2000 Guineas

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.

The Grand National

As the most famous steeplechase in the world, the Grand National requires little, or no, introduction. The advertised distance of the Aintree marathon may have been reduced to four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs – a furlong shorter than previously, following re-measurement of the National Course in 2016 – and the obstacles may have been ‘softened’ for safety purposes, but the race remains a formidable test of stamina and jumping ability. To win the Grand National horses must complete two circuits of the National Course, negotiate thirty obstacles, including the infamous Becher’s Brook, Canal Turn and The Chair, and retain enough stamina for the famously long, 494-yard run-in between the final fence and the winning post. In 2020 the Grand National was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This put on ice the Gordon Elliot trained Tiger Roll’s attempt to win three Grand Nationals in a row.


Aintree Racecourse, the home of the Grand National, was created by William Lynn, the proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool, in 1829. Lynn originally leased the land at Aintree from William Molynuex, Second Earl of Sefton, with the intention of staging Flat racing. However, prompted by the success of an existing steeplechase, known as the Great St. Albans Steeplechase, Lynn staged a precursor to the Grand National, known as the Liverpool Grand Steeplechase, or simply the Liverpool Steeplechase, for the first time in 1836. Interestingly, the inaugural running was won by The Duke, ridden by Captain Martin Becher, who famously sheltered in the brook at the fence which now bears his name during the first ‘official’ Grand National in 1839.


Although still known by its original title, the 1839 renewal was won by the aptly-named Lottery, trained by George Dockeray and ridden by Jem Mason. Originally a conditions or weight-for-age race, in which all the participants carried twelve stone, the Grand National became a handicap, under the influence of Edward Topham – who later acquired the lease and became Clerk of the Course at Aintree – in 1843. Aside from the years 1916-1918, when a substitute race, known as the ‘Racecourse Association Steeplechase’ and subsequently as the ‘War National’, was run at Gatwick Racecourse, 1941-1945, when the race was abandoned, and 1993, when the race was declared void after thirty jockeys failed to realise a false start had been called, the Grand National has been staged as a handicap at Aintree ever since.

Willie Mullins

William Peter ‘Willie’ Mullins has won the Irish National Hunt Trainers’ Championship thirteen times in total and has been perennial champion since 2007/08. He is also the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival but, until recently, the glaring omission from his CV was the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, having saddled the runner-up in the so-called blue riband of steeplechasing six times, Mullins finally laid his Gold Cup hoodoo to rest when Al Boum Photo, ridden by Paul Townend, stayed on well to beat Anibale Fly by 2½ lengths and carry off the historic trophy for the first time in March, 2019.


Based at Closutton, Co. Carlow, Mullins has been the dominant force in Irish National Hunt racing for over three decades. He saddled his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Tourist Attraction, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1995 and, in the meantime, has accumulated a total of 65 winners, one more than Nicky Henderson. Indeed, Mullins has won the leading trainer award at the Cheltenham Festival six times, in 2011, 2013-216 and 2019 and, in 2015, saddled eight winners across the four days, setting a record equalled by compatriot Gordon Elliott in 2018.


Of the main ‘championship’ races at the Cheltenham Festival, Mullins has won the has won the Champion Hurdle four times, with Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016), the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Nichols Canyon (2017) and Penhill (2018) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup once, with the aforementioned Al Boum Photo (2019). The Queen Mother Champion Chase remains elusive, but Mullins went as close as he ever with Un De Sceaux, who was sent off at 4/6 to win the two-mile chasing championship in 2016, but finished second, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Sprinter Sacre; Mullins finished second again with Min in 2018.


In September, 2016, following a dispute over training fees, the Michael O’Leary-owned Gigginstown House Stud – the leading owner in National Hunt racing in Ireland on seven occasions – removed its entire string, which amounted to 60 or so horses, from Mullins. A significant number of those horses, including subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Apple’s Jade, were transferred to Mullins’ arch rival Gordon Elliott, with the others dispersed among Henry De Bromhead, Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, Joseph O’Brien and Noel Meade.


Founded in 1992 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, now Ruler of Dubai, Godolphin is the largest thoroughbred horse racing and bloodstock operation in the world. The enterprise is named in honour of the Godolphin Arabian, one of the three foundation sires that were the progenitors of the Thoroughbred breed who, in turn, was named after his most famous owner, Francis, Second Earl of Godolphin.

Godolphin has its headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but is a truly global operation with stables and breeding establishments in Britain, Ireland, France, the United States, Japan and Australia. In Britain, Godolphin operates two training yards, Moulton Paddocks and Godolphin Stables, formerly Stanley House Stables, both of which are in Newmarket.


Between 2010 and 2013, Moulton Paddocks was run by Mahmood Al Zarooni, who was ‘warned off’ for eight years by the British Horseracing Authority after admitting administering anabolic steroids to a total of 15 horses in his care, effectively ending his career in racing. Al Zarooni was subsequently replaced by Charlie Appleby, who had previously worked for Sheikh Mohammed for 15 years, including as assistant trainer to Al Zarooni.


Appleby splits his year between Moulton Paddocks, in the summer, and Marmoom Stables, situated in the desert to the south of the City of Dubai, in the winter. From his winter base, Appleby principally prepares his string for the most valuable race meeting in the world, the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which is staged annually between January and March at nearby Meydan Racecourse. Godolphin Stables, on the other hand, is the summer base of the longest-standing Godolphin trainer, Saeed bin Suroor. He, too, splits his year between Newmarket and Dubai, spending the winter months in Al Quoz Stables in the heart of the City of Dubai.


Over the years, Godolphin has employed several high-profile jockeys, including Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori, Silvestre de Sousa and Mickaël Barzalona, who remains the principal Godolphin rider in France. In Britain, the iconic royal blue silks are most often worn by retained jockeys William Buick and James Doyle. All told, Godolphin has produced over 5,000 winners worldwide, including 300 at Group One, or Grade One, level. Landmark victories include the first ever Classic winner for Godolphin, Balanchine, ridden by Frankie Dettori, in the Oaks in 1994 and, more recently, the first ever Derby winner, Masar, ridden by William Buick in 2018.

Davy Russell

In recent seasons, David Niall ‘Davy’ Russell has become a household name on both sides of the Irish Sea, thanks, in large part, to his association with Tiger Roll, who won the Grand National in both 2018 and 2019. However, Russell, who turns 40 in 2019, was hardly an oversight sensation. He first won the National at his fourteenth attempt but, by that stage, he had already won the Irish jump jockeys’ championship twice, in 2011/12 and 2012/13 – and would win it again in 2017/18, two weeks after his National triumph – and ridden 22 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including Lord Windermere in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014.


A native of Co. Cork in southwest Ireland, Russell was recruited, from the amateur ranks, to join Wexford-born trainer Ferdy Murphy, based in West Witton, North Yorkshire in 2002. He rode his first winner as a professional on Inn Antique, trained by Murphy, at Sedgefield in November that year. However, despite no little success in Britain, including winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park and finishing second to Best Mate in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Truckers Tavern, Russell returned to Ireland just over a year later.


Russell subsequently rode for Co. Tipperary trainer Edward O’Grady and as a freelance jockey, during which time he rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Native Jack, in the Glenfarclas Country Chase in 2006. In September, 2007, Russell became stable jockey to Gigginstown House Stud and, although that position lasted only until December, 2013, rode at least one winner at the Cheltenham Festival – including Tiger Roll, having just his third start, in the Triumph Hurdle in 2014 – up to, and including, 2018. Indeed, in 2018, Russell rode four winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including a 377/1 treble on the penultimate day, to edge out compatriot Jack Hughes and win the Holland Leading Jockey Award for the first time.

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