Established by the Jockey Club, under the patronage of Sir Charles Bunbury, in 1809, the Two Thousand Guineas took its name from the original prize fund; at the time the guinea, worth 21/– in pre-decimal currency, was still the largest denomination in British currency. However, in two hundred-odd years since the race was first run on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, the Two Thousand Guineas has become one of the races that defines a generation of thoroughbred racehorses and, today, has a prize fund of over £500,000.
Designated a ‘Classic’ – along with the One Thousand Guineas, Derby, Oaks and St. Leger – by the Jockey Club in 1814, the Two Thousand Guineas is run over a straight mile, in late April or early May, and open to thoroughbred three-year-old colts and fillies. Fillies receive a 3lb weight allowance from their male counterparts but, even so, tend to contest the ‘fillies-only’ One Thousand Guineas which, despite its title, is worth £500,000 in prize money. In fact, the last filly to win the One Thousand Guineas was Garden Path in 1944.
Along with the Derby and St. Leger, the Two Thousand Guineas traditionally forms the so-called ‘Triple Crown’, last won by Nijinsky, trained by the late Vincent O’Brien and ridden by Lester Piggott, in 1970. Nowadays, the Triple Crown is rarely, if ever, attempted, although in 2012, Camelot, trained by Aidan O’Brien, won the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby before finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the St. Leger. Speaking of Aidan O’Brien, the current ‘Master of Ballydoyle’ has a phenomenal record in the Two Thousand Guineas, with the 2019 winner, Grecia Magna, taking his total to ten winners since 1998.
Indeed, Grecia Magna joins a roll of honour that includes some of the highest-rated horses since Timeform published ‘Racehorses of 1948’ in 1949. In 2011, the highest-rated horse of the Timeform era, Frankel, made all the running to win by six lengths, but even he could not match the performance of the 1947 winner, Tudor Minstrel – joint-third on the all-time list, according to Timeform – who won by eight lengths and, according to some observers, could have won by twenty lengths. Other luminaries to have won the first Classic of the season include Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars.