GUINEAS FESTIVAL: An All-time Classic – Frankel in 2011

As we approach Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas of 2020 – postponed from May due to Covid-19 and now to be held on 6th June – we look back on one of the most extraordinary moments of the Classic, in 2011, when Frankel surged up the field with a seemingly impossible lead…

Our reporter Sara Waterson was amongst the crowd watching in increasing awe as the race unfolded; here is her story from the day:


Following excited reports of the unbeaten Frankel’s superlative work on the Warren Hill gallops – including once outrunning the Newmarket train alongside – a huge and hugely expectant crowd flocked to Newmarket’s Rowley Mile on QIPCO 2,000 Guineas Day, 30th April 2011, in the hope they would witness the Galileo colt make history.

Such was the flood of money over the winter and up to the very moment, they sent him off as a very skinny odds-on favourite at 1/2, the shortest odds since 1974. And for once after all the massive hype, we were not disappointed – in truth we could not have written the dramatic script.

Ignoring his pacemaker Rerouted, who couldn’t start fast enough for them, Tom Queally and Frankel took an immediate lead to the audible mass amazement of their fans. Had Tom gone off too fast? – Frankel covered the first few furlongs in a time set more often by Group 1 sprinters. The announcer’s amazement was clear as he gasped that:

"They're at the halfway mark – Frankel's fifteen lengths clear! Can they keep it up?"

In the event, those horses which had tried to keep pace with him in the early stages fell back through the field, Aiden O’Brien reporting later that Ballydoyle’s main hope Roderic O’Connor had come back “Rolling around, his eyes out of stalks!” whilst the race caller found it hard to keep his incredulity in check.

Idling in the final furlong – Frankel must have forgotten he was racing having never seen another horse – he never looked in any danger.

This was a scarcely believable exhibition and one that will live long in the memory: he finished six lengths ahead of the Hannon yard’s Dubawi Gold and the fancied grey Native Khan, who is trained by Ed Dunlop, with the rest led by Stan Moore’s Slim Shadey beaten a further eleven lengths straggling in over a distance. A rueful Richard Hughes, after coming in second, reported: “Frankel is some machine. In an ordinary Guineas we would have trotted up.”

Wild applause for Frankel began at the furlong pole…

…and awed racegoers lined the horsewalk all the way to a packed Winners’ Enclosure, with fans on the stand balcony also staying to acknowledge an extraordinary feat. It was an emotional occasion, more than most, since Henry Cecil, now 68 and without doubt the UK’s most loved trainer, had been cruelly denied his 25th Classic winner last season, the filly Jacqueline Quest being denied in the Stewards’ Room.

Mobbed by a vast press corps and feted by the patient throng, Cecil was given a special trophy after the prolonged award ceremony to mark Henry reaching his ’25th’ at last. It was all the sweeter as a few years back following a broken marriage and death in the family, the revered trainer succumbed in the 1990s first to alcoholism and then to stomach cancer, which he is still battling. But here he was at last, back where he belongs at the top of the flat-racing tree, and Cecil was given prolonged applause throughout the occasion.

The trainer’s last win in the 2,000 Guineas was with another Juddmonte runner, Wollow, back in 1976 – before many of Saturday’s racegoers were even born. Whilst the contribution of Frankel’s admirable owner and breeder Prince Khaled Abdullah (founder and supremo of Juddmonte Studs) seemed almost incidental such was the emotion of the moment, without the Prince’s loyal support during the rough years, the victory would have been unthinkable since the yard would not have survived.

Thus the famous ancestral flag was raised over Warren Place once more as it was so often in the golden years, to mark this popular Classic victory, whilst ‘King Henry’ celebrated in his new teetotal fashion – with a cup of tea!

Scenes from the Race

(Click on images to enlarge and read the captions)

Scenes from the Day

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