The 2,000 Guineas Stakes forms the first leg of the English Triple Crown for colts and is the first of the five English Classics to be run each year.
As befits its standing, the Guineas is a Group 1 flat horse race open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket over a distance of 1 mile and takes place each year at the end of April or first Saturday in May.
The race roll of honour is a pantheon of the thoroughbred greats stretching back to 1809 when the race first took place and was named after its original prize fund. The first renewal was won by a horse called Wizard and the race’s magic quickly caught on; by the mid-1860’s the 2,000 Guineas was considered Britain’s premier race for the Classic generation with other countries introducing their own versions of the race.
Part of the attraction of the 2,000 Guineas is the mixture of different horse types it attracts. It is often the first major target of the season for horses likely to tackle longer middle distance races later in the year, but perhaps have sufficient speed for a mile. Then there are the specialist milers, who in theory ought to be in their element at this distance. There are also sprinters, who are tried over the Rowley Mile in the hope that they might just last out the distance. Then there are the champion two year olds from the season before, attempting to prove that they have developed over the winter and still retain their position at the head of their generation.
In those formative years of the 2,000 Guineas, jockey Jem Robinson established a record 9 victories which stands to this day, successful with the following horses: Enamel (1825), Cadland (1828), Riddlesworth (1831), Clearwell (1833), Glencoe (1834), Ibrahim (1835), Bay Middleton (1836), Conyngham (1847), Flatcatcher (1848).
That century also saw John Scott become the most successful trainer in the race with seven wins: Meteor (1842), Cotherstone (1843), Nunnykirk (1849), West Australian (1853), Fazzoletto (1856), The Wizard (1860), The Marquis (1862).
Aidan O’Brien equalled that record in 2015 when Gleneagles won the race.
For the most successful owner in the history of the race one does not have to travel back in time however, as Sue Magnier has been associated with seven winners of the race thus far: Entrepreneur (1997), King of Kings (1998), Rock of Gibraltar (2002), Footstepsinthesand (2005), George Washington (2006), Henrythenavigator (2008), Camelot (2012) and GLeneagles (2015).
There have been some extraordinary performances down the years and two stand out visually: Tudor Minstrel was a brilliantly fast horse who in 1947 annihilated his rivals by 8 lengths, giving the great jockey Gordon Richards his third victory in the race.
However, for many there will never be a performance to match that of Frankel in 2011, a race played out in glorious Technicolor and seen around the world.
Frankel scorched up the Rowley Mile from the outset setting pace-making sectional times which would finish most racehorses after a few furlongs. However this remarkable colt maintained his gallop establishing an enormous lead and only conceding a few lengths as he was eased down inside the final furlong. It was a devastating performance and set the mark by which he continued to excel during his 14 race unbeaten career for the legendary Sir Henry Cecil.
In 1868 there was a dead-heat between Formosa and Moslem. Other notable horses down the years included Ormonde, the 1886 winner and Atlantic in 1874, who gave Fred Archer the first of his three victories in the race.
Topically Disraeli won the Guineas in 1898 while the brilliant filly Sceptre in 1902, became the only horse in history to win four English Classics, claiming the 2,000 Guineas and then following up in the fillies’ equivalent the 1,000 Guineas two days later. A bruised foot interrupted her preparations for the Epsom Derby where she finished fourth but she then won the Oaks and St Leger.
The following year Rock Sand became the tenth colt to win the English Triple Crown. Bahram was another notable Triple Crown winner in 1935 and Blue Peter (1939) and Djebel (1940) were renowned winners during a golden era for British racing.
Crepello in 1957 became a first Guineas winner for Lester Piggott and would go on to Epsom glory.
The late 1960s saw a couple of horses who won two legs of the Triple Crown as first Royal Palace (1967) and then a year later Sir Ivor won at Newmarket and followed up in the Epsom Derby. Both horses were top draw but if Vincent O’Brien’s Sir Ivor had won two legs, by 1970 he had a champion who would become the first colt to win the Triple Crown in 35 years.
That horse was a son of the mighty Northern Dancer and his name was Nijinsky. In a glorious career, Nijinsky had dominated the two year old rankings in 1969 and returned with success over the famous National Hunt stallion Deep Run in the Gladness Stakes. At Newmarket he ambled to an easy two and a half length victory over Yellow God at odds-on, before brilliantly winning the Derby and scrambling home in the St Leger. No horse since has won the colt’s Triple Crown.
Yet for all of Nijinsky’s brilliance, his Guineas performance was usurped just a year later by arguably the greatest ever 2,000 Guineas – and there were only 6 runners!
The 1971 Guineas saw the re-match of Europe’s top two juveniles of 1970 as the prolific colt My Swallow took on the little horse he had beaten as part of his unbeaten run of seven victories that year: Mill Reef. My Swallow extended that run to eight on his seasonal bow in 1971 while Mill Reef proved an outstanding two year old winning the Gimcrack Stakes by 10 lengths and the Dewhurst Stakes by 4 lengths. Mill Reef sauntered to victory in the Greenham Stakes and was then race-fit for Newmarket.
The Middle Park Stakes had been won by another unbeaten colt who was less well regarded in Brigadier Gerard, who was trained by Major Dick Hern for the Guineas without a preparatory race.
Nijinsky’s brother Minsky also contested the race but was beaten with a full quarter of a mile to run. At that stage those two great rivals My Swallow and Mill Reef had taken the field along at a scintillating pace and had most of their rivals in trouble.
Inside the last two furlongs the dual down the centre of the course suddenly became a three-way fight as Brigadier Gerard on the stands side joined and then incredibly passed the two colts as if they were average, galloping on but drifting across to the stand rail. In the end he won by an easy three lengths and would go through a remarkable career which yielded 17 wins from his 18 starts.
Mill Reef was never beaten again and would go on to win the Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Arc de Triomphe and Coronation Cup.
High Top took the next running of the race and in 1973 Mon Fils gave Richard Hannon his first Classic winner.
In 1975 and 1976 Henry Cecil had his first English Classic wins thanks to Bolkonski and Wollow with these colts ridden by Gianfranco Dettori, father of Lanfranco Dettori. These victories heralded lift-off for perhaps the most celebrated training career of them all but Sir Henry (as he was by 2011) did not train another 2,000 Guineas winner until Frankel came along. However the 1975 race was also memorable for a stable lads’ strike which caused the start of the race to be moved forwards meaning the Guineas was run over less than a mile and failed to suit subsequent Derby winner Grundy.
In 1979 the 2,000 Guineas was the launch pad for another stellar career as Steve Cauthen (whose career would intertwine with Sir Henry’s) rode the outsider Tap On Wood to defeat Cecil’s Kris just days after the teenage rider had arrived in Britain to become a glittering career.
1980 brought controversy as the brilliant unbeaten colt Nureyev barged his way through to finish first past the post before becoming the only horse in the race’s history to be disqualified. He had almost brought Pat Eddery and Posse down and that colt stayed on strongly to finish a close-up third. Meanwhile on the stands rail, Known Fact and Willie Carson were out of trouble and finished second past the post, only to be awarded the race on the French trained colt’s demotion.
In 1981 To-Agori-Mou proved a classy winner of the race as he made amends for a shock defeat by Kind Of Hush in the Craven Stakes two weeks earlier. It was a narrow win however as Mattaboy forced the favourite into a photograph finish.
The 1983 renewal went the way of Vincent O’Brien with the powerhouse owner of that era Robert Sangster. However victory for Lomond was somewhat unexpected as he proved an able deputy following the failure of Danzatore on his three year old return to action.
A year later the O’Brien/Sangster/Eddery team were back again as El Gran Senor beat a strong field including Chief Singer, Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest.
Lester Piggott recorded his fourth victory in the 2,000 Guineas in 1985 as Shadeed narrowly outpointed Bairn and went on to prove himself an outstanding miler.
The following year another of the great horses of the last half century claimed the Guineas as Dancing Brave powerfully careered out of the Dip to defeat Champion Sprinter Green Desert before suffering a narrow defeat in the Epsom Derby. By season’s end Dancing Brave was heralded as the champion colt of 1986 following victories in the Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and Arc de Triomphe.
Don’t Forget Me’s 1987 win was a second for Richard Hannon and came after an eleventh hour scare when the horse injured a foot on the morning of the race.
Two years later Dick Hern repeated his preparation tactics with the unbeaten Nashwan, who became the first Guineas winner without a preparation race since Brigadier Gerard all those years before. Nashwan enjoyed a glorious summer, his Guineas win came against the smart Danehill and he went on to win at Epsom, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park and then the King George.
Tirol became a third Guineas winner for Richard Hannon in 1990 as the hot favourite from France Machiavellian got into traffic problems. A year later France was again denied victory as Clive Brittain’s admirable grey Mystiko got the better of Lycius in a driving finish.
Then in 1992 Lester Piggott, by now aged 56, was reunited with the Robert Sangster colours he had ridden in with such distinction during the 1970s – and won the 2,000 Guineas aboard Rodrigo de Triano.
A year on and the race finally had a French winner again, as Pat Eddery rode the electrifying Zafonic to a devastating victory over Barathea as thunder and lightning crashed around the Rowley Mile.
In 1994 there was a large field which raced in two groups and the race eventually played out on the far rail with Mister Baileys beating Grand Lodge in a race record time.
The 1995 renewal provided a thrilling spectacle as two outstanding unbeaten colts duelled in a dramatic race. The French colt Pennekamp – trained by the irrepressible Andre Fabre just got the verdict over the brilliant Celtic Swing, with champion miler Bahri back in third place.
Mark Of Esteem took the 1996 race in a dramatic three-way photo and the following year saw the start of Sue Magnier’s success as Entrepreneur repelled the late challenge of Revoque.
In 1998 Magnier tasted further success as Aidan O’Brien trained his first winner of the race courtesy of King Of Kings, who defeated the hot French favourite Xaar.
In 2000 Coolmore and O’Brien had another strong fancy in Giant’s Causeway but in a huge field, it was King’s Best, ridden coolly by Kieren Fallon, who weaved a path through and defeated the Iron Horse who promptly went on to win five successive Group Ones.
Golan proved a smart winner of the race in 2001 although in time his successes came over longer distances. However Rock Of Gibraltar was very much a specialist miler and won seven successive Group One races in the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Haafhd was a slightly surprising winner of the race in 2004 despite having won the Craven Stakes beforehand. However he beat a top class field including Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow and the top class Azamour – and crowned his career with victory in the Champion Stakes back at Newmarket.
Aidan O’Brien took the race the next two years with Footstepsinthesand in 2005 and then the mercurial George Washington in 2006. O’Brien was successful again in 2008 as Henrythenavigator demonstrated he was a brilliant miler in defeating subsequent Derby and Champion Stakes winner New Approach.
Then in 2009 the race went the way of a horse who had looked all promise beforehand, albeit most likely over longer distances. This was the year that Sea The Stars came to the fore and John Oxx’s colt stamped his class on the Guineas before claiming the Derby, Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and Arc de Triomphe in an astonishing career.
In 2010 the portents suggested that Aidan O’Brien had another Guineas winner in the form of St Nicholas Abbey, whilst Richard Hannon was hopeful of big runs from Canford Cliffs and Dick Turpin. In the event the race went the way of another French raider as Makfi heralded the arrival of trainer Mikael Delzangles in the big time.
After Frankel’s extraordinary rout in 2011, the following year yielded hopes of a Triple Crown winner at long last. Camelot had been a leading two year old but was another horse expected to excel over longer distances. However, he won the 2,000 Guineas with a late burst of speed and then claimed the Derby and Irish Derby, only to be denied at Doncaster in the St Leger.
The 2013 renewal went the way of Dawn Approach, who avenged the defeat of his sire New Approach with a fabulous performance.
A year later, Kieren Fallon and Night Of Thunder won a sensational race, drifting across the course in the latter stages but still holding on from the year’s Champion Miler Kingman and the subsequent Derby winner Australia, in a very strong renewal.
In 2015 trainer Aidan O’Brien won his seventh 2,000 Guineas as Gleneagles beat the French colt Territories. Gleneagles went on to add the Irish 2,000 Guineas and prove himself an exceptional colt.
The following year, O’Brien sent his champion two year-old Air Force Blue to the Rowley Mile. However, he proved a bitter disappointment behind the Hugo Palmer trained Galileo Gold, who beat Massaat, to give the trainer his first Newmarket Classic. Galileo Gold would go on to land the Group One St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
In 2017, O’Brien was back on the winner’s board. Churchill had swept all before him at two, culminating in his success in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. He made no mistake in the 2,000 Guineas, defeating Barney Roy, before adding the Irish 2,000 Guineas from Thunder Snow.
Ballydoyle were once again on the mark in 2018, when the hitherto unbeaten Saxon Warrior, won a vintage renewal.
Racing for the first time as a three year old, he beat the Qatar winner Tip Two Win, with future Derby winner Masar back in third and multiple Group One winner Roaring Lion further back.
2,000 Guineas roll of honour:
|1812||Cwrw||Sam Chifney, Jr.|
|1826||Dervise||John Barham Day|
|1836||Bay Middleton||Jem Robinson|
|1838||Grey Momus||John Barham Day|
|1839||The Corsair||Bill Wakefield|
|1840||Crucifix||John Barham Day|
|1841||Ralph||John Barham Day|
|1844||The Ugly Buck||John Day|
|1846||Sir Tatton Sykes||Bill Scott|
|1853||West Australian||Frank Butler|
|1854||The Hermit||Alfred Day|
|1855||Lord of the Isles||Tom Aldcroft|
|1857||Vedette||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1859||The Promised Land||Alfred Day|
|1860||The Wizard||Tom Ashmall|
|1862||The Marquis||Tom Ashmall|
|1864||General Peel||Tom Aldcroft|
|1866||Lord Lyon||R. Thomas|
|1869||Pretender||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1871||Bothwell||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1872||Prince Charlie||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1873||Gang Forward||Tom Chaloner|
|1875||Camballo||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1878||Pilgrimage||Tom Cannon, Sr.|
|1882||Shotover||Tom Cannon, Sr.|
|1884||Scot Free||Billy Platt|
|1887||Enterprise||Tom Cannon, Sr.|
|1888||Ayrshire||John Osborne, Jr.|
|1889||Enthusiast||Tom Cannon, Sr.|
|1892||Bona Vista||Jack Robinson|
|1896||St Frusquin||Tommy Loates|
|1897||Galtee More||Charles Wood|
|1899||Flying Fox||Morny Cannon|
|1900||Diamond Jubilee||Herbert Jones|
|1903||Rock Sand||Skeets Martin|
|1904||St Amant||Kempton Cannon|
|1907||Slieve Gallion||Billy Higgs|
|1910||Neil Gow||Danny Maher|
|1917||Gay Crusader||Steve Donoghue|
|1919||The Panther||Dick Cooper|
|1921||Craig an Eran||John Brennan|
|1922||St Louis||George Archibald|
|1927||Adam’s Apple||Jack Leach|
|1929||Mr Jinks||Harry Beasley|
|1936||Pay Up||Bobby Dick|
|1937||Le Ksar||Charles Semblat|
|1939||Blue Peter||Eph Smith|
|1941||Lambert Simnel||Charlie Elliott|
|1942||Big Game||Gordon Richards|
|1944||Garden Path||Harry Wragg|
|1945||Court Martial||Cliff Richards|
|1946||Happy Knight||Tommy Weston|
|1947||Tudor Minstrel||Gordon Richards|
|1948||My Babu||Charlie Smirke|
|1951||Ki Ming||Scobie Breasley|
|1955||Our Babu||Doug Smith|
|1956||Gilles de Retz||Frank Barlow|
|1958||Pall Mall||Doug Smith|
|1962||Privy Councillor||Bill Rickaby|
|1963||Only for Life||Jimmy Lindley|
|1967||Royal Palace||George Moore|
|1968||Sir Ivor||Lester Piggott|
|1969||Right Tack||Geoff Lewis|
|1971||Brigadier Gerard||Joe Mercer|
|1972||High Top||Willie Carson|
|1973||Mon Fils||Frankie Durr|
|1978||Roland Gardens||Frankie Durr|
|1979||Tap On Wood||Steve Cauthen|
|1980||Known Fact||Willie Carson|
|1984||El Gran Senor||Pat Eddery|
|1986||Dancing Brave||Greville Starkey|
|1987||Don’t Forget Me||Willie Carson|
|1992||Rodrigo de Triano||Lester Piggott|
|1994||Mister Baileys||Jason Weaver|
|1996||Mark of Esteem||Frankie Dettori|
|1998||King of Kings||Michael Kinane|
|1999||Island Sands||Frankie Dettori|
|2000||King’s Best||Kieren Fallon|
|2002||Rock of Gibraltar||Johnny Murtagh|
|2003||Refuse to Bend||Pat Smullen|
|2006||George Washington||Kieren Fallon|
|2007||Cockney Rebel||Olivier Peslier|
|2009||Sea the Stars||Michael Kinane|
|2013||Dawn Approach||Kevin Manning|
|2014||Night Of Thunder||Kieren Fallon|
|2016||Galileo Gold||Frankie Dettori|
2018 Saxon Warrior Donnacha O’Brien