Plenipotentiary’s Cup



Racing Force; Legating Power





Plenipotentiary (from the Latin, plenus + potens, full + power) has two meanings:
1. As a noun, it refers to a person who has “full powers”, as a diplomat fully authorized to represent his or her government as a prerogative (e.g ambassador).
2. As an adjective, plenipotentiary refers to that which confers “full powers”.





1846-03-10, since the first Plenipotentiary’s Cup, horse racing had continued to be one of the few social activities that truly brought the diverse cultures of Hong Kong together.
The Plenipotentiary’s Cup was considered one of the most important events in every annual race meeting.
It was because Governors usually presented the trophy to the champions personally.
But the trophy race had a difficult commencement.
Then it disappeared from Hong Kong race programme since 1856.





1841-08-10 Sir Henry Pottinger arrived in China to replace Elliot as plenipotentiary.
But racing related to Hong Kong had been held in Macao for a few more years until Happy Valley was ready.


In November, David Jardine in Canton wrote to his brother Andrew in Scotland:
“There are great preparations making at Hongkong for a race meeting to come off in the beginning of next month. Sir J. Davis has given a cup of $200!!! for which Joseph & I have decided to start SAINT ANDREW, as we think it would be a pity that he should leave China without one trial for the object for which he was more immediately sent on. Joseph says he has got him into splendid order. Joseph is jockey; we shall send him home to you in January or February by the first good ship & Captain that offers.”


The Plenipotentiary’s Cup, first presented by Sir John Davis, became the principal race at all the early Hong Kong meetings.
As the second Governor of Hong Kong Sir John Francis Davis, who also held the position of Plenipotentiary in China of Britain.


It was said that the poor reputation of Sir Davis once led to no running of the race.
So great was the feeling against him that not a single horse was entered for the event.


1848-02-07 Monday (The First Day of Annual Race Meeting)
Some of the matches were very beautiful, particularly those, for the Plenipotentiary’s cup and the Canton cup.
The second race was the Plenipotentiary’s Cup presented by Governor Sir John, Davis was for Walers, and won by GREY STYLE.
Gathered from subsequent records proving that the horse came from New South Wales.


Annual Race Meeting programme of 1849-01-15, 1849-01-16,1849-01-17 gives a little more information. Of the 17 events on three days.
The Plenipotentiary’s Cup was presented by His Excellency Mr G. Bonham, C.B. (Sir Samuel George Bonham).
For all horses. From the distance twice round and in (about two miles).
It was won by Mr. Davis’s KATHLEEN. Second, Mr Alexander’s GREY STYLE. Third, Mr Chance’s LOTTERY.


1850-02-05 The Second Day of Annual Race Meeting
The Plenipotentiary’s Cup for all horses, presented by H. E. the Governor Mr. G, Bonham, C .B.
It was again the highlight of the racing programme.
Arabs 9 st. 7 lb., Sydney and Cape horses 11 st. 5 lb., from the distance post twice round and in.
The race weights as in the Celestial Cup, was won easily by captain King’s KATHLEEN, a Sydney mare ridden by Mr. de Montmorency (59th Regiment), beating Jardine”s ST. ANDREW (Arab), and four others.


Annual Race Meeting was held on 1851-02-04.
The Plenipotentiary’s Cup was presented by Sir G. Bonham, k .c.b . for Arabs (9 st. 10 lb.) and Sydney, Cape, English, or studbred horses (11 st. 10 lb .)
It was won by’ the Sydney horse GOLIATH, part owned and ridden by Captain Stavely of the 44th Regiment.
Mr. John. Dent’s KATHLEEN (Mr. King) was second, Mr. Jardine’s MAGGIE LAUDER (Mr. R. Jardine) third, and the same owner’s ST. ANDREW fourth.
Distance 2 miles. Time 4 m. 13 sec.


The Plenipotentiary’s Cup (presented by Sir G. Bonham, K.C.B.) for Arabs (9 st. 10 lb.) and Sydney, Cape, English, or studbred horses (11 st. 10 lb .)
There were exclamations when in the Plenipotentiary’s Cup on the second day, the mighty PRETENDER was again disqualified.
It was, under the same conditions as in the previous year, fell to the same horse and rider.
It was won by the Sydney horse GOLIATH, part owned and ridden by Captain Stavely of the 44th Regiment.
Mr. Leslie’s QUEEN OF CLUBS (Sydney horse) owner up was second and Mr. Murrow’s STRUGGLES (Sydney horse) (Lieut. Burdon, R.N.) third.
Distance 2 miles. Time 4 m. 16 sec.


The Plenipotentiary’s Cup of 1853-02-01 was won by Mr. Barcham’s Sydney horse CORSAIR (owner up).
QUEEN OF CLUBS (Mr. Clarke, 59th Regiment) was second and Mr. Campbell’s PAULINE (Mr. Chomley) third. Distance 2 miles. Time 4 m. 32 sec.
1853-09-24 《The Illustrated London News》published an engraving named as “The Race for the Plenipo Cup”.
The picture giving a more distant scene was a record of The Plenipotentiary’s Cup race in 1853, with 6 runners keenly competing on the track.


Annual Race Meeting, first day, second race run the Plenipotentiary’s Cup.
It was presented by Sir George Bonham, 2 miles, Mr. John Dent’s 4 year old GOLDFINDER, later, BLACK JACK by that sterling horse FAUGH-A-BALLAGH, made his debut on the Hongkong course, and won (Mr. F. Chomley up) in what was till then the record time of 4 min. 6 sec. carrying 11 st. 10 lb.
Mr. Fletcher’s PRETENDER came in first but was disqualified as he dropped 23 lbs. of lead just after the start.


The race continued until 1855 and was not run thereafter, for unknown reasons.
The Plenipotentiary’s Cup was won by Mr. Jardine’s Arab GREY FRIAR (9 st. 10 lb.) (Mr. Magniac).
Mr. Fletcher’s PRETENDER (11 st. 10 lb.) Mr. Stuart, R.E., was second.
Jardine‘s great rival, Mr. Wilkinson Dent, whose LITTLE BO PEEP (an English horse) had a bad fall and broke both fore-legs in the same race.
GOLDFINDER carrying 7 lb. extra for his former win, or 12 st. 3 lb. in all, was pulled up.
This was the last occasion on which the Plenipotentiary’s Cup was run for.





After the distressing accident in the Plenipotentiary’s Cup in 1855 (Sir John Bowring’s first year as Governor) the event — a two-mile test of stamina — did not again grace the programme.
Its disappearance, however, was not necessarily the sequel to the mishap.
1857 Her Majesty appointed a separate Plenipotentiary to China (James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgi).
Thereafter, Hong Kong’s Governor were left to devote himself exclusively to this Colony.





CORSAIR may refer to: a privateer or pirate, in particular: Barbary corsairs.





Jardines – 《RacingMemories.HK》
Dents – 《RacingMemories.HK》



Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.





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