With the Guineas Festival just days away, we look back at five of the greatest horses ever to land victories in the Newmarket meeting.
1970 – Nijinsky (2000 Guineas)
In 1970 Nijinsky famously became the first horse since Barham in 1935 to win the Triple Crown of the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes, a feat that hasn’t been repeated since. Incredibly, it took the colt just five starts to achieve.
Ridden by legendary jockey Lestor Piggott, he was as short as 4/7 at the start but more than justified those odds, as he ran powerfully to hold off Yellow God by two and a half lengths.
In a recent interview, looking back at Nijinsky that year, Piggott said; “Well in the Guineas, the Derby and the King George he was unbeatable, no horse could beat him. Come the autumn the fire had gone out of him but it was an extraordinary feat and probably won’t be done again.”
1985 – Oh So Sharp (1000 Guineas)
Though not the Triple Crown that Nijinsky had won 15 years earlier, in 1985 Oh So Sharp claimed a treble that was virtually as impressive, landing the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the St. Leger in the same season.
Oh So Sharp struck up a formidable partnership with US Champion Jockey Steve Cauthen, who claimed that she was the best filly he had ever ridden. She went off as 2/1 favourite for the Guineas but hadn’t troubled the lead and, with just a furlong remaining, it looked like a lost cause.
However, class often prevails and a huge burst of acceleration towards the line from Oh So Sharp resulted in a thrilling three-way photo finish, alongside the Lestor Piggott mounted Bella Colora and Al Bahathri. After a tense wait, the verdict came back and Oh So Sharp had won the race by a short head.
1996 – Bosra Sham (1000 Guineas)
Bosra Sham was undefeated in her first three starts, which was enough to earn her favouritism in the 1000 Guineas in 1996 despite suffering a foot injury in the build up to the race, with her feet later become renowned for their fragility.
Putting in a brave run she battled through the pain barrier to reward her trainer, Henry Cecil, with his first classic victory since the 1993 Derby when Commander In Chief took home the spoils.
Having stayed anonymous in the early part of the race, she exerted her authority as they entered the final two furlongs to power home in first place, beating Matiya by a length and a half. The filly was subjected to a stewards enquiry for interference but came through it to take the race.
The crowd cheered Cecil loudly as he entered the winners enclosure and, in an emotional interview, he said; “When a horse is hopping lame two days before the Guineas, you don’t expect her to get there. When she crossed the line I felt weak and tearful.”
2009 – Sea The Stars (2000 Guineas)
The racing career of Sea The Stars only lasted 15 months and nine races but that was sufficient for the Irish colt to cement his legacy as one of the all time greats.
After two victories in his first three starts, Sea The Stars was rested for the winter and made his comeback in the 2000 Guineas seven months later where he was chalked up as an 8/1 shot.
His preparation had been hampered by illness, in addition to inactivity, but his trainer, John Oxx, was determined to give him the opportunity and his faith was repaid.
Sea The Stars emerged as the horse to beat when entering the last furlong and never looked in trouble after that, keeping the favourite, Gan Amhras, at bay and winning by three-quarters of a length.
Winning jockey, Mick Kinane, said; “I’ve had great belief in this horse ever since I sat on him. For a big, gangly colt, he was always going easy and I was looking forward to the day when he matured.”
Mature he certainly did. Sea The Stars would go on to claim the Epsom Derby, the Eclipse Stakes, the International Stakes, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the next six months before retiring with eight victories in his nine races.
2011 – Frankel (2000 Guineas)
Even Sea The Stars couldn’t stand up to the record of Frankel though, with many rating the thoroughbred as the greatest of all time.
After a perfect winning start to his career of five consecutive victories, Frankel was expected to blitz the field in the 2000 Guineas in 2011, with a starting price of just 1/2, the shortest in the race since Apalachee in 1974. He didn’t disappoint.
Anybody who had taken the short odds would have had no causes for concern, as Frankel led from the gates and never looked backed. At one point he was 15 lengths clear of the field before eventually easing off but still beating Dubawi Gold by six lengths.
It was another win for Henry Cecil, who modestly said; “It’s difficult to compare years and different champions but he must be up there with them.”
He certainly was, winning a further seven races before retiring in October 2012 with a perfect career record of 14 victories from 14 runs.