The two-day Newmarket Guineas Festival is staged annually over a weekend in late April or early May. As the name suggests, racing takes place on Newmarket Racecourses’ Rowley Mile Course and includes the first two “Classics” of the season, the 2,000 Guineas and the 1,000 Guineas. Incidentally, “Rowley”, or “Old Rowley”, was the nickname of King Charles II, who was instrumental in the development of Newmarket as the home of British Flat racing.
The 2,000 Guineas is run over a straight mile and is open exclusively to thoroughbred three-year-old colts and fillies. The race was run for the first time in 1809 and, traditionally, is the first leg of the “Triple Crown”, which also includes the Derby and the St. Leger; the Triple Crown was last won by Nijinsky in 1970, though, and is rarely attempted these days. Nevertheless, the 2,000 Guineas is invariably contested by the best milers in northern Europe and the roll of honour features some of the greatest horses since World War II, including Frankel, Brigadier Gerard, Tudor Minstrel, Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars.
The 1,000 Guineas is run over the same course and distance as the 2,000 Guineas, but is open exclusively to three-year-old fillies. The 1,000 Guineas was run for the first time in 1814, five years after the inaugural 2,000 Guineas, but while it was, historically, the lesser of the two races, in terms of the original prize fund, both races are now worth £500,000 in guaranteed prize money. The 2018 winner, Billesdon Brook, was returned at the longest odds (66/1) in the history of the race. Way back in 1840, Crucifix – who also won the 2,000 Guineas, in the days when the races were run 48 hours apart – was returned at the shortest odds (1/10).