Racing expert Steven Dowler gives us his list of the seven best 2000 Guineas winners so far this century.
George Washington (2006)
George Washington, known as “Gorgeous George” by his beloved fans, was a very talented horse who quickly developed into a top-class two-year-old having won five consecutive races between May 2005 and May 2006. Three of those wins were at Group 1 level, including the Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes, before he set his sights on the 2000 Guineas.
Sent off as 6-4 favourite, George Washington seemed well off the pace for the majority of the race but, when angled out for a run by rider Kieren Fallon, he demonstrated a tremendous burst of speed to quicken past many rivals at the furlong pole to lead. That lead never diminished as George stayed on well to win the race by two lengths.
George Washington went on to place four times in Group 1 races and gained one more Group 1 win, at Royal Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Sadly, he sustained a fatal injury on his final start in America as a four-year-old. Gorgeous George had so much raw ability, speed and talent, and his victory in the 2000 Guineas back in 2006 was a great moment. He remains one of the best 2000 Guineas winners.
Dawn Approach (2013)
Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning remain a brilliant combination and have enjoyed great success together. However, one horse who was no doubt one of the best to come from Jim Bolger’s yard was the mighty Dawn Approach. He won eight of his twelve career starts and was unbeaten in his first seven races, with three of those wins coming in Group 1 contests.
Dawn Approach was sent off 11-8 favourite for the 2000 Guineas in 2013 and he duly obliged, winning the race by five lengths and defeating some top-class horses. Most notably he beat Toronado, who he battled on many more occasions. Dawn Approach was then expected to win the Epsom Derby when 5/4 favourite. Disappointingly, he failed to settle and was beaten a long way from the finish, eventually trailing home last of the twelve runners.
On the back of this defeat, Dawn Approach had something to prove next time out. He was still made favourite for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot and put in a tremendous performance, sticking his head down in determination to get the better of Toronado, with the pair locked in a sustained duel from the furlong pole.
This top-class miler ran well three more times at the highest level before retirement. Dawn Approach was a fantastic racehorse and, on his day, there was nothing that could beat him. He proved that when slamming a good field in the 2013 2000 Guineas.
Possibly the greatest performance in 2000 Guineas history was Frankel’s back in 2011. Described as the best horse of our generation by many racing fans, Frankel was never defeated in his fourteen-race career. Each and every time he stepped onto a racecourse, Frankel would make brilliant horses look average.
In 2011, Frankel was sent off as 1/2 favourite for the 2000 Guineas and, as soon as the gates opened, he went straight into the lead, a lead that increased rapidly. Unbelievably, at the half way stage Frankel was over ten lengths clear of the field and many would have expected him to burn out. Impressively, Frankel was never to be caught and maintained his strong gallop to score by six lengths at the line.
I don’t think we will see a Group 1 race be dominated by one horse in the same manner which Frankel did to his opposition that day. He went on to add a further nine Group 1 wins to his extraordinary CV. Comfortably one of the best 2000 Guineas winners and one of the greatest horses all time.
Night Of Thunder (2014)
An interesting choice for the list is Night Of Thunder’s victory in 2014. He won his first couple of starts as a two-year-old before being beaten in a Group 3 next time out. This meant he was sent off as an astonishing 40-1 for the 2000 Guineas back in 2014. Trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Kieren Fallon, Night Of Thunder was written off by the bookmakers.
However, the three-year-old finished with a wet-sail despite hanging across the course to lead close from home and defeat both Kingman and Australia. Night Of Thunder only won one more race in his career, which was another Group 1.
However, his performance in the 2000 Guineas was a very special moment with him beating two outstanding horses who won eight Group 1 races between themselves.
Refuse To Bend (2003)
Refuse To Bend was a quirky but very talented racehorse and was a brilliant two-year-old, winning his first four races. His most notable success came in the 2000 Guineas in 2003. What made his victory even better was the number of horses who looked to have a winning chance at the furlong pole which you don’t see that often.
However, Refuse To Bend was the one who eventually put distance between himself and the rest of the field to score for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen. He was a tough horse on his day and won three Group 1 races in his career. Interestingly, his performance in the 2003 Guineas is even more significant as it remains Dermot Weld’s sole winner in the race.
It is rare we see a French-trained horse come to the UK and win the 2000 Guineas. Makfi was a shock winner in 2010, winning the race at 33/1. Reflecting back on the race, it was strange to see him so big in betting having been undefeated in his two starts to that point.
Makfi was a top-class miler for connections and his win in the 2000 Guineas was a cracking performance due to the opposition he beat, such as St Nicholas Abbey, Canford Cliffs and Dick Turpin. To this day, Makfi remains one of the cheapest sales to win a classic and one of the best 2000 Guineas winners.
Arguably one of the best milers Aidan O’Brien has ever had. Henrythenavigator had all the attributes you needed to be a successful Group racehorse and he accomplished some unbelievable achievements in 2008, winning four consecutive Group 1 races.
He was sent off at 11-1 for the 2000 Guineas that year but took top honours under Johnny Murtagh, defeating two very high-class racehorses in Raven’s Pass and New Approach and putting in ond of the best 2000 Guineas winners performances this century. Henrythenavigator went on to finish second at Royal Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita before retiring.
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