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The British horse racing flat season has five Classics – two of them are open to fillies only. All of them are open to three year-old horses only. The first of these classics is the 2,000 Guineas – the real start of the British flat racing season at end of April or the beginning of May. It is the first leg in British horse racing’s Triple Crown – followed by the Epsom Derby and the St Leger. It is also the first Group One race in the British horse racing calendar.
The 2,000 Guineas is one of the races open to three year-old colts and fillies only, and is run at Newmarket, the racecourse which is seen as the home of British horse racing. It is run over one mile on, and is traditionally run on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, which is a turf track. What makes the Rowley Mile so unique is the undulation of the track at around the six furlong mark (1.2km), with a dip followed by a slight incline towards the line. Each horse must carry nine stone, with fillies getting a three pound allowance to ensure they can compete on a fairer playing field against the colts.
The 2,000 Guineas takes its name from the size of its original purse – the guinea being an old British coin – of its first running in 1809. The size of the purse has grown considerably since 1809, with the last race in 2014 giving just over £255,000 to the winner, which was Night of Thunder.
The list of winners of the 2,000 Guineas reads like a who’s who of British horse racing, with some of the most famous horses having won the race over its 200 years. Nijinsky, ridden by Lester Piggott, was the 1970 winner of the 2,000 Guineas, and is perhaps best known for winning British Horse Racing’s Triple Crown – following up his win in the 2,000 Guineas with a famous victory in the Epsom Derby and then comfortably winning the St Leger.
Other notable winners of the 2,000 Guineas include Queen Elizabeth II’s horse Pall Mall, Sir Ivor, Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Rock of Gibraltar, Sea The Stars and the great Frankel.
There has only been on dead heat in the history of the 2,000 Guineas, and that came back in 1868 when Formosa and Moslem crossed the line together. The reason for this being the only dead heat in the history of the 2,000 Guineas is that at the time races ending in a dead heat would be run again between the two horses only, unless the owners decided to split the prize money. In this case, the owners split the prize money after originally agreeing to a rematch at the end of that day’s racing.
The most controversial running of the 2,000 Guineas may be 1980’s running of the race. The race was originally won by Nureyev, but the race was awarded to Known Fact, after Nureyev was disqualified for interfering with several horses as he navigated his way through from the back of the field. To this date, Known Fact is still the only horse to have been awarded the 2,000 Guineas through the disqualification of another horse.
Good markers for the 2,000 Guineas are traditionally the big races for two-year-olds, specifically the Racing Post Trophy, which is run at Doncaster Racecourse, the Dewhurst, run at Newmarket, and the Middle Park Stakes, also run at Newmarket. There are also 3 year-old trials run before the 2,000 Guineas which can give pointers to possible contenders, with the Craven Stakes and the Greenham Stakes being the two main races. However, it is not uncommon for leading contenders to head straight to the 2,000 Guineas without a prep run, as long as they have wintered well, of course, and trained on.
Winning the 2,000 Guineas is not a guarantee of continued success, but the most important thing is that it gives owners the chance to add a zero or two to the end of its stud fee!