Horse Racing India: 2000 Guineas

The Indian 2000 Guineas horse races have been an integral part of the Indian season for the past 75 years (and counting). As one of the five major Classic races in Indian horse racing, the Indian 2000 Guineas is a huge crowd-puller. Dating back to pre independence days, this race is modeled after its British namesake.

As is the case with most other Indian Classics except the St Leger, the city of Mumbai hosts this race every single year. The race has been held under the auspices of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), ever since its inception.

Both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas in British racing tradition are mile-long races. The main difference between the two is that the 1000 version is only for fillies. Keeping in line with the tradition, the Indian 2000 Guineas is also a one-mile race, which comes to around 1600m.

The venue

A highlight of the Winter Season in Mumbai, the Indian 2000 Guineas is always hosted in December at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in the city. Aside from the Indian Classic variant which is exclusive to Mumbai, each race club in the country usually hosts a regional 2000 Guineas race.

Since the beginning of the Classics in India, the first race of the season has always been the 1000 Guineas and it is immediately followed by the 2000 Guineas.  The preferred day for the race falls almost invariably on a weekend, usually a Sunday or Saturday.

Evenings are usually preferred for the start of this race, usually around the 04:00 PM scheduled start. The 2000 Guineas is open to both colts and fillies, with an age limit set at 3 years. All Indian Classics forbid foreign-born horses from participating. So this race is open only to Indian-born and bred colts and fillies. Though the race is run at level weights, the fillies get a weight allowance of 1.5 kg.

The History Behind Indian 2000 Guineas

The tradition of holding Classic Races in India arrived rather late in the Colonial history of the country. The British introduced horse racing to India as early as the 1700s and hosted the first Classics in the UK in early 1800s. But these races were not introduced in India for another 150 years.

The first edition of the Indian Classics was started in 1943 by the Royal Western India Turf Club in Mumbai. There were three races that year – the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, and the famous Indian Derby.

In the first seven editions of the 2000 Guineas, the races were held in the month of January, before shifting to the now-standard December schedule in 1949. That year, there were two editions of the 2000 Guineas, one in January and then again in December!

While the distinction for the first-ever Indian Classic goes to the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas has been more popular as it involves both colts and fillies. And it also plays a key part in the Indian version of the Triple Crown – given to the colt or filly who manages to win the 1-mile (2000 Guineas), 1.5-mile (The Derby), and the 3-mile (St Leger) classics in a single season.

The first-ever winner of the 2000 Guineas was  Princess Beautiful, a filly trained by M C Patel and ridden by E Britt. She also won the 1000 Guineas and the Derby that same year.  The stakes in that year’s race were around INR 20,250. Fast forward to 2018 and the stakes have risen to INR 35,67,500.

Outcome of the 2018 Indian 2000 Guineas

The 2018 edition of this Classic Race, called the Villoo Poonawalla Indian 2000 Guineas for sponsorship reasons, was held on 16th December, a Sunday.  It was the 6th race of the day, with a 4:00 PM start. There were 8 horses in the running, all of them colts, geldings, or rigs, with no fillies accepted.

With odds of 1/4 or 45/100 depending on who you asked, Sir Cecil (Win Legend (JPN) – Elusive Trust) was the overwhelming favorite to win this edition of the 2000 Guineas. The unbeaten bay rig had top billing with an 88 rating and was trained by the vastly experienced S Padmanabhan. David Allan was his jockey in this race.

Other major contenders that year included Star Superior (Excellent Art (GB) – Ramjet) with odds of 11/2,  Intense Stylist (Western Aristocrat (USA) – Spica) at 18, Sacred Roman (Holy Roman Emperor (IRE) – Cliquot (USA)) and Awesome One (Dean’s Kitten (USA) – Aim to Achieve (IRE)), both rated at odds of 25.

Quick recap:

Coming into his eighth race after an impressive record of 7 straight wins, Sir Cecil made it almost impossible to put money on any other horse for the 2018 edition of the 2000 Guineas. And based on past performance, he had little to fear from the field, having beaten the top challenger Star Superior on every occasion.

On the race day, there were no surprises as Sir Cecil duly won the race by a clear margin of one and a quarter lengths, ahead of Star Superior. The latter redeemed himself by putting up a gallant fight, but could not really muster anything to put Sir Cecil off his stride.

The race was clearly a two-horse affair at best, with the margin between Star Superior and Sacred Roman in third being over six lengths. Sacred Roman itself was a clear three lengths ahead of the chasing pack which included Awesome One and Bush Tops.

Here is how the top five looked:

Rank  Horse  Jockey  Trainer
1  Sir Cecil  David Allan  S Padmanabhan
2  Star Superior  Suraj Narredu  Rajesh Narredu
3  Sacred Roman  Leigh Roche  P Shroff
4  Awesome One  Yash Narredu  Deepesh Narredu
5  Bushtops  A Sandesh  MK Jadhav

List of Past Indian 2000 Guineas Winners

Year  Horse  Jockey  Trainer
2018  Sir Cecil  David Allan  S Padmanabhan
2017  Castlebridge  P Trevor  Bharath Singh
2016  Serjeant At Arms  A Sandesh  SA Attaollahi
2015  Phoenix Tiger  Colm O’ Donoghue  Dallas Todywalla
2014  Be Safe  S Narredu  M Narredu
2013  Murioi  B Sreekanth  S Ganapathy

Winners (1944 – 2012): https://www.racingworldindia.com/index.php/2018/05/15/winners-of-the-indian-2000-guineas-gr-1/

Indian 2000 Guineas Historical Records

The first-ever edition of the 2000 Guineas in 1943 recorded what would turn out to be one of the biggest winning margins in history. That year, the winner Princess Beautiful was ahead of the pack by over 8 lengths when she cleared the post.

The opposite of this happened in 1967, which recorded the only dead-heat ever in the history of this race, between Bulund and Our Select. The latter went on to win the Triple Crown that year, which suggest that he was the better horse in hindsight.

The elusive Triple Crown

Talking about Triple Crown winners, ten horses who won the 2000 Guineas have gone on to complete this historic triple in the last 75 years. The first of these was Commoner in 1953. And the last was Smart Chieftain in the 1999-00 season.

Sir Cecil was widely expected to break the dry spell in 2018-19, but his shock defeat in the Indian Derby means that the wait for the next Triple Crown winner continues for the 19th consecutive season. This is the longest spell of its kind in the history of the Indian Triple Crown.

When it comes to the most successful jockey in the history of the 2000 Guineas, the distinction is shared between two individuals with 5 wins each- P Shroff (between 1986 – 88) and R Hughes (between 1999 – 2011).

The situation is identical in the case of trainers, with RR Byramji having secured his 5 wins between 1975 and 1998, while CD Katrak did it in a shorter spell between 1989 and 2003. Five other trainers are on 4 wins each, with Imtiaz A Sait and S Ganapathy the currently active ones with a chance to equal Byramji and Katrak.