The 2,000 Guineas is the first of the Classics run in the normal racing calendar.
The very nature of the Flat turf for the vast majority of owners is the dream of having a Classic or Group 1 winner. This ensures that the horse in question can be retired to stud. Top of the current tree is Frankel with a 2020 stud fee of £175,000.
Two of the key trials for the 2,000 Guineas are the Group 3 Greenham Stakes run at Newbury and the Craven Stakes run over the Guineas course and distance. The Greenham Stakes is normally run in mid April and is run over 7 furlongs. The most recent winner of the Greenham to go on and win the 2,000 Guineas was Frankel in 2011 and the last horse to run in the Greenham and then win the Guineas was Night of Thunder who was the runner up in 2014. The only other winner since 1949 when the race was re-established after the war in 1949 was Wallow who won both races in 1976.
The Craven Stakes is run at Newmarket (Rowley Mile) over the 2,000 Guineas course. The Group 3 event can trace its origins as far back as 1771, but was established in its current format in 1878. The first horse to win the modern version of the Craven and go on to win the Guineas was Scot Free in 1884. The most recent winner of both races was Haafhd in 2004. Between 1985 and 1990 three winners of the Craven did the double, Shdaad in 1985, Dancing Brave in 1986 and Tirol in 1990.
The American-bred Dancing Brave had an outstanding racing career. Along with his win in the Guineas, he went on to win the Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in the same season. He also finished second in the Epsom Derby. He went on to have a very successful career at stud, siring 1993 Derby winner Commander In Chief.
The 2,000 Guineas was first run as early as 1809 and as would be expected a multitude of winners have gone on to have tremendous careers. Ormonde who won the 1886 renewal is generally considered on of the greatest racehorses of all time. He won all 16 of his starts which included the Dewhurst Stakes, the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, St James’s Palace Stakes, Hardwicke Stakes, the St Leger, The Champion Stakes and the Imperial Gold Cup. Ormonde was only the fourth horse to win the Triple Crown of the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger. He must have had amazing stamina and powers of recovery, running ten times in 1886, including two runs in three days at Royal Ascot. He also had a fairly decent career at stud siring 1889 Derby winner Orme.
It seems fitting to end with Sir Henry Cecil’s third 2,000 Guineas winner. Frankel had a similar career to Ormonde winning all 14 of his starts including 11 Group races in succession. Frankel started all bar his first race at odds on prices, which provides an idea of how dominant he was.
I did not see him run as a two year old but I did witness his performances as a three and four year old. At Royal Ascot in 2011 I watched him pulling two handlers around the pre-parade ring. It was so obvious that he knew he was the best horse out there. At York in 2012 he had just one handler but was still pretty lively. However, on his last start in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in the October he was being virtually dragged round by his handler, almost like an old riding school pony who is not looking forward to yet another small person kicking bits out of his sides. I thought that he had had enough of the game that day.
I think myself so, so lucky to have witnessed Frankel on the racecourse. His stride was massive, his attitude was to win, he was so dominant and when Tom Queally asked him for his effort it was all over in a flash. He won his races by a combined total 76¼ lengths which is an average of 5.4 lengths per race.
The last word must go to Sir Henry Cecil: “he’s the best I’ve ever had, he’s the best I’ve ever seen; I’d be surprised if there’s ever been better.”