As a race for champions, the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes ranks among the best on the Australian calendar.
It is the richest race in Sydney each year and the most valuable race over 2000 metres on turf held anywhere in the world.
First run in its current form in 1954 to commemorate the first visit to Australia of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II, its honour roll is filled with legends of the turf.
Tulloch, easily the best horse of his generation, won the QEII three times between 1958 and 1961. In the following decades the winners were no less impressive: Ming Dynasty, Tristrac, Might And Power all took out the race, while the incomparable Lonhro triumphed in 2003.
More recently the race has become the centrepiece of The Championships, Sydney’s Autumn Carnival meeting held over consecutive Saturday’s in early April at Royal Randwick.
And with its new position at the heart of The Championships the race has become a natural fit for owners wanting to prove their horses' credentials before they are retired to stud, while the vast prize money on offer means the event is now attracting the international interest.
When It’s A Dundeel triumphed in his last race before retirement in 2014, he had to beat a British bred horse owned by The Queen, which had been sent to Australia’s Queen of the Turf, Gai Waterhouse, to compete in such high profile races.
And when Criterion left his rivals trailing in his wake 12 months ago, it was the gallant Red Cadeaux – trained in England, but second in three Melbourne Cups – who was next past the post, with Japanese raider Tosen Stardom, a further three lengths back in fifth.
Should Criterion bow out with another victory before going to stud it is likely he will have to beat the very best from Australia and even further afield. Champion mare Winx, winner of last year’s Cox Plate, is being aimed at the Queen Elizabeth, while Tosen Stardom will again be jetting in from Japan.