Established in 1840, the Nassau Stakes was named in recognition of the friendship between the fifth Duke of Richmond and the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange and Nassau.
The race was restricted to three-year-old fillies for the first 135 years of its existence and was granted Group One status in 1999, acknowledging the fact that the near 10-furlong contest had regained the prestige it enjoyed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thanks to the victories of top-class winners throughout the 1990s such as Ruby Tiger, Last Second, Ryafan and Alborada.
The early runnings were dominated by fillies owned by Lord George Bentinck and his friends, including George Payne and Charles Greville, who once wrote of Bentinck: “He feared no one and did nothing by halves.”
Bentinck was forced to run his own horses in the colours of friends because his father, the fourth Duke of Portland, strongly disapproved of his son’s heavy gambling.
As the Nassau Stakes gained in popularity, many star fillies of the 19th century triumphed. One such champion to display her prowess was the brilliant Thebais. Trained at Manton by ‘Old Alec’ Taylor, a man reputed to give his yearlings a two-mile gallop before Christmas, Thebais had already taken the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, before winning at Goodwood in 1881.
La Flèche’s accomplishments leave no doubt as to her brilliance. Successful in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks – terrible jockeyship cost her the Derby – the great filly triumphed at Goodwood in 1892 and subsequently won the St Leger, Cambridgeshire, Champion Stakes and Gold Cup at Ascot.
Within the span of two years, the fates bestowed upon racing two supreme champion fillies in Sceptre and Pretty Polly.
The former began the 1902 campaign in the Lincoln Handicap, finishing second, before winning the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas and Oaks. She also came fourth in the Derby, was unplaced in the Grand Prix de Paris, won the St James’s Palace Stakes and took fourth in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, before owner/trainer Bob Sievier sent her to Glorious Goodwood.
Sceptre was beaten in the Sussex Stakes but stepped out later in the week to take victory in the Nassau Stakes. She became the only horse in Turf history to win four British Classics when capturing the St Leger that September.
While Sceptre had been kept very busy around the racecourses of England to prove her mettle, Pretty Polly enjoyed a career more becoming a champion filly.
She lined up for the 1904 Nassau Stakes the winner of the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Coronation Stakes, and was sent off the 1/33 favourite. She remains the shortest-priced winner in Nassau Stakes history and emulated Sceptre in adding the St Leger to her famous triumphs.
Racing at Goodwood did not take place during the war years of 1914-18 and 1940- 45.
Upon the resumption of the sport at the course following the Second World War in 1946, Wayward Belle won the Nassau Stakes for Jack Jarvis and jockey Eph Smith.
It was Lester Piggott, however, successful five times, along with trainers Sir Noel Murless, Sir Michael Stoute and Sir Henry Cecil, who would come to dominate the post-war roll of honour.
Murless, with six wins, and Piggott joined forces to secure victory with Aunt Edith (1965) who also triumphed in the Prix Vermeille, Yorkshire Cup and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
In the decade after Aunt Edith, the Nassau Stakes, while still a race of some consequence, was not producing the same calibre of winners as in its heyday.
Racing was already on the cusp of evolving into a global sport and the Goodwood executive, imbued with foresight, sensed the need for a change if the Nassau Stakes was to maintain its standing.
The 1975 renewal thus marked a sea-change as the race was opened to older fillies and mares, yet the Classic generation still prevailed thanks to the three-year-old, Roussalka, ridden by Piggott and trained by Cecil. The filly returned in 1976 and created history when she became the first four-year-old to take the race as well as becoming the first dual winner.
Park Express in 1986, trained by Jim Bolger, was the first Irish raider to succeed in the Nassau Stakes. She went on to produce the 2008 Derby winner and leading stallion New Approach, also trained by Bolger.
The Nassau Stakes continued to be dominated by three-year-olds up to the turn of the century with the monopoly only broken by the four-year-old Free Guest (1985) and two-time winner Ruby Tiger (1991 – by seven lengths – & 1992) – owned by sculptor and former jump jockey Philip Blacker – who also tasted major success in the E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, Canada.
The older generation enjoyed a hold on the race from 2004 through to 2006 as the four-year-olds Favourable Terms (2004) and Alexander Goldrun (2005), as well as the five-year-old Ouija Board (2006), succeeded, with the latter beating the 2005 winner in a memorable race.
Favourable Terms was a third consecutive winner of the race for trainer Sir Michael Stoute (and seventh in all) and jockey Kieren Fallon, who previously teamed up for success with Islington (2002) and Russian Rhythm (2003).
Islington twice won the Group One Yorkshire Oaks and also captured the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in 2003.
Many a thrilling spectacle has played out on the racecourse beneath Trundle Hill but the 2006 Nassau Stakes was surely one of the most breathtaking in the racecourse’s long history.
Bolger’s mare Alexander Goldrun, a Group One winner in France, Britain, Ireland and Hong Kong, had won the previous year’s Nassau Stakes and returned to defend her crown against another global star, the Ed Dunlop-trained Ouija Board.
Both mares arrived at Goodwood seeking a sixth career Group One victory, Ouija Board having proven herself as a Classicwinning Breeders’ Cup heroine.
None who witnessed the scintillating final three furlongs of the 2006 Nassau Stakes will ever forget Ouija Board’s brave strike for home off the turn into the straight; Alexander Goldrun’s smooth progress to narrowly lead; Lord Derby’s mare drawing on her deepest reserves to edge level; and the moment Ouija Board eyeballed her brave rival into submission.
The redoubtable Ouija Board flashed home by a short-head following the most spectacular Goodwood head-to-head since Marling held Selkirk in the 1992 Sussex Stakes.
It was the fourth victory by a shorthead since 1945, with the other narrow winners being Hortentia (1952), Lucyrowe (1969), and Favourable Terms (2004).
Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott gained two wins in three years. He saddled Last Second, owned by Faisal Salman and bred by Kirsten Rausing, to win in 1996, and in 1998 Miss Rausing’s Alborada, out of a half-sister to Last Second, was successful, before going on to capture the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.
In 2000 this prestigious contest was won by the Clive Brittain-trained Crimplene, gaining her third Group One success of the season after having won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes.
Ed Dunlop, son of former Goodwood Racecourse director and trainer John, saddled his first Group One winner at the course with Lailani in 2001.
The Unfuwain filly was achieving her sixth success of the campaign, including the Group One Irish Oaks, and she went on to complete a hat-trick of Group/Grade One wins in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, USA, in September.
Champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien sent out Irish Oaks heroine Peeping Fawn to win the 2007 Nassau Stakes and added a further victory in 2008 when Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Halfway To Heaven saw off another Bolger-trained star, Lush Lashes, by a head in a thrilling finish.
The 2009 renewal was another special one, with Midday overcoming nine opponents to win well by two and a half lengths under Tom Queally.
It was a return to big-time success at Goodwood for trainer Sir Henry Cecil, celebrating his first Nassau Stakes victory since Lyphard’s Delta in 1993.
Midday went on to win the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita, USA and returned to Goodwood for the 2010 Nassau Stakes, for which she was the 15-8 favourite.
Khalid Abdullah’s homebred won in thrilling fashion as, sent into the lead two furlongs out, she idled and drifted in front, allowing the previous year’s Prix de Diane heroine Stacelita to overhaul her inside the final furlong.
But Midday, a true champion, rallied gamely under Queally to assert by a cosy length and a quarter. The stewards’ enquiry, which left the placings unaltered, was the first-ever to be televised live.
Midday added the Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille to her haul before finishing a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
History was made on the final day of Glorious Goodwood 2011 as Midday became the first filly or mare to win the Qatar-sponsored Nassau Stakes for the third time. Trained by Cecil, who was winning the race for a record eighth time, and ridden again by Queally.
The 6/4 favourite surged clear inside the final two furlongs to see off dual Oaks winner Snow Fairy by two lengths.
With Midday retired, the Abdullah/Cecil/ Queally trio almost made it four in a row in 2012 when Timepiece was runner-up to The Fugue, trained by John Gosden and ridden by Richard Hughes for owners Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber.
Gosden doubled up with 20/1 shot Winsili in 2013 and completed a remarkable hat-trick in 2014 when Sultanina got the better of French raider Narniyn.
William Buick partnered the last two.
The race went to Ireland last year with the admirably tough Legatissimo coming two and a half lengths clear to justify 2-1 favouritism.
The David Wachman-trained three-year-old had earlier won the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and went on to land the Group One Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend.
She was the second highest-rated European-trained three-year old filly of 2015. The market leader has won 27 times in the 70 runnings since 1946.
Nassau Stakes winners:
1840: Rosa Bianca
1844: All Round My Hat
1846: Princess Alice
1867: The Duchess
1871: Lady Atholstone
1872: Maid of Perth
1877: Lady Golightly
1878: Eau de Vie
1882: St Marguerite
1886: Miss Jummy
1891: Haute Saône
1892: La Fleche
1893: Harfleur II
1896: Miss Fraser
1897: Perce Neige
1899: Saint Lundi
1900: Merry Gal
1901: Royal Summons
1903: Red Lily
1904: Pretty Polly
1905: Cherry Lass
1909: Maid of the Mist
1911: Hair Trigger II
1914: First Spear
1915–18: no race
1920: Most Beautiful
1925: Saucy Sue
1927: Book Law
1928: La Sologne
1929: Nuwara Eliya
1932: Ada Dear
1936: Barrowby Gem
1937: First Flight
1940–45: no race
1946: Wayward Belle
1947: Wild Child
1949: Jet Plane
1950: Flying Slipper
1951: Sea Parrot
1953: Happy Laughter
1955: Reel In
1959: Crystal Palace
1960: Desert Beauty
1965: Aunt Edith
1967: Fair Winter
1968: Hill Shade
1971: Catherine Wheel
1973: Cheveley Princess
1974: Mil’s Bomb
|1987||Nom de Plume|
|2008||Halfway to Heaven|