To many racing fans August first and foremost represents the Ebor Festival Meeting at York. The Ebor festival was first established in 1843 with the first running of the Ebor Handicap and the meeting now covers four days of exquisite racing from the speedy juveniles, to classy maidens, top class stayers and Group 1 middle distance horses and fillies.
In all there are three Group 1 races at the meeting with the Juddmonte International Stakes and Darley Yorkshire Oaks catering for the middle distance stars.
By contrast the Nunthorpe Stakes is fast and furious, often pitching exciting two year olds against established Group 1 sprinters from around the world, scorching the Knavesmire turf over 5 furlongs on the Friday of the meeting.
The event is one of a limited number of races in which 2 year old horses can compete against their elders. The first juvenile to win was High Treason in 1953, and the most recent was Kingsgate Native in 2007. It is also the only Group 1 race in Great Britain open to 2 year old geldings.
The race honours Nunthorpe, an area of York located to the north of the racecourse. The first version, a low-grade selling race, was established in 1903. The present version began in 1922, and the inaugural running was won by Two Step.
A couple of years later the brilliantly fast filly Mumtaz Mahal added her name to the roster having failed to stay in the 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes. She would go on to become a hugely influential brood mare.
Highborn II became the first dual winner of the Nunthorpe when landing back to back renewals in 1926 and 1927 but that history was quickly overshadowed by Tag End, who won the following three years, becoming the most successful horse in the race’s history, until Sharpo emulated the feat in 1980, 1981 and 1982.
Portobello won the last renewal in 1939, before World War II intervened and the race resumed at Newmarket from 1942 to 1944, with Linklater becoming the latest dual winner in the first two of those contests.
The Nunthorpe was once again staged at York from 1945 when Golden Cloud won the race and a turbulent decade ended with a real star turn in Abernant. An outstanding two year old, his stamina just failed in a desperately close finish to the 1949 2,000 Guineas when Nimbus got up. Abernant then reverted to sprinting, winning the Kings’ Stand Stakes, July Cup, King George Stakes and the Nunthorpe, in which he annihilated his rivals by 5 lengths. After a slow stat to his 1950 campaign, Abernant gave Sir Gordon Richards his 4,000th career victory before winning his second July Cup and King George Stakes and after that his Nunthorpe Stakes victory seemed almost inevitable.
Royal Serenade and Right Boy were also dual winners of the Nunthorpe Stakes in the 1950s and the latter horse gave jockey Lester Piggott the first two of his record seven victories in the race. Piggott also rode: Matatina (1963), Caterina (1966), Tower Walk (1969), Swing Easy (1971) and Solinus (1978).
The latter winner was a colt of huge talent who was trained by Dr Vincent O’Brien. In 1978 he dominated the sprinting division, winning the King’s Stand Stakes, July Cup and the big sprint at York, which from 1976 was renamed the William Hill Spring Championship, with the sponsorship lasting until 1989.
The 1980s started with a real sprinting superstar in the shape of Sharpo, a horse who would become familiar to all over three magnificent seasons. Sharpo burst onto the scene with victory in the Temple Stakes and narrowly failed to follow-up when second to Kearney in the Cork and Orrery Stakes at Royal Ascot. Jeremy Tree’s colt then finished 4 lengths third to the outstanding Moorestyle in the July Cup and without those rivals to contend with, Sharpo stormed to his first victory in the York race.
Sharpo’s task in 1981 was a lot harder as he faced his old Newmarket nemesis Moorestyle but also the new Queen of sprinting in Marwell. Sir Michael Stoute’s filly had failed to stay in the 1,000 Guineas when fourth to Fairy Footsteps and had since landed three sprints, culminating in a sensational defeat of Moorestyle in the July Cup. Moorestyle had since returned to his best to win at Deauville, while Sharpo’s season had been somewhat less successful.
As Marwell blazed a trail towards the inside rail, the popular grey Standaan led the majority of the field down the centre of the track, with Moorestyle also handily placed. With a furlong and a half to go, the race started to develop into a confrontation between Marwell and Moorestyle, with Standaan still plugging on. However Pat Eddery had sat patiently on Sharpo, tracking the main protagonists and produced the chestnut with brilliant timing at the furlong pole and he surged decisively clear of Marwell for a famous second victory.
In 1982 Sharpo was arguably even better, as he demonstrated with a superb performance to win the July Cup. At York Sharpo was a hot favourite to beat old rivals Tina’s Pet and Vaigly Star and once again Sharpo, this time ridden by Steve Cauthen, bided his time as Tina’s Pet and Kind Music set the pace. With around a furlong to race Sharpo joined the fray and there were five horses virtually in a line. However one horse was surging forwards as the others faded and that horse emphatically was Sharpo, who stormed away from Chellaston Park and Tina’s Pet for a brilliant third victory. Sharpo ended his career with Paris glory as he added the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp to his impressive haul.
As Sharpo was cleaning up the major sprints in 1982, a 3 year old filly called Soba was beginning to make her mark and claimed that year’s Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood. By 1983 Soba was a hugely popular Yorkshire trained filly and fancied by many to win the July Cup. However at Newmarket she encountered an emerging force in Habibti, a filly who had just failed to stay in the 1,000 Guineas but underlined here just how brilliantly fast she was. At York Habibti’s margin of victory was only a length and a half but she was eased down near the line and emphasised her superiority over other sprinters with a dominant displays in the Vernon’s Sprint Cup at Haydock and success in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in a remarkable season.
Habibti was one of the stars back for the 1984 season and served notice that her abilities had not diminished when winning the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. She then headed to Newmarket for the July Cup but this was arguably one of the strongest sprinting fields assembled for a British Group 1. In addition to Habibti, there was Committed, a top class 4 year old filly trained by Dermot Weld, who had won the Cork and Orrery Stakes. Also in the field were future champion Never So Bold and the outstanding miler Chief Singer. In the event it was Chief Singer who powerfully stayed on up the final climb to defeat Never So Bold, with Committed, arguably her stamina stretched, finishing third ahead of Habibti. At York Chief Singer ran in the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup and the William Hill Sprint Championship of 1984 featured Habibti, Anita’s Prince (who had recently won the King George Stakes), Reesh and Sayf El Arab, plus a rejuvenated Committed, who had recently won back on Irish soil. Committed, racing in the Robert Sangster silks, took up the running at the furlong pole and stormed away from her rivals for a 4 length victory that brooked no argument. Her claims to the Champion Sprinter crown were further solidified by victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in October.
Committed was back for the 1985 season but once again had to take on Never So Bold, a colt who had undoubtedly improved but had a habit of finishing horribly lame after his races. Their first encounter came in the King’s Stand Stakes where Robert Armstrong’s brave 5 year old colt stormed clear of his field at the quarter mile pole, winning very easily but returning lame. The same thing happened in the July Cup where he was again dominant but lame. At York Never So Bold was odds –on favourite to add further Group 1 glory and he beat the very fast Primo Dominie by 2 lengths to cement his title Champion Sprinter.
The 1986 William Hill Sprint Championship featured another top class field including recent July Cup winner Green Desert, who had beaten Grey Desire and French colt Last Tycoon at Newmarket. Also in the field were Double Schwartz, the smart filly Gwydion and the fast 3 year old colt Marouble. Last Tycoon had beaten Double Schwartz by a narrow margin in the King’s Stand Stakes with Gwydion close behind, while a muddling race for the July Cup played into the hands of Green Desert, a colt who finished second in the 2,000 Guineas to Dancing Brave. At York Green Desert and Double Schwartz were up with the early pace and the latter horse went on with about a furlong and a half to race. However Last Tycoon began to move into contention down the centre of the course and showed blinding pace in the final furlong to defeat Double Schwartz and Green Desert. The Robert Collet horse would later win the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita before embarking on a hugely successful stallion career. Last Tycoon was the sire of Bigstone, Ezzoud and Marju among others.
The 1980s was littered with precocious sprinting talent and most seasons seemed to throw up a brilliant Classic-tried horse. In 1987 that mantra very much fell on the shoulders of Ajdal, the Dewhurst Stakes winner of 1986, who had failed to sparkle at Guineas’ time and patently failed to stay in the Derby. Tried over 6 furlongs in the July Cup, Sir Michael Stoute’s colt was quite brilliant in defeating Gayanne and the King’s Stand Stakes winner Bluebird. At York Ajdal was in a class of his own, disputing the lead from the outset and forging clear at the 2 furlong marker to record a blistering 3 length triumph over Sizzling Melody.
After the wily veteran Handsome Sailor had landed the 1988 renewal from Silver Fling on rain-softened ground, the final running of the William Hill Sprint Championship took place the following year and went to another top class sprinter. Cadeaux Genereux was trained by Frenchman Olivier Douieb in Newmarket and really developed as a 3 year old during 1988, winning five races and being controversially disqualified having finished first in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp for interference in the early stages of the contest.
Douieb was very sadly seriously ill and in 1989 relinquished his training and Cadeaux Genereux was trained by first season trainer Alex Scott. After a couple of lack lustre efforts, the 4 year old came into form in a big way with a scintillating display in the July Cup, beating Coronation Stakes winner Golden Opinion and the brilliant Danehill in a new course record time. At York Cadeaux Genereux was imperious as he strode into the lead inside the final furlong to comfortably hold Silver Fling and Statoblest.
The Eighties had served up a real treat for sprint fans and York had witnessed many fabulous performances. But the best was still to come.
The summer of 1990 in many ways belonged to the Maktoum family with Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum in particular enjoying a purple patch thanks to the exploits of his magnificent filly Salsabil, who won the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Irish Derby. However he had a second string to his bow in the shape of Dayjur, possibly the fastest English trained sprinter of all time.
Trained by Major Dick Hern, the son of Danzig had failed to stay in the European Free Handicap in the spring and reverted to sprinting, first making his mark by landing the Temple Stakes at Sandown Park. Dayjur was quite spectacular in taking apart his rivals in the King’s Stand Stakes with Ron’s Victory finishing 2 ½ lengths adrift and after a break, the little colt then headed to York.
Scorching temperatures saw the re-established Nunthorpe Stakes run on fast ground and Dayjur was utterly devastating, leading from the off and annihilating Statoblest by 4 lengths in a time that smashed the track record. He went on to win at Haydock Park and then took the Prix de l’Abbaye before fly leaping in the shadow of the post in the Breeders’ Cup and crucially losing momentum sufficiently to throw away the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in a dramatic swan song. There hasn’t been a sprinter since Dayjur that has come even close to emulating his performance at York.
However, in 1991, there was at least a sprinter from these shores who did go to America and win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a race which always seemed unattainable, like a racing Holy Grail. Alex Scott had handled the second half of Cadeaux Genereux’s career and within two years had another crack sprinter on his hands in the shape of the progressive 3 year old colt Sheikh Albadou. The son of Green Desert came to prominence when winning the competitive William Hill Golden Spurs Handicap at York in June before struggling over 7 furlongs in the Criterion Stakes.
Scott then sent Sheikh Albadou to York for a cracking Nunthorpe Stakes which included the classy French filly Divine Danse, American raider Klassy Briefcase (following Mr Nickerson’s unsuccessful bid in 1990), Royal Ascot winner Elbio and the exciting juvenile Paris House. The latter was a very rare 2 year old runner in the Nunthorpe Stakes at the time but set a precedent which has continued. At the time, Paris House had won five of his six races, finishing second to Magic Ring in the Norfolk Stakes and winning the Weatherbys Super Sprint on his latest start for Jack Berry.
However, despite receiving 21 pounds from Sheikh Albadou, Paris House could not halt the progress of this exciting 3 year old colt who beat the game juvenile by 1 ½ lengths with Blyton Lad in third. After running second at Haydock Park and Longchamp, Sheikh Albadou shocked America with his Breeders’ Cup victory, taking the home runners apart with a devastating home stretch run. As a 4 year old Sheikh Albadou added a King’s Stand Stakes and Haydock Park Sprint Cup but did not defend his Nunthorpe crown, having taken part in the Sussex Stakes a few weeks earlier.
Instead there was a sensation as the 2 year old filly Lyric Fantasy, lived up to her nickname the “Pocket Rocket” with a stunning success in the Nunthorpe. Richard Hannon’s filly had won the Queen Mary Stakes and Weatherbys Super Sprint in an unbeaten 4 race career and went to York with Michael Roberts carrying just 7 stone 8 pounds. Up against her was the July Cup winner Mr Brooks, Paris House was back, so too were Elbio and Blyton Lad.
Roberts produced the filly with 2 furlongs left to run and she comfortably held off the challenge of her stable companion Mr Brooks to win by ½ a length.
Lyric Fantasy failed to stay in the 1993 1,000 Guineas and only won once more, in a Listed Newmarket contest in May of that year. However she was a shadow of her old self in the Nunthorpe and ceded to another remarkable female sprinter.
Lochsong did not race until the August of her 3 year old career but over the following year built up a following as a useful handicapper. However in 1992 she stepped out of the ordinary as she remarkably won the Stewards’ Cup, Portland Handicap and Ayr Gold Cup before running a fine second to Wolfhound in the Group 2 Diadem Stakes. In 1993 Lochsong took time to hit her stride but victory at Sandown Park was followed by the King George Stakes at Goodwood and then she went to York.
The 1993 Nunthorpe Stakes pitched Lochsong in against some formidable rivals including Paris House, Keen Hunter, Elbio and Royal Ascot winner College Chapel. However Lochsong was not for catching on this afternoon and eased to a 1 ½ length victory over Paris House, with jockey Frankie Dettori hailing her as “Linford Christie without the lunch box!”
Lochsong failed to fire the following year, finishing last of 10 in a miserable race for trainer Ian Balding. Whilst Lochsong flopped, his other filly Blue Siren comfortably beat Piccolo by 1 ½ lengths only to be disqualified after Piccolo’s rider John Reid had objected. It was a significant milestone for trainer Mick Channon who was awarded his first Group 1 victory as his 3 year old colt was promoted.
So Factual, who had won the Cork and Orrery Stakes at Royal Ascot, underlined the growing force that was Godolphin, with victory in the 1995 Nunthorpe, beating Ya Malak by 1 ½ lengths. A year later a future star stallion made his mark as part of a fleeting career as Pivotal won the Nunthorpe before retiring to stud. Sir Mark Prescott’s 3 year old colt had won the King’s Stand Stakes on his seasonal debut before disappointing in the July Cup behind Anabaa. At York he made short work of his rivals beating Eveningperformance by ½ a length. Among the many top class horses Pivotal has sired are: Kyllachy, Somnus, Sariska, African Story and Farhh to date.
Eveningperformance was back in 1997 but disappointed as did the July Cup winner Compton Place. However there was a sensational finish as Coastal Bluff and Ya Malak dead-heated, beating Averti by just a head in a desperate finish. In dead-heating, Ya Malak was not only making amends for his 1995 second place in the Nunthorpe, he was providing jockey Alex Greaves with a piece of history as the first female jockey to ride a Group 1 winner in the UK.
A year later the clock seemed to turn back as Lochangel, racing in the Jeff Smith colours and Lochsong – and ridden by that mare’s partner Frankie Dettori, gained a Group 1 Nunthorpe success by a length from the French challenger Sainte Marine.
The decade ended with a throw-back to the Eighties in the shape of a 3 year old who had failed to make the Classic grade but added exciting ingredients to the sprint division. Stravinsky has been a talented juvenile in 1998 but two disappointing runs at 3 led his rising trainer Aidan O’Brien to drop in distance for the July Cup. Having held an awkward head carriage when fourth in the Jersey Stakes, O’Brien deployed head gear at Newmarket and the result was an explosive performance by Stravinsky who powered clear of a large field as he defeated Bold Edge by 4 lengths in course record time.
At York Stravinsky faced a field containing Averti, Lochangel and Sainte Marine and he hit the front just before the furlong pole, comfortably holding Sainte Marine by 1 ½ lengths.
Nuclear Debate finally gave France another success in the Nunthorpe in 2000, after Sainte Marine’s two fine efforts. However the gelding had been moulded by the Ramsdens in England, where he was a useful handicapper. He moved to the yard of John Hammond in 1999 and showed improved form but the following summer Nuclear Debate became Champion Sprinter. His run started with success in the Group 2 Prix Gros-Chene and he then beat subsequent July Cup winner, the Japanese colt Agnes World by 1 ½ lengths in the King’s Stand Stakes. At York Nuclear Debate was produced with a furlong to race and beat Bertolini and Pipalong by 1 ¼ lengths.
Stravinsky’s campaign paved the way for another 3 year old sprinting star from Aidan O’Brien’s ever-strengthening yard in 2001. Having surprisingly nearly made all the running in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, Mozart landed the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. He then brilliantly won the July Cup beating Cassandra Go by 3 ½ lengths and headed to York.
Mozart stumbled as the stalls opened causing his saddle to slip back over his hindquarters and making it impossible for Kinane to ride a normal race. Despite this handicap, Mozart was prominent throughout the race and moved into the lead 2 furlongs out. Despite his adversity, Mozart ran on strongly in the closing stages to beat Nuclear Debate by a couple of lengths.
Another 3 year old colt landed the 2002 Nunthorpe as Kyllachy emulated his sire Pivotal by winning the race and retiring to stud.
The hat-trick of 3 year old winners of the race was completed in 2003 by an outstanding colt in Oasis Dream. A smart juvenile who had won the Middle Park Stakes, Oasis Dream was slow to come to hand the following year and finally reappeared in the King’s Stand Stakes, going down to Australian superstar Choisir and Accalamation. In the July Cup Oasis Dream stripped much fitter and gained his revenge on Choisir as the pair duelled in the latter stages. However, Oasis Dream was 1 ½ lengths too good at the line.
In the Nunthorpe Stakes Oasis Dream encountered rain-softened ground but the result was never in doubt as the horse led from start to finish, defeating The Tatling by and easy 2 ½ lengths. Oasis Dream has already proved a potent sire with his first crops yielding top performers like Aqlaam, Midday, Prohibit, Power and Nunthorpe Stakes winner Jwala.
In 2004 the 9 year old Bahamian Pirate landed a first Group 1 victory, denying The Tatling by a neck with another O’Brien 3 year old colt One Cool Cat a length further back. The David Nicholls gelding became the oldest winner of the Nunthorpe Stakes with this success having mixed Group 1 competition with handicaps for much of his popular career.
Incredibly 12 months later Bahamian Pirate was back to defend his title at the odds of 100/1 and sadly was unable to reproduce his exploits of 2004. The Tatling certainly did, as he finished second for the third year running, this time to the Barry Hills trained mare La Cucaracha, who raced in the colours of the popular owner Guy Reed.
Another handicapper stepped up to Group 1 winner in 2006 as Reverence continued on the upgrade. In the spring he had won the Temple Stakes at Sandown Park but had been well beaten on both subsequent runs. Eric Alston then sent his 5 year old to the Nunthorpe where he decisively beat the 3 year old Amadeus Wolf by 2 lengths and he later added the Betfred Sprint Cup and finished second to Desert Lord at Longchamp in a memorable season.
In 2007 both Reverence and Desert Lord were in very different form and not strongly fancied at York. The Australian horse Magnus, Amadeus Wolf and Red Clubs figured strongly but the Irish sprinter Dandy Man held sway after a consistent season of near misses in big races. The race was sponsored for the first time by Coolmore Stud and produced a sensation as the John Best 2 year old Kingsgate Native lost his maiden tag in the most remarkable of settings, beating Desert Lord by 1 ¾ lengths. In hindsight, this was no shock result and Kingsgate Native had finished a close second to subsequent July Cup winner Fleeting Spirit in the Molecomb Stakes and has proved a regular Group 1 competitor to fear ever since.
Borderlescott had been a very good handicapper for a couple of seasons and had landed the 2006 Stewards’ Cup, before finishing a short-head second to Zidane the following year. During 2008 Borderlescott had run well in defeat on numerous occasions and Robin Bastiman pointed his 6 year old gelding towards York.
However 2008 saw York hit by flooding and the Nunthorpe ended up being transferred to Newmarket’s July Course, where the handicapper faced a strong line-up. Among those in opposition were Kingsgate Native (now a 3 year old), Royal Ascot winner Equiano, Benbaun and July Cup winner Sakhee’s Secret. However the biggest challenge came from the South African runner National Colour whom Borderlescott defeated by ½ a length with Kingsgate Native running well in third.
It was a career high for Bastiman but one that he would be emulating a year later as Borderlescott became the first horse to win back-to-back Nunthorpes since the days of Sharpo. Now aged 7, Borderlescott had won a Listed Chester race before running fourth to Kingsgate Native in the King George Stakes at Goodwood.
The 2009 Nunthorpe Stakes featured regulars like Benbaun, Dandy Man, Kingsgate Native and Moorehouse Lad as well as the Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Art Connoisseur and the smart 2 year old Radiohead. However Borderlescott again defied his age as he got the better of Benbaun and the juvenile to record an unlikely Group 1 double. At the time of writing, Borderlescott and Kingsgate Native continue to ply their trades to great effect.
As does the winner of the 2010 Nunthorpe Stakes. Who would have thought that a horse so talented as multiple Group 1 winner and globetrotting star Sole Power, could be allowed to go off at odds of 100/1 for the 2010 Nunthorpe? That was the case incredibly, for a horse who up to that point had failed to make a major impression that season. Borderlescott was in the field, bidding for a hat-trick, while Kingsgate Native was back for more along with Equiano, who had been in excellent form. However all attention was centred around the ex-Australian colt Starspangledbanner, who had brilliantly transferred to Aidan O’Brien in Ireland and had won the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the July Cup that summer.
For many people the 2010 Nunthorpe Stakes was little more than a question of how far? It looked a reasonable assumption as Starspangledbanner began to make his challenge on the stands side; however he was being towed along by an unconsidered outsider in Sole Power who was travelling equally fast. As the 100/1 shot Piccadilly Filly gave way, it was the other 100/1 shot who went on and had far too much speed for the Australian.
2011 proved a huge year for leading female rider Hayley Turner as she partnered Dream Ahead to win the July Cup, her first Group 1 success. A matter of weeks later Turner was celebrating a second Group 1 sprint victory aboard the bonny Michael Bell trained filly Margot Did. The filly raced prominently from half way with the field spread right across the width of the track. Over on the far side Bated Breath threw down a challenge but the main action happened down the stands side as Margot Did held off the challenge of Hamish McGonagall and Prohibit.
During 2011 and 2012 the racing world was enthralled by the story of Australian superstar mare Black Caviar and her phenomenal run of victories. She was enticed to Royal Ascot where she scrambled home from the brilliant French filly Moonlight Cloud in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, despite being far from at her best. Black Caviar eventually retired undefeated in 25 starts.
Among Black Caviar’s domestic victims had been another sprinting mare Ortensia. Paul Messara’s 7 year old mare travelled over to England and like Black Caviar, was targeting Royal Ascot. Ortensia was well beaten by Hong Kong trained Little Bridge in the King’s Stand Stakes and ran an admirable race when fourth in a desperately muddy July Cup, behind Mayson. On good ground, Ortensia proved a hot prospect at Goodwood, where she defeated Spirit Quartz in the King George Stakes, underlining that her European escapade was fully vindicated.
Ortensia then travelled to York for the Nunthorpe Stakes where she encountered the improving Bated Breath, the smart 3 year old Pearl Secret, Sole Power and Hamish McGonagall. Held up towards the rear early on, Ortensia was well behind and racing in isolation towards the far side at half way, as Hamish McGonagall led. The leader still had a clear advantage at the furlong pole but suddenly the complexion of the race changed as Ortensia hit top gear and the leaders fell back to her. Spirit Quartz headed Hamish McGonagall but Ortensia, with the far rail to aid her, flew home and got her head in front in the final few strides to record a famous victory for Australia.
Spirit Quartz had been trained by Robert Cowell and the trainer sent his 5 year old back into battle in the 2013 Nunthorpe Stakes with Kingsgate Native whom he now trained, and a third string to his bow in the unfancied 4 year old filly Jwala. Kingsgate Native on the face of it appeared Cowell’s best chance with Jwala having won a Listed York contest in July before finishing last at Goodwood to Moviesta, another runner here. Sole Power and Hamish McGonagall were back, while Swiss Spirit looked very progressive and Lady Cecil ran the talented filly Tickled Pink. Slade Power, stable mate to Sole Power, was a rising force in the sprinting division for Edward Lynam and there was another international superstar in the shape of South Africa’s Shea Shea. This was a Nunthorpe with real depth.
Hamish McGonagall was once again fast out of the traps and disputed the early lead with Jwala down the centre of the track, as Spirit Quartz, racing against the stands rails, was also prominent. With 2 furlongs to race Spirit Quartz came under pressure and Hamish McGonagall and Jwala duelled a couple of lengths clear of their rivals. Further back Shea Shea and Sole Power began to get going and closed on the front pair. But it was the little filly Jwala, who bravely and gamely fought on, into the lead as Hamish McGonagall finally gave way. Shea Shea finished strongly but Jwala ran straight and true and held on from the South African, with Sole Power a close third. It was a truly magnificent performance by the little filly who was putting in a lifetime best at a very big price. Tragically Jwala lost her life in an horrific accident in Hong Kong in December, when she was squeezed for room and fell at high speed. It was an appalling incident and looked very much the result of reckless riding from two jockeys.
In 2014 there was a tremendous blanket finish to the Nunthorpe, but the outcome saw the classy Sole Power land his second renewal – some four years after winning the race at 100/1! Richard Hughes timed his run to perfection on the Edward Lynam horse, finding the right gaps to burst through late on and beat Stepper Point by ½ a length with a wall of horses in behind, separated by heads and noses.
The 2015 renewal of the Nunthorpe Stakes produced another thrilling race, dominated by fillies. The exciting and brilliantly-fast American two year old Acapulco blazed a trail on rain-softened ground, and with a furlong to race, looked to have a quality field of seasoned sprinters in trouble. However, from out of the pack emerged the Yorkshire-trained Mecca’s Angel – herself a hugely-improved filly. At the line the older filly Mecca’s Angel gave trained Michael Dods and jockey Paul Mulrennan a major Group 1 boost, beating the American filly by two lengths.
There was excitement as Mecca’s Angel remained in training in 2016 and she once again ruled the Knavesmire in August as she made it back-to-back wins in the Nunthorpe.
The Distaff category again held sway in 2017, in a vintage renewal with a touch of controversy.
The Charlie Hills-trained Battaash had improved to become the leading three year old sprinter of the year, but gave trouble at the stalls and never threatened here. Back on-song later in the year, he would win the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly.
Meanwhile, the race was fought out by two outstanding fillies in Marsha and Lady Aurelia.
As the two horses flashed past the post, virtually inseparable, Frankie Dettori signalled as though he had won aboard the American superstar. The Judge saw it differently though and called the Sir Mark Prescott trained Marsha – another to have landed the Prix de l’Abbaye, as the winner.
Down the years the Nunthorpe Stakes has delivered shocks, thrills and utter brilliance, not to mention some outstanding stallions. It remains a major factor in deciding the Champion Sprinter and became part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2011, underlining the globalisation of the race. The winner of the Nunthorpe Stakes earns an automatic invitation to take part in the same season’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Nunthorpe Stakes Winners
1922: Two Step
1923: Golden Boss
1924: Mumtaz Mahal
1926: Highborn II
1927: Highborn II
1928: Tag End
1929: Tag End
1930: Tag End
1934: Gold Bridge
1938: Mickey the Greek
1940–41: no race
1944: Sugar Palm
1945: Golden Cloud
1946: The Bug
1948: Careless Nora
1951: Royal Serenade
1952: Royal Serenade
1953: High Treason
1954: My Beau
1955: Royal Palm
1958: Right Boy
1959: Right Boy
1962: Gay Mairi
1964: Althrey Don
1967: Forlorn River
1968: So Blessed
1969: Tower Walk
1971: Swing Easy
1972: Deep Diver
1973: Sandford Lad
1974: Blue Cashmere
1975: Bay Express
|1985||Never So Bold|