Spring is a busy time in horse racing, the jumps season reaches its finale and flat racing returns to the turf in the UK as their season begins. After just a few weeks of the new flat campaign it’s time for the first Classics of the season as Newmarket’s Rowley Mile hosts the three-day Guineas Festival running from Friday to Sunday in late April or early May.
The 2,000 Guineas on Saturday sees the best three-year-old milers around converge on Newmarket for a hugely intriguing race. Will the top two-year-olds carry their form from the previous season or will new superstars emerge?
The 1,000 Guineas on the Sunday has thrown up some surprises in recent years. Winners have gone in at 66/1, 25/1 and 20/1 since the turn of the century so it is becoming an increasingly difficult puzzle for punters to unpick. On the flip side, the race has only increased in terms of entertainment value and the build up to the first fillies’ Classic of the season is hugely exciting.
These are not the only contests worth getting excited about at the meeting though with plenty of other top quality races. Outside of the Group 1 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas, there are two Group 2’s in the Jockey Club Stakes and the Dahlia Stakes and the Group 3 Palace House Stakes amongst the 22 races.
Guineas Friday Races
|2.25||King Charles II Stakes||Listed||7f|
|3.00||Home Of Horseracing Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|3.35||Jockey Club Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
|4.10||British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes||Class 2||5f|
|4.45||Discover Newmarket Maiden Fillies’ Stakes||Class 3||1m2f|
|5.20||Racing TV Handicap||Class 3||1m|
2000 Guineas Day Races (Saturday)
|1.40||Racing Welfare Handicap||Class 2||1m4f|
|2.15||British EBF Ellen Chaloner Stakes||Listed||6f|
|2.50||Home Of Racing Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|3.25||Suffolk Stakes||Class 2||1m1f|
|4.00||Palace House Stakes||Group 3||5f|
|4.40||QIPCO 2,000 Guineas Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|5.15||newmarketracecourse.co.uk Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|5.50||Discover Newmarket “Confined” Handicap||Class 4||7f|
1000 Guineas Day Races (Sunday)
|1.50||Guineas Festival Handicap||Class 2||1m6f|
|2.25||Pretty Polly Stakes||Listed||1m2f|
|3.00||Dahlia Stakes||Group 2||1m1f|
|3.40||QIPCO 1,000 Guineas Stakes||Group 1||1m|
|4.15||British EBF Maiden Stakes||Class 3||5f|
|4.50||Racing TV Handicap||Class 3||1m|
|5.25||Discover Newmarket Handicap||Class 3||1m2f|
About the Guineas Festival
The two-day Guineas Festival is held at the track regarded as the headquarters of flat racing, Newmarket. It may not be the first flat meeting of the season but it does mark the occasion when the campaign really begins to take off. For many owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys, the races which shape their entire season more than any other are the five British Classic contests, the first two of which come right here in early May.
Year upon year there are mighty reputations aplenty headed into this meeting, and it is here where many a bubble is burst, and the genuine stars emerge into the limelight. The two showpiece contests held on the Rowley Mile of course take centre stage, but there’s plenty more on offer besides, including a host of cracking handicap action and further Group contests. Here we take a closer look at the standout events.
This contest really needs very little introduction. Acting as the first Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas is without doubt one of the most anticipated races of the year. Held over the straight mile, this is a top tier Group 1 affair. Traditionally thought of as a race for the three year old colts, fillies are actually permitted to enter, although it is exceptionally rare for them to do so these days. In addition to the undoubted prestige and massively enhanced breeding value, there is also plenty of prize money up for grabs – £500,000 in 2019, reduced to £250,000 in 2020 – making this one of the biggest targets of the season for the very best of the three year olds in training.
Having first been run in 1809, its hard to know where to start when picking out the best of the previous winners. Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Sea The Stars, and of course the greatest racehorse of all time, Frankel, all stormed to victory here during their illustrious careers.
Of course with it being exclusively for three year olds, there are no multiple winners amongst the horses, but that’s the case with jockeys and trainers. Ahead of the 2019 renewal Aidan O’Brien was the leading trainer with a staggering nine victories to his name between the years of 1998 and 2018. For the jockeys we have to look much further back in the history books: James “Jem” Robinson won an impressive nine renewals of the 2000 Guineas between 1825 and 1848 – and he rode a further 15 Classic winners in his illustrious career.
The first 2000 Guineas race in 1809 was won by a horse called Wizard, who was second in the Derby later than season. The fastest recorded winning time of the 2000 Guineas was 1:35.08 when the Andre Fabre-trained Pennekamp won in 1995.
The reason the majority of the classiest fillies in the business don’t bother with the 2000 Guineas is that they have a Classic contest all of their own at this meeting. Open to three year old fillies, the Group 1, 1000 Guineas is the spectacular highlight on the Sunday card. Held over the same one-mile course as the 2000 Guineas, the race matches the Saturday showpiece in prize money – again £500,000 in 2019 down to £250,000 in 2020 – and annually attracts the top performers of the fairer sex to Suffolk.
Coming into existence in 1814 – five years after the 2000 Guineas – the list of previous winners here reads like something of a hall of fame of the best fillies to have ever graced the turf. Pretty Polly, Sun Chariot, Musidora and a clutch of others were all good enough to warrant having a race named in their honour, whilst in more recent times, Russian Rhythm, Attraction, Minding and Winter are amongst those to have scorched the turf.
We have to glance back to the 1800s for the leading trainer and jockey for the 1000 Guineas. George Fordham was certainly the top dog when he was around: he was the Champion Jockey every year from 1855 to 1863. He has also won the 1000 Guineas more times than any other jockey having rode to success seven times between 1859 and 1883. For the trainers, the “Emperor of Trainers” Robert Robson still leads the way with nine wins, despite these coming between 1818 and 1827.
Other Key Races
Jockey Club Stakes
Topping the bill on the Saturday undercard is this 1m4f Group 2 contest open to all runners aged four and older which offered £105,000 in total prize money in 2018. Lester Piggott had a particular affinity for this race during his legendary career, racking up seven wins between 1950 and 1982.
Previous St Leger winners have fared well when stepping down in trip here in the past, with Sixties Icon and Silver Patriarch amongst the previous winners. In terms of subsequent achievements 2002 champ Marienbard may have been the best of the lot, with the Godolphin runner going on to cause something of a shock when landing that season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
With the Sunday of this meeting being lit up the opening fillies’ Classic of the season, it is fitting that there is something of a fillies theme to the day overall. Pick of the supporting acts is this contest named in honour of one of the all-time greats – the dual King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, Dahlia.
Held over 1m1f, this Group 2 event is open to all fillies and mares aged four and older and offered £105,000 in total prize money in 2018. One of the newer races at this meeting, this contest was first run in 1997 and has consistently attracted the best of the fillies and mares to have been kept in training beyond their Classic season. Topping the list of winners in the first 22 editions of the race was the Charlie Appleby filly Wuheida, who also counted a win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to her name.
One of the real selling points of British Horse Racing is the underlying history of the biggest events of the season. They don’t come any bigger than the Classics, and it is on the back of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas – both over 200 years old now – that this two-day cracker of a meeting has been built.
The “Guineas” of the titles of these races refers to the unit of currency used in the initial prize fund all those years ago. A Guinea being equal to 21 shillings, and for those wondering what a shilling is, they equates to around 5p, so 21 of them is £1.05 in today’s money.
There have been numerous memorable moments at this meeting over the years, with the 2000 Guineas in particular being the scene of many an unforgettable contest. From the brilliance of Brigadier Gerard in 1971, to Aidan O’Brien becoming the all-time most successful trainer in the history of the race with the success of Churchill in 2017. Our own personal favourite though was the utter disdain with which Frankel treat his rivals in 2011, in a performance which really had to be seen to be believed. If future years are to be anything like as good as those gone by, this meeting looks set to continue top serve up an early season treat.
The 2000 Guineas makes up a third of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing along with the Derby and the St Leger. There have been 15 Triple Crown winners over the years, with Nijinsky being the most recent, in 1970.
The Fillies Triple Crown, meanwhile, comprises of the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the St Leger. There have been nine winners of the Fillies Triple Crown, with Oh So Sharp being the last in 1985.
Astoundingly, there has been a horse that has won FOUR Classics in a season. In 1902 the filly Sceptre won the 2000 Guineas, the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the St Leger to write herself into the history books. This went one better than the 1868 effort of Formosa who won the Fillies Triple Crown (the first to do so) and also dead heated in the 2000 Guineas.
A Complete Timeline of the Guineas Meeting
Scheduled for late April or early May, Newmarket’s Guineas Meeting is a special occasion thanks to the inclusion of two races, those of course being the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas. The former has always been reserved for fillies with the latter being a mixed-sex event, albeit one utterly dominated by the males.
For so long the pair of Classics have undoubtedly been two of the greatest races to take place on British soil. Their history, which stretches back over two centuries, is every bit as fascinating too, as you can see for yourself below.
1809 – The 2,000 Guineas Begins
Under the guidance of Sir Charles Bunbury, also the mastermind behind the Derby at Epsom, the Jockey Club establishes the 2,000 Guineas. The first edition of the race was held on 18th April 1809 and the title related to the total prize money awarded for it. Back then a guinea amounted to 21 shillings, or £1.05 converted into today’s money, and the entire purse was worth approximately £170,000.
1814 – The 1,000 Guineas is Born
Much like the other Guineas established five years prior, Bunbury and the Jockey Club joined forces to introduce the 1,000 Guineas. Together the one mile events took little time to establish themselves as top class events. By the mid-1860s they were up there as some of the most prestigious three year old only contests taking place in the country.
1825 – Tontine Walks to Victory
A series of withdrawals left Tontine the only horse left standing in the 1,000 Guineas. It was the first, and currently still only time in which any Classic was won courtesy of a walkover.
1840 – Bookies Playing It Safe
There were no surprises in the 1,000 Guineas this year as filly by the name of Crucifix expectedly got the job done at tiny odds of 1/10. To this day this remains the shortest price of any Guineas winner in the history of both races. Interestingly, Crucifix also won the 1840 edition of the 2,000 Guineas, making her the first of four horses to do the Guineas double.
1859 – Fordham Off The Mark
A truly stunning display from George Fordham and his mount Mayonaise obliterate the field during this 1,000 Guineas renewal. The pair finished 20 lengths clear of their nearest rivals, the biggest winning margin in the history of the Guineas. Following on from this success, Fordham rode another six winners to glory in the 1,000 Guineas, placing him as the race’s all-time leading jockey.
1944 – Filly Wins The 2,000 Guineas
Garden Path flies the flag for the girls as she manages to beat the colts in the 2,000 Guineas. Prior to her triumph, no female horse had won the race since Triple Crown champion Sceptre in 1902. There’s not been a successfully filly since either and who knows if we’ll ever see another.
You would expect any filly capable of winning the 2,000 would be primed for an illusive career but sadly things didn’t pan out that way for Garden Path. She injured herself during the Derby, finshing unplaced before retiring at the end of the season.
1956 – Houghton Makes History
Helen Johnson Houghton becomes the first female trainer to record a win in the 2,000 Guineas thanks to 50/1 shot Gilles de Retz. The record books initially showed otherwise though as at time the Jockey Club didn’t allow women to hole a trainers’ licence. Charles Jerdein took the plaudits as a result but all the hard work was fully Houghton’s.
In 1977 the Jockey Club belatedly recognised the achievements of Houghton who shortly afterwards became one of four women to be elected as the first female members.
1970 – Nijinsky’s Claims First Jewel in the Crown
Nijinsky, later an incredibly successful sire, begins his Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing effort by winning the 2,000 Guineas. Victories later follow in the Derby and the St Leger, making him the last horse to manage a clean sweep of the elite three year old events. So rarely attempted since, it’s quite possible we’ll never see another horse pull off the incredible feat.
1971 – Trail Races Introduced
Ascot creates both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes to serve as major trial events for the respective Classics. The Group 3 races initially had some success but by 1979 they had both transferred to Salisbury and were discontinued a further seven years later.
1980 – Nureyev Disqualified
Controversy surrounded this year’s running of the 2,000 Guineas as first past the post Nureyev lost his crown following a lengthy stewards’ inquiry. Taking a dim light on Philippe Paquet’s decision to push through the crowd in the mid-stages, the stewards felt they had no other choice than to disqualify the Frenchman’s horse. Nureyev never raced again and will be remembered mainly as being the first, and still only horse ever to be disqualified from the 2,000 Guineas.
1994 – Record Breaking Time
Horses are only getting quicker and stronger over time but still, nobody has been able to beat the time Mister Baileys clocked in the 1994 renewal of the 2,000 Guineas. Mark Johnston’s horse reached the line in 1:35:08, a lightning fast time but even that was almost not enough with Grand Lodge finishing just a short head behind.
1999 – Track Change
The usual home of the Guineas Meeting, the Rowley Mile was undergoing extensive redevelopment work just prior to the new millennium. As a result the July Course at Newmarket stepped in to host all races on the Guineas Meeting card for a one-off occasion.
2001 – Equal Purses
In the pursuit of gender equality, the powers that be decided that the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas should offer equal amounts of prize money. This has largely been the case since but occasionally one race has had a purse slightly bigger than the other, for instance in 2019 the 2000 Guineas offered an extra £23,750.
2010 – Déjà vu for Khalid Abdulla
The disqualification of Nureyev in the 1970 edition of the 2,000 Guineas handed Khalid Abdulla’s Known Fact the win and 30 years later the stewards once again did the Saudi Prince a favour. The Henry Cecil-trained Jacqueline Quest narrowly edged out the Abdulla owned Special Duty but only after bumping and drifting into her rival. Handed a fairly clear cut case, the stewards had no choice but to reverse the result and suspended Jacqueline Quest jockey Tom Queally for careless riding.
2018 – Billesdon Brook Stuns Newmarket
Any punters who put faith in Billesdon Brook were richly rewarded as the filly won the 1,000 Guineas at odds of 66/1. In doing so the filly became the longest priced winner the race has ever seen. Coincidentally she traded at the same price as the longest priced 2000 Guineas winner too, Rockavon in 1961.
2019 – O’Brien hits 10
There are few major titles Aidan O’Brien hasn’t got his hands on but even so his record in the 2,000 Guineas borders on the unbelievable. The Irishman saddled his 10th winner in 2019, his fifth of the decade. In the process he extended his lead as the race’s all-time leading trainer and you can rest assured he’s not done yet.