that have confirmed the winner’s status as a true champion.
Ticket sales for the day have been strong and a big crowd is expected to watch Golden Horn’s attempt to join the greats.
With the new King George VI and Winning Post enclosures both sold out, there are only Grandstand tickets and the new Furlong Club package available for Saturday.
Gates open at 11am and the first race is 1.30pm.
The specially commissioned film, produced by Equine Productions, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Grundy and Bustino’s King George can be viewed here
A montage of previous great runnings of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes have been viewed here
A film showing the making of the floral sculpture can be viewed here