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What Is The Difference Between The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas?

newmarket winning postThe 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas are two prestigious horse races that hold a significant place in the history of British horse racing. Both races are Classic races, meaning that they are restricted to three-year-old thoroughbred horses, and they are held at Newmarket Racecourse in England.

These races have a rich history and have been instrumental in shaping the sport of horse racing as we know it today. For some horse racing fans, the obvious question that the names of the two races brings up is what the difference is between them and why ‘Guineas’ is included in the title at all.

The 1,000 Guineas was first run in 1814, making it one of the oldest horse races in the world. The race was named after its original prize money, which amounted to 1,000 guineas, the equivalent to about £1,050. It is open to three-year-old fillies only and is run over a distance of one mile on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket.

The 2,000 Guineas, on the other hand, has an even longer history, dating back to 1809. It was named after its original prize money of 2,000 guineas, or in the region of £2,100. This race is open to three-year-old colts and fillies and is also run over a distance of one mile on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket.

Why Are Horse Races Called Guineas?

guinea coin from 1688

Guinea coin from 1688- Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The term ‘guinea’ has an interesting historical significance. It was originally a gold coin minted in England between 1663 and 1814, during the reign of various monarchs. The coin was originally valued at one pound and one shilling, but it had a higher gold content, making it a preferred currency for large transactions, including horse sales. Over time, the guinea became a standard unit of account in the horse racing industry.

Horses were commonly bought and sold in guineas, and this practice extended to naming some of the most prestigious races after the currency.

As a result, races like the 1,000 Guineas and the 2,000 Guineas were named to reflect the significant purse offered to the winners. Just two years after the 1,000 Guineas took place for the first time, the guinea was demonetised as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816, meaning that its name soon dropped out common usage and was only used in unusual circumstances such as horse racing.

The actual amount associated with a guinea was one pound and one shilling, or £1.05 in decimal notation as we would understand it in the modern day use of money.

When Did the UK Stop Using Guineas?

britain flag and british moneyThe use of guineas as a currency in the United Kingdom ended in 1816. The coin had been in circulation for over 150 years but was officially discontinued after the Great Recoinage Act of 1816. The Act aimed to establish a uniform currency system and replaced the guinea with the pound as the official unit of account.

Although the use of guineas as currency ceased, the legacy of the guinea continued in the world of horse racing. The tradition of naming prestigious races with the term ‘guineas’ persisted, serving as a lasting reminder of the coin’s historical significance.

Obviously the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas are perfect, well-known examples of the use of ‘guineas’ in a race title, but there are other races based on those races that also feature the word. In Chile, for example, there is the Dos Mil Guineas, whilst Denmark boasts both the Dansk 1,000 Guineas and the Dansk 2,000 Guineas.

Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, there is the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Irish 2,000 Guineas, alongside the more surprising New Zealand 1,000 Guineas and the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas, all of which demonstrates that the word remained in use even whilst the currently did not.

Has a Filly Ever Won the 2,000 Guineas?

bust of gordon richards trainer and jockey

Gordon Richards who won the 2000 Guineas with filly Fonsalette in 1942 – Rose and Trev Clough / Bust of Sir Gordon Richards

Whilst the 1,000 Guineas is restricted to three-year-old fillies, the 2,000 Guineas allows both colts and fillies to compete alongside each other. Whilst that is the case, it is uncommon for a filly to win the race due to its highly competitive nature. However, it is not unheard of for fillies to participate and occasionally achieve remarkable success.

One of the most notable instances of a filly winning the 2,000 Guineas occurred in 1942, which was when Fonsalette, ridden by jockey Gordon Richards, secured a historic victory. This accomplishment was remarkable largely on account of the race’s traditionally male-dominated field.

It makes sense for fillies to be entered into the 1,000 Guineas, given that race is specifically limited to them. With that in mind, it is only the strongest of female horses that tend to be entered into the 2,000 Guineas. As a result, there have been some wins for fillies over the years, including Pastille, Crucifix, Formosa, Pilgrimage, Shotover, Sceptre and Garden Path. There are other filly winners of the race besides, but they are the main ones and stand out because of the exceptional nature of their performances and of them in general as top-class performers.

Has Any Filly Won the Triple Crown?

triple crown

The Triple Crown in British horse racing consists of three prestigious races: the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes. To win the Triple Crown, a filly must triumph in all three races, a feat that is challenging for both colts and fillies alike.

Indeed, just 15 horses have managed to win the Triple Crown since its creation, with none of them being fillies. As a result, the Fillies’ Triple Crown was created in order to give female horses the chance of winning big. That consists of the 1,000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the St. Leger Stakes, with only the latter being open to colts.

Since the inception of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, only six fillies have achieved the extraordinary accomplishment of winning all three events. The first filly to accomplish the Triple Crown victory was Formosa in 1868, ridden by jockey George Fordham. Three years later and Hannah repeated the trick, with Apology managing it three years after that. It then took 18 years for another winner, with La Fleche gaining the victory, followed by Sceptre ten years later. Two years after and Pretty Polly won, followed by Sun Chariot in 1942. Meld won it in 1955 and the most recent filly to achieve this remarkable feat was Oh So Sharp in 1985.

Is There Any Other Difference Between Them?

newmarket home of jump racing signThe 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas are iconic races that have a deep-rooted history in British horse racing. Their names pay tribute to the traditional currency used in horse trading, and whilst they share some similarities, they are distinct in terms of gender eligibility and historical significance.

Over the years, these races have produced legendary moments, showcasing the extraordinary talent and athleticism of both colts and fillies, leaving an indelible mark on the sport of horse racing. The question is, is there any other major difference between them?

The 1,000 Guineas is limited to fillies, with weight information of nine stone and zero pounds. The 2,000 Guineas, meanwhile, has the same weight allowance but fillies are given an allowance of three pounds. Other than that, there is very little to celebrate the two races. That even includes the prize money, with both races having a purse of £500,000 in 2023, of which £283,550 went to the eventual winner of each of the races.

Other Interesting Trivia

  • The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas are often seen as indicators of potential success in the Epsom Derby, another prestigious British Classic race.
  • In Ireland, races similar to the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas are held at the Curragh Racecourse, known as the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
  • The filly Taghrooda achieved a notable feat in 2014 by winning both the Oaks and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes but, did not participate in the 2,000 Guineas.
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