Nunthorpe Stakes

 The Nunthorpe Stakes is a Group One race run over 5 furlongs at York Racecourse on the third day of the four-day fixture, known as the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’, staged annually in August. The Nunthorpe Stakes is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged two years and upwards and, as such, is not only one of the few races in which juveniles can compete against older horses, but the only Group One contest in Britain open to juvenile geldings.

Established, in its present guise, in 1922, the Nunthorpe Stakes takes it name from Nunthorpe, an outer suburb of Middlesbrough, on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, 50 miles or so north of York Racecourse. Since 2007, the Nunthorpe Stakes has been sponsored by the prestigious Coolmore Stud – headquarters of the largest thoroughbred breeding operation in the world – in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. In 2019, the Nunthorpe Stakes offered total prize money of £400,000.

Two horses – namely Tag End, in 1928, 1929 and 1930, and Sharpo, in 1980, 1981 and 1982 – have won the Nunthorpe Stakes three times. The leading trainer in the history of the race remains Australian-born Captain Oswald ‘Ossie’ Bell, who saddled five winners in the Twenties and Thirties. Flat racing legend Lester Piggott rode seven winners between 1958 and 1978 and is the leading jockey in the history of the Nunthorpe Stakes.

According to the ‘weight-for-age’ scale, which is designed to compensate younger horses for their lack of physical maturity, juveniles competing in the Nunthorpe Stakes carry just 8st 1lb. By contrast, three-year-olds carry 9st 9lb and four-year-olds and upwards carry 9st 11lb. However, despite a generous weight concession, of 22lb and 24lb, respectively, from the older horses, the last two-year-old to win the Nunthorpe Stakes was Kingsgate Native in 2007.

The 2019 renewal of the Nunthorpe Stakes proved pivotal, insofar as the winner, Battaash, trained by Charles Hills, recorded a time of 55.90 seconds and, in so doing, broke the five-furlong course record set by Dayjur 29 years earlier. Dayjur, trained by Dick Hern and owned, like Battaash, by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, was billed in his heyday as the ‘fastest horse in the world’; his winning time of 56.16 seconds was widely considered to be unbeatable.

Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp

 The Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp or, in English, ‘Prize of the Abbey of Longchamp’, is a Group One race run over a straight 1,000 metres, or 4 furlongs and 213 yards, at Longchamp Racecourse, in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris France. The race is open to colt, fillies and, since 2001, geldings aged two years and upwards. However, since 1972, just one juvenile – the Habitat filly Sigy, trained by Christiane ‘Criquette’ Head-Maarek and ridden by her brother, six-times French champion jockey Freddy Head – has won the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

As the title suggests, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp was named after a thirteenth century priory which, prior to the French Revolution, occupied an area on the northern boundary of the modern racecourse. The race was inaugurated in 1957, when it was added to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe fixture, staged on the first Sunday in October, to celebrate the centenary of Longchamp Racecourse. Following the introduction of the European Pattern race system in 1971, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp was assigned Group Two status, but subsequently upgraded to Group One status in 1976.

Yves Saint-Martin, the darling of the French racing public in the Sixties and Seventies, is the leading jockey in the history of the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, with five winners between 1962 and 1975. François Mathet, perennial French champion trainer between 1957 and 1982, did better still, saddling a total of eight winners between 1957 and 1974.

The Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp is regularly contested by the crème de la crème of sprinting talent from the other side of the English Channel. Since the turn of the century, various British and Irish trainers, including David Nicholls, Clive Brittain, Roger Charlton (twice), Kevin Ryan (twice), Sir Mark Prescott and Charles Hills, among others, have tasted success in the Longchamp showpiece. Other illustrious ‘foreign’ winners down the years have included Sharpo, trained by Jeremy Tree, in 1982, Habibti, Timeform Horse of the Year, trained by John Dunlop, in 1983, Dayjur, European Champion Sprinter, trained by Dick Hern, in 1990 and Lochsong, Cartier Champion Sprinter twice, trained by Ian Balding, in 1993 and 1994.

St. James’s Palace Stakes

 The St. James’s Palace Stakes is a Group One race run over 7 furlongs and 213 yards on the Old Mile course at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, South East England. The race is named after St. James’s Palace, a former royal residence built by King Henry VIII, in the City of Westminster, London and is staged on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting, held annually in June. The St. James’s Palace Stakes established in 1834 and, following the creation of the European Pattern in 1971, was initially assigned Group Two status before being upgraded to its present Group One status in 1988.

The St. James’s Palace Stakes is open to three-year-old colts only, so naturally attracts horses that previously contested the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – a.k.a. the French 2,000 Guineas – at Longchamp. Indeed, the roll of honour for the St. James’s Palace Stakes features some of the highest-rated racehorses of all time, according to Timeform.

The 1947 winner, Tudor Minstrel, rated 144, had previously won the 2,000 Guineas by eight lengths and, according to some observers, could have done so by double that margin, or more. The 1971 winner, Brigadier Gerard, also rated 144, had also won the 2,000 Guineas, famously defeating subsequent Derby winner Mill Reef in the Newmarket Classic. The 1979 winner, Kris, rated a ‘mere’ 135 by Timeform, had suffered a narrow, shock defeat by Tap On Wood – ridden by a youthful Steve Cauthen – in the 2,000 Guineas, but would go on to win 14 of his 16 races. Much more recently, the 2011 winner, Frankel – whose rating, of 147, was the highest ever awarded by Timeform – arrived fresh from an impressive six-length victory in the 2,000 Guineas, but came as close as he ever did to losing his unbeaten record, but held on to win by three-quarters of a length.

The ‘Master of Balldoyle’, Aidan O’Brien, is the leading trainer in the history of the St. James’s Palace Stakes, with eight wins since the turn of the twenty-first century. Michael ‘Mick’ Kinane, erstwhile stable jockey at Ballydoyle, remains the leading rider, with six wins between 1982 and 2004.

Lockinge Stakes

 The Lockinge Stakes is a Group One race run over a straight mile at Newbury Racecourse, in Berkshire, South East England, in mid-May. Since 1995, the Lockinge Stakes has been open to colts, fillies and geldings aged four years and upwards and is, nowadays, the first Group One of the season for older horses.

The Lockinge Stakes takes its name from the parish of the same name, on the Isley Downs, north of Newbury and was established in 1958. At the time of its inauguration, the race was open to horses aged three years and upwards and was, in fact, won by 2,000 Guineas winner Pall Mall, bred and owned by Queen Elizabeth II; Pall Mall won the Lockinge Stakes again, as a four-year-old, in 1959.

Originally assigned Group Two status, following the creation of the European Pattern in 1971, the Lockinge Stakes was downgraded to Group Three status in 1983, but upgraded again in 1985. In 1995, the race was closed to three-year-olds and upgraded to Group One status. Since 2011, the Lockinge Stakes has been part of the British Champion Series and is, nowadays, the second race of the season in the ‘Mile’ division, preceded only by the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. In 2019, the Lockinge Stakes offered total prize money of £350,000.

Notable winners of the Lockinge Stakes down the years have included Habitat, Brigadier Gerard and Frankel. Indeed, Frankel was last horse to win the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot; in the latter contest, in 2012, Frankel earned a Timeform rating of 147, the highest ever awarded to a horse racing on the Flat.

Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer in the history of the Lockinge Stakes, with eight wins. His Soviet Star gelding Soviet Line, who recorded back-to-back victories in 1995 and 1996, is one of three horses – the others being Pall Mall and Welsh Pageant, trained by Noel Murless, in 1970 and 1971 – to have won the Lockinge Stakes twice. Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, Lester Piggott, who was the leading jockey in Britain for three decades, is also the leading jockey in the history of the Lockinge Stakes, with six wins between 1960 and 1993.