The History Behind 'The Duke Of Edinburgh'

“IT is an absolute honour and privilege for us to host the Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar,” said Auckland GRC chairman John Roberts.

Peter Fenemor

12 April 2021

“IT is an absolute honour and privilege for us to host the Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar,” said Auckland GRC chairman John Roberts.

Roberts’ comment came following Friday’s sad passing of Prince Philip, the Duke Of Edinburgh, aged 99.

“The Silver Collar is New Zealand’s most prestigious race – year in and year out we witness a great contest,” added Roberts about the grueling 779m Group 1 event. 

Prince Philip raced numerous greyhounds in England highlighted by his victory with Camira Flash in the 1968 English Derby.

It was just prior to the 1970 Royal tour of New Zealand when the Auckland GRC, being aware of the Duke Of Edinburgh’s involvement in greyhound racing, made an offer to gift a greyhound to him.

The offer was accepted by Prince Philip who advised the greyhound was to remain and race in New Zealand and direct all winnings won by the greyhound be forwarded to the New Zealand arm of the Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Prince Philip was introduced to his greyhound, the appropriately named bitch Royal Commission, on board the royal yacht Britannia when berthed in Auckland in 1970.

While patting the greyhound, club officials asked the Duke if an annual race commemorating the visit could be named after him.

Prince Philip accepted and immediately advised that he would donate a trophy for it. On his return to London the Duke commissioned the royal jewelers Bravingtons to design and make the trophy. They created a stunning dog collar crafted in solid silver. 

The race was to be a staying event, named the Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar. The first running was held over 711m at the Kumeu Raceway in 1971 with Royal Commission finishing second.

Royal Commission strongly prevailed the following year and when the Governor General of New Zealand at the time, Sir Arthur Porritt wrote to Prince Philip to advise him of the victory, he received a reply which included the comment, “Congratulations, give the dog a bone”.

Royal Commission completed the “complete set” when she finished third in the 1973 edition and then was retired as the winner of 33 races.

An audience with Prince Philip was granted during subsequent New Zealand royal tours when the then Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar winning greyhound, along with connections, were invited on board Britannia.

The only known person to witness every running of the Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar has been recently retired Auckland race commentator Peter Earley. 

He watched the first two races then commented on the other 47 editions.

“You lift yourself for the big ones – this is the biggest. The Silver Collar race is always exciting – you’re always waiting for things to happen at the finish. It always changes dramatically over the final few metres,” commented Earley. 

He is quite right, as each year the Silver Collar has been contested it has resulted in a more than memorable race.

The Auckland GRC will host the 50th running of the $100,000 Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar on Sunday June 13 where yet another chapter will be written for Australasia’s toughest staying test over the gut-wrenching 779m journey.

“This year the Auckland club will mark the 50th occasion with special events attached to it.

“It is very fitting that the club will always have an association with the Duke Of Edinburgh,” stated John Roberts.