Bookmaker Fitzdares looks back at the Guineas' history and the greatest races to have run on the Newmarket track
Fitzdares gives its run-down on the Guineas, the first of the five Classics in the flat-racing season – from Triple Crown winner Nijinsky in 1970 to Frankel’s heroic victory in 2011.
SPORTING WAGERS: THE GUINEAS
The 2000 Guineas is the first of five Classics in the flat-racing season. It was first run on 18 April 1809, although it is usually run in May alongside the second Classic, the 1000 Guineas, which was founded five years later. While the former is reserved for colts, the latter is exclusively for fillies.
Despite its 19th-century date offering a rather obvious clue to the race’s provenance, its name is also a bit of a giveaway. After all, it refers not to a herd of guinea pigs but to a currency, the guinea, replaced by the pound by 1816.
Guineas are still used as the recognised currency for the bloodstock industry, with one guinea valued at one pound and five pence. The extra five pence? That, in the racing industry, is the courteous way of guaranteeing a 5% sales commission at auction.
You might well wonder why, despite both races being equally and prestigiously labelled as a ‘Classic’, the colts’ race is called 2000 and the fillies’ 1000. Sexism wasn’t just limited to men and women. The names were a nod to the prize money available to the winner of each race at the time. Owners would sometimes enter their best fillies into the 2000 Guineas instead of the 1000 Guineas. The reverse was not allowed. It wasn’t until 2001 that this bizarre inequality was corrected. Despite keeping their respective names, both prize funds are now set at roughly half-a-million pounds each. The Just Under Half A Million Guineas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, however.
Conditions for each race are only distinguished by sex. Over the course of a mile at Newmarket, on a track known as the Rowley Mile, both races are for extremely talented three-year-olds. Age, and the trainer’s judgement on their ability, are the only barriers to entry.
Although a maximum field of 30 horses would be allowed, 29 is the recorded historical maximum, when Pillion won the 1000 Guineas in 1926. A century previously, in 1825, there had been only one runner, Tontine, whose ‘walkover’ was one of the 4th Duke of Grafton’s eight winners in nine years. He remains the record owner and will count that year as the easiest of the lot.
You don’t have to look too far back in the record books to find the leading owner of the 2000 Guineas. Sue Magnier, who still has plenty of thoroughbreds in training, has owned or part-owned the winner an astonishing 11 times since 1997, with chosen trainer Aidan O’Brien being responsible for all but her first. Their most recent triumph came in 2019 with Magna Grecia.
Both races, while holding prestige in their own right, are also seen as precursors to the Derby and Oaks. Those two races are run over a mile and four furlongs on the Epsom Downs. Should a horse win both the 1000 Guineas and Oaks, or both the 2000 Guineas and Derby, they would be entitled to a crack at the Triple Crown. The final piece of the jigsaw is the St Leger at Doncaster, the fifth Classic, over one mile and six furlongs. The last horse to win the colt Triple Crown was Nijinsky in 1970.
The most famous horse to win either race, however, took his place in the line-up only a decade ago in 2011. Frankel set off at an odds-on 1/2, the shortest priced winner in the race’s entire history.
At the halfway stage of the race, Frankel (pictured above) was a scarcely believable 15 lengths clear of his nearest rival. It is one of the most jaw-dropping performances of all-time.
Not least to us at Fitzdares, who laid a bet that deserves a place in the annals of Guineas history. After barely one run under his belt, we were asked for a price on the then two-year-old colt Frankel to win the 2000 Guineas. Having witnessed a reasonably comfortable performance, and with caution to guide us, we offered what we thought was a fair price of 14/1. A considerable bet was placed. Gulp. By the time the race was over, we remembered carefully to pay out the winnings in pounds not guineas. With that stake, even the 5% extra would have caused considerable damage.
By Fitzdares, Racing Bookmaker of the Year (fitzdares.com)