The 2,000 Guineas, open to three-year-old colts and fillies only and run over a straight mile on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket in late April or early May, is the second youngest of the English Classic horse races. Established by the Jockey Club, under the direction of Chairman, Sir Charles Bunbury, in 1809, the 2,000 Guineas took its name from its original prize fund; a guinea amounted to £1/1/- in pre-decimal currency, so the race was originally worth £2,100 in prize money.
According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, with inflation averaged at 2.1% a year over the intervening two centuries or so, £2,100 in 1809 equates to £170,895.00 by 2019 standards. Since 2011, the 2,000 Guineas has been sponsored by Qatari investment company Qipco and constitutes the first race of the season in the ‘Mile’ division of the British Champions’ Series. In 2019, the 2,000 Guineas was actually worth a total of £500,000, with a first prize of £283,550, so it would be fair to say that the race has fared well, in inflationary terms.
The first British Classic to be screened on terrestrial television was the Derby at Epsom. Indeed, the 1931 renewal of the ‘Blue Riband’ event, staged on Wednesday, June 3, was the subject of the first television outside broadcast or, in other words, the first television programme broadcast live, on location, anywhere in the world. The Baird Television Company, under the auspices of John Logie Baird, the Scottish engineer who became known as ‘The Father of Television’, provided the pictures, which were transmitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) via the medium-wave radio transmitter at Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire. BBC Radio had first broadcast the Derby, along with the Grand National, in 1927, but the BBC Television Service was not officially launched until November, 1936.
In any event, the ‘King’s Birthday Derby’, run on the sixty-sixth birthday of King George V, was won by the 7/2 favourite, Cameronian, owned by J. Arthur Dewar, trained by Fred Darling and ridden by Freddie Fox. Television viewers were treated to a thrilling finish, with the 2,000 Guineas winner edging out well-fancied rivals Orpern and Sandwich by three-quarters of a length and the same. The following year, still some years before the advent of public television broadcasts, the Derby was shown, live, on closed-circuit television at the now demolished Metropole Kinema, in Victoria Street, central London.
The last horse to win the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas was the Galileo colt, Churchill, owned by
Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier and trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Co. Tipperary. Named Cartier Champion Two-year-old Colt in 2016, after winning five of his six races, Churchill headed straight to Newmarket for the 2,000 Guineas without a preparatory race. Ridden by regular partner Ryan Moore, Churchill was sent off 6/4 favourite and, having taken the lead over a furlong from home, stayed on well under pressure to beat Barney Roy – who stumbled badly on the downhill run into the famous ‘Dip’ – by a length.
Exactly three weeks later, Churchill lined up for the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh, in which he faced just five opponents, all of whom were officially rated at least 4lb inferior. Unsurprisingly, Churchill was sent off 4/9 favourite to win his second Classic and did so in some style. Patiently ridden by Ryan Moore, Churchill made progress on the wide outside inside the final quarter-of-a-mile before sweeping into the lead approaching the final furlong and extending his advantage all the way to the finish. He eventually passed the post two-and-a-half lengths ahead of second favourite Thunder Snow with another four-and-a-half lengths back to the third horse.
The five English Classic races are, from oldest to youngest, the St. Leger, Oaks, Derby, 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas. All five races have been in existence for over two centuries and each of them has thrown up its fair share of ‘shock’ winners, but none more so than Theodore who, in 1822, won the St. Leger at an eye-watering 200/1.
Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the St. Leger has also thrown up Encke at 25/1 in 2012 and Harbour Law at 22/1 in 2016. The fillies’ Classics, the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks, have also been won by two rank outsiders apiece, Homecoming Queen at 25/1 in 2012 and Billesdon Brook at 66/1 in 2018, in the case of the former, and Look Here at 33/1 in 2008 and Qualify at 50/1 in 2015, in the case of the latter. In recent years, though, the 2,000 Guineas has been the best English Classic for outsiders, producing Cockney Rebel at 25/1 in 2007, Mafki at 33/1 in 2010 and Night Of Thunder at 40/1 in 2014.