The 2000 Guineas celebrates its 210th anniversary at Newmarket on April 18 this year and Aaron Sutcliffe delves into the archives to mark the occasion.
The year is 1809 – James Madison has just become the fourth president of the United States, Humphry Davy has just invented the electric arc lamp and Charles Darwin has just been born.
But Darwin’s birth wasn’t the only significant natal in 1809 – so to was the 2000 Guineas.
The brainchild of Jockey Club chairman Sir Charles Bunbury, who is also credited with co-founding the Derby at Epsom even further back in 1870, the 2000 Guineas staged its inaugural race on the 18th of April in 1809.
The fact the 2000 Guineas remains one of the key fixtures of the British horse racing calendar, some 210 years later, is testament to its credibility and integrity and even pre-dates the Cheltenham Gold Cup (founded 10 years later in 1819) and the Grand National (founded 30 years later in 1839).
Its creator, Charles Bunbury, 6th Baronet, served most of his life in Parliament sitting in the House of Commons from 1761-1812. However, far from settling for a life in politics, Bunbury is widely regarded as a crucial figure in the sport of horse racing.
Helping to create both the Epsom Derby and 2000 Guineas, Bunbury’s legacy in the sport remains evident today – simply owing to the fact that both events are staples of the British horse racing calendar.
He even owned three Derby winners: Diomed, Eleanor and Smolensko with the latter horse also handing Bunbury his one and only success in the 2000 Guineas in 1813.
Whilst the naming rights of the Derby were reportedly decided by the toss of a coin, there was no such debate over the Guineas, with the race named after its original prize winnings which at the time amounted to £1.05 (a guinea equated to 21 shillings).
Wizard, the progeny of Bunbury-owned three-time British champion sire Sorcerer, ridden by Bill Clift, trained by Tom Perren and owned by Christopher Wilson, became the first horse to win the 2000 Guineas Stakes, run over the Rowley Mile, at Newmarket, setting off as the 4/5 favourite of eight runners.
Robin, priced at 6/1 and owned by another 6th Baronet Sir John Shelley, finished second with another of Bunbury’s horses, Fair Star, priced at 7/1, in third. Second favourite, with odds of 10/3, Japan finished in fourth.
Wizard went on to finish as runner-up in the Derby that same year, going on to win Match races against Pope and Middlethorpe later in his career as well as winning the 100 Guineas Sweepstakes all at Newmarket.
Yorkshire jockey Clift rode one further winner at the 2000 Guineas, riding Interpreter to victory in 1818 having also ridden five winners in the Derby.
Since that important first race back in 1809, the 2000 Guineas now forms part of the illustrious Triple Crown, alongside the Derby and St. Leger Stakes with 15 horses achieving this feat, most recently in 1970 by Nijinsky.
Last year’s prize purse was a staggering £500,000, a seismic increase on the original prize winnings but whilst horses, jockeys, trainers, owners and prize winnings change every year – the Rowley Mile at Newmarket remains comparatively untouched as a racecourse, as it was back in the year 1809.