The Guineas Festival
The Guineas Festival is traditionally the first major flat racing meeting of the year and is always held on the first weekend in May each year. It is because of the festival’s position in the flat racing schedule that it is highly anticipated – it’s the first real chance for punters to get a feel for the horses after the winter break. The Guineas Festival also hosts two out of the five “classic” races – the 2,000 Guineas Stakes and the 1,000 Guineas Stakes.
2,000 Guineas Stakes
This race is one of the oldest annual fixtures in horse racing – first run in 1809, with the prize of 2,000 guineas at the time giving name to the race (1 guinea = £1.05). The prize money has gone up since then, and by quite a considerable amount – in 2009, the total prize money was in the region of £400,000!
Run over the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, the race is open to both colts and fillies that are 3 years old, but historically, very few fillies have won, with only 6 outright victories at the time of writing. The 1,000 Guineas Stakes is run exclusively for fillies and is written about separately below.
Although the field is limited to a maximum of 30 horses, in practise, the highest number of runners was 28, back in 1930.
1,000 Guineas Stakes
The second classic at the Guinea Festival, the 1,000 Guineas Stakes is exclusively for 3 year old fillies. This race is also named for its original prize, but again the prize has increased significantly in the succeeding years – the race now has equal prize money to the 2,000 Guineas – however, this was only the case from 2001 onwards.
The 1,000 Guineas is also run over the Rowley Mile but is slightly younger, with the first race being held in 1814.