2000 Guineas

The 2000 Guineas Stakes is a group one flat race for three year old colts and fillies. It’s a much loved race drenched in tradition and is also one of the five British Classics, a group of races that have attracted the cream of the crop of the racing world for literally hundreds of years. The 2000 Guineas also forms part of the Triple Crown which consists of the 2000 Guineas, The Derby and the St Leger. The Triple Crown came to be as result of West Australian winning all three races way back in 1853. In fact, only 15 horses have ever won all three races.

The one mile 2000 Guineas takes place in either April or May of each year at Newmarket racecourse. The race was first run in 1809 (prior to the first 1000 Guineas) . It wasn’t long before it had established itself as a firm fixture in the racing calendar and a race that jockeys, trainers and owners alike all had their eye on. The number of 2000 Guineas clones around the world speaks to its influence on the world stage. From the Australian Guineas to the Poule d’Essai des Poulains it’s a worldwide affair.

There are trial races which can act as a path to the 2000 Guineas such as the Craven Stakes and Greenham Stakes, though for some it’s their first race of the season. The purse for the race is £500,000, with £280,000+ going to the winner, the identical payout as the 1000 Guineas.

Leading trainer of the 2000 Guineas is Aidan O’Brien with nine wins, and memorable winners of the event include Nijinsky in 1970 and the legendary Henry Cecil trained Frankel in 2011.


Grand National

In terms of name recognision the Grand National is surely second to none. This national hunt race held at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool is emmersely popular with both ardent horse racing fans, but also those not typically interesting in following the sport. From work sweepstakes, to relatives scanning newspapers to place a small wager on a selection they like the name of, the nations eyes turn to the TV screen in their millions during the Grand National which takes place in April of each year.

The Grand National is run over a 4 miles 514 yards course, and those taking part are tasked with jumping 30 fences over two laps. The fences are of various levels of difficulty, but some of them are notoriously difficult such as Becher’s Brook and The Chair. The first Grand National took place in 1839 when the event was founded by Waterloo Hotel proprieter William Lynn on land he’d leased in Aintree. The Grand National meeting (and especially interest in the Grand Nation race itself) has gone from strength to strength since to the point where it now reaches worldwide audiences upward of 500 million viewers.

As with any event steeped in history the Grand National has seen several eras, or moments, that will forever be remembered. One of the first was the 100-1 win from Foinavon in 1967. Foinavon wasn’t given a hope beforehand, so much so that his owner didn’t even bother to turn up to watch the race. However in a stroke of astonishing good fortune while he was lagging 100 yards behind the leading pack, a loose horse veered across the field at the 23rd fence unseating some, and sending others in all directions. John Buckingham simply steered Foinavon around the carnage to claim victory.

Perhaps the era racing fans are most fond of though is the Red Rum period. Red Rum was originally bought  as a yearling for just £420 and later by Ginger McCain (for Noel le Mare) for £6,300. McCain persevered with the horse through period of injury and it certainly paid off as Red Rum is today the only horse to have won the Grand National three times (in 1973, 1974 and 1977).

Modern highlights of the Grand National include Ginger McCain’s renewed success at the National 31 years on, with a win with Amberleigh House ridden by Graham Lee, and in 2004 Venetia William’s Mon Mome winning at  huge odds of 100-1. The 2018 winner of the event was 10-1 shot Tiger Roll, ridden by Davy Russell and trained by George Elliot.

Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby takes place in June of each year over a 1m 4f 6y course at the Epsom Downs racecourse in Epsom, Surrey. UK. The group one race is steeped in history; and the first Derby was held in 1780.

It forms part of the Triple Crown which consists of the 2000 Guineas, The Derby and the St Leger Stakes. The Triple Crown was introduced or rather coined as way of ascertaining excellence in racing and it certainly has demonstrated that over the years. Only 15 horses have won all three Triple Crown races starting with West Australian in 1853, and most recently the legendary Nijinsky in 1970.

The Derby, named after the 12th Earl of Derby, is also one of the five British Classics, group one races for three year olds that are designed to display the pinnacle of achievement against peers. The two additional races that make up the British Classics are the 1000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks. Winning any of these five races is an indication of very significant ability. Only one horse, Sceptre has won four of the Classics (in 1902), incidentally the Derby was the only race that Spectre didn’t win.

Historically the race used to be paired with the Epsom fair, which by all accounts sounds like a riproaring affair that attracted people from all over the UK, but especially London. Charles Dickens is known to have visited the fair in the 1850s and enjoyed its mix of magicians, clowns and entertainers.

The Derby is held in such high regard that it’s been used as a template of sorts for races around the world, there would be no Kentucky Derby without the Epsom Derby. The purse for the event matches the prestige at £1.5 million in 2018, with £850,650 going to the winner.

With such an illustrious history it takes special individuals to stand out in this event, but one such person is Lester Piggott who won the Derby a stunning 9 times between 1954 (on Never Say Die) and 1983 (on Teenoso). He also had a memorable win on Sir Ivor. Interestingly each of his nine wins came on a different horse.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup, open to horses aged 5 and over, is a Grade One National Hunt race, and the jewel in the crown of the prestigious four day Cheltenham Festival. It’s held in March of each year and the race is run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, featuring 22 jumps.

The purse for the Gold Cup is a very healthy £575,000 with over £325,000 of that going to the winner. As with many of our most treasured and respected races, it holds no shortage of history. The first Cheltenham Gold Cup was run in July of 1819 at which time it was actually a flat race. It wasn’t until 1924 that hurdles entered the equation and the race became what we know it as today.

With so much history behind it, it’s no surprise that the Cheltenham Gold Cup is seen by many trainers and owners alike as ‘the one to win’. It’s something of a legend maker with the likes of Kauto Star, Best Mate, Desert Orchid and Arkle all staking a claim to greatness by their performances in the Gold Cup. Arkle won the race in three successive years from 1964 and 1966, and Kauto Star had an infamous rivally with Denman, becoming the only horse to ever regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup title in the process, after first winning in 2007 and then again in 2009.

Other stand out performances in the Gold Cup include 100-1 Norton’s Coin winning the 1990 race and Coneygree becoming the first novice to ever win it in 2015. Golden Miller is the most successful horse in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, eclipsing them all with five consecutive wins from 1932 to 1935. Jockey Pat Taaffe and trainer Tom Dreaper are also stand outs in terms of achievement, with 4 and 5 wins respectively under their belts.

Australian Cup Ante-Post Big Race Preview

Avilius has been installed as the clear favourite to triumph in the Australian Cup after storming to victory in the Group 3 Carlyon Cup earlier this month. James Cummings’ galloper looks primed to compete in the biggest races in the country this coming spring, but the Australian Cup has always been his autumn target. He is in superb form and he will take some stopping in the big race, but competition will be fierce and it promises to be an enthralling contest.

The Group 1 Australian Cup is one of the most important races in the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival. With a prize purse of $1.5 million, it is also the joint-richest, while the prestige associated with winning it is huge. It takes place over 2000m at Flemington and it is known as the autumn equivalent of the Cox Plate. It is a weight for age race for horses aged three and above, and seasoned gallopers have had huge success here over the years.

The Australian Cup has a long and illustrious history, having been inaugurated in 1863, when Barwon held on for victory over 18 furlongs (3621m). It was shortened to 2000m in the early 1960s to attract talented middle distance gallopers and it has remained a highlight in the racing calendar ever since. True titans of the sport have won this race since the turn of the century, including Makybe Diva, Northerly, Lonhro, Zipping and Shocking. The leading lights in Victoria and further afield will bid to join that great pantheon on March 9 this year.

It takes place on Super Saturday, a day that is always popular among punters as it also includes the Group 1 Newmarket Stakes. Both are huge races, but the Australian Cup is the feature race of the day and it will generate huge interest across the country. Last year it generated a huge media buzz after $61roughie Harlem pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the race’s history.

The previous year had seen $4.25 favourite Humidor triumph with a classy performance, and many punters expected 2018 favourite Gailo Chop to deliver in similar style. They lumped on Darren Weir’s gelding and he went off at $2.60 from barrier 10. Gailo Chop looked to have the race in the bag when he hit the front at the 300m mark, but Harlem, Lindsay Park’s French raider, sneaked up the inside rail and managed to savage the line in sensational fashion to claim an unlikely win.

It was the roughest Australian Cup result since Dandy Andy defied odds of $125 back in 1988. “Closer to the fence is like lightning,” said jockey Michael Walker. “I had a beautiful run the whole way.” The most successful barriers over the last 35 years are actually 7 and 8, which have each yielded five winners. However, the outside barriers are the least successful, and many riders will be keen to stick to that inside rail at the 2019 Australian Cup.

Gailo Chop is not the only short-priced favourite to be vanquished, as Jeune ($1.66), Theseo ($1.80), Northerly ($1.80), Vo Rogue ($2), Shiva’s Revenge ($2.20) and Princess Coup have all finished second in recent times. Yet a number of big favourites have won, including Northerly and Vo Rogue. Veandercross won at just $1.36, the shortest price in recent memory, but Bonecrusher was $1.44, Better Loosen Up was $1.73, Fiorente was $1.90 and Lonhro was $2, so punters will not be put off if the price on Avilius drops further.

Cummings is giddy with excitement about the five-year-old’s prospects this year and beyond. “He’s a pretty serious horse that I think is capable of graduating to weight-for-age,” he said after the Carlyon Cup win. “The Australian Cup is his autumn target. We’ll regroup after that but I am of the view that a light autumn will suit the horse. He’s an extremely good addition to our stable and we’re extremely grateful to have him and we want to look after him. He kept motoring to the line in good fashion. He’s got a great amount of heart about him and good to see him win first-up over 1600 metres.”

Avilius was third last in the field of 10 in that race and looked at a serious disadvantage due to the track pattern, but Kerrin McEvoy got to work on him and he responded with a brilliant burst of pace to overhaul the leaders. He ended up winning by three-quarters of a length from Sikandarabad and Night’s Watch, and Cummings said he has now recovered from being knocked down in the Melbourne Cup.

A look at the horse racing betting at Punters will tell you that Avilius is the clear favourite to triumph in the Australian Cup, but the field is stacked with talent. There were 33 horses left standing after the first acceptances, with six entries each for stars like Park and Waller, along with a strong contingent of runners that have left the Darren Weir stables. Chief among them is second favourite Night’s Watch, who lost out to Avilius in the Carlyon Cup but is still highly regarded. The field is studded with superstar talent, including Johannes Vermeer, Alizee, Land Of Plenty, Extra Brut and Rekindling, so it is sure to be an engrossing race.

The Peter Young Stakes is the primary lead up for the Australian Cup, as 13 of the last 17 winners have come through that race. That race takes place on Saturday and it will feature the likes of Avilius, Night’s Watch and Harlem, so it is bound to affect the odds on the Australian Cup. The Group 2 contest at Caulfield has produced more Australian Cup winners than any other race, with the likes of Fiorente and Lonhro completing the double. It is a big event in its own right, but the Australian Cup is the key distance event in Victoria this autumn and it should prove to be another fascinating race.