- Three-year-olds and upwards, fillies and mares. One mile, one furlong and 192 yards. (Note: for three-year-olds only up to 1974)
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 contests 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 won 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 Ascot Gold Cup.
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 winning 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 duly sent of 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 during the war years of 1914–18 and 1940–45. Upon the resumption of racing at the course following the SecondWorld 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 and Sir Michael Stoute, with six winners apiece, who would come to dominate the post-war roll of honour. Murless and Piggott joined forces to secure victory with Aunt Edith in 1965, who also triumphed in the Prix Vermeille, Yorkshire Cup and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
In the decade from Aunt Edith, the Nassau Stakes, whilst 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 Henry Cecil. The filly returned in 1976 and created history when she became the first four-year-old to take the race as well as the first dual winner.
Park Express in 1986, trained Jim Bolger, became the first Irish raider to succeed in the Goodwood race. She went on to produce the 2008 Derby winner 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), were successful. 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 And 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 Classic-winning Breeders’ Cup heroine. Each had won the Group One Hong Kong Cup – Alexander Goldrun in 2004 and Ouija Board the following year. The stage was set for an epic duel.
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 home turn; Alexander Goldrun’s smooth progress to narrowly lead; Lord Derby’s mare drawing on her deepest reserves to edge level; and the moment she eyeballed her brave rival into submission.
The redoubtable Ouija Board flashed home by a short-head following the most spectacular head-to-head since Marling held Selkirk in the 1992 Sussex Stakes. The gallant but defeated Alexander Goldrun failed to recapture her form in the aftermath of the titanic struggle, whereas Ouija Board added a second Breeders’ Cup triumph at Churchill Downs that November.
It was the fourth victory by a short-head since 1945, with the other narrow winners being Hortentia (1952), Lucyrowe (1969), 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, going on to win the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.
The 1999 winner Godolphin’s Zahrat Dubai, ridden by American jockey Gary Stevens, made all and hung on in a thrilling finish. In 2000 this prestigious contest was won by the Clive Brittain-trained Crimplene, who was gaining her third Group One success of the season, having already won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes.
Ed Dunlop gained his first Group One victory in 2001 at Goodwood with Lailani. 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.
Another top-class filly took the spoils in 2009, 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 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 Abdulla’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 is a true champion and rallied gamely under Queally to assert by a cosy length and a quarter, allowing Cecil to match Stoute’s haul of seven wins in the race.
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 the Khalid Abdulla-owned Midday became the first filly or mare to win the Markel Insurance-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, Midday brought up the hat-trick. The 6–4 favourite surged clear inside the final two furlongs to see off dual Oaks winner Snow Fairy by two lengths.
The market leader has won 26 times in the 66 runnings since 1946. Markel Insurance backed the Nassau Stakes for the first time in 2011.
Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there’s a lot more to learn…