Flat Racing Betting Guide – The Classics
The flat racing season dominates the summer months. From April through until October, the thoroughbreds get the limelight.
In hazy sunshine and warm temperatures, the equine superstars thrill and amaze in equal measure. Sprinkled across the season are The Classics – the true hallmarks of flat-racing greatness.
Each has its own unique draw and they are the prime targets for the latest generation of three-year-old would-be superstars. As these races are exclusively contested by three-year-olds, the protagonists are often referred to as the ‘Classic generation’ during their season.
These are major betting events like no other in the flat season. Ante-post markets are formed and re-shaped as the key trials take place and the protagonists demonstrate their ability.
Here is a guide to the five British Flat Racing Classics:
1. 2,000 Guineas – Newmarket – May
Distance – 1 mile
The opening gambit of the Classic season comes at Flat Headquarters on the Rowley mile course.
All the talk that has stemmed from the juvenile season comes to an end as the real action kicks off in style. The dress rehearsals in the UK come at Newmarket and Newbury in the Craven Stakes and the Greenham Stakes in mid-April, while there is also a worthy trial at Leopardstown in Ireland.
For some, the choice will be to simply roll up at Newmarket cherry-ripe and ready to roll after a winter off.
In recent times, the Guineas has been well and truly spoiled with some absolute superstars of the game producing their best, with the likes of Sea The Stars, the mighty Frankel and Dawn Approach strutting to success.
The 2000 Guineas demands a horse can settle quickly and race at a helter-skelter pace along the Rowley Mile, coping with the famous dip before showing the burst of pace required to win over a mile, a distance at which many of the colts will never have raced over before.
As the opening Classic of the season, it is of course keenly anticipated and is the first leg of the Triple Crown.
2. 1,000 Guineas – Newmarket – May
Distance – 1 mile
A day after the colts, it is the turn of the fillies’ to take centre stage at Newmarket as the 1,000 Guineas completes the first leg of the Classic campaign.
Over the same course and distance as the boys 24 hours previously, the best three-year-old fillies come to lay down their markers for the year ahead.
Newmarket’s 1,000 Guineas trial is the Nell Gwynn Stakes during the Craven Meeting while at Newbury the Fred Darling is a pre-Guineas test of real significance.
Leading into 2020, Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last four renewals and four in all since Homecoming Queen won in 2012.
3. The Oaks – Epsom Downs – June
Distance – 1m4f
Onto the fabulous Epsom Downs in June and the additional four-furlongs turns the dial towards those with stamina on their CV.
The differing test on offer at Epsom means that it requires a filly of exceptional potential to consider trying to follow up Newmarket success in The Oaks.
The modern master of The Oaks was the late, great Sir Henry Cecil who claimed the last of his eight victories in the race in 2007 with Light Shift. Cecil simply had a magnificent way with fillies, supplementing his Oaks record with six wins in the 1,000 Guineas.
Since 2014, Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden have bossed this event, winning three each with the likes of Minding (O’Brien) and superstar Enable (Gosden).
4. The Derby – Epsom Downs – June
Distance – 1m4f
The jewel in the Classic crown for many observers, The Derby at Epsom is a race like no other.
The pageantry that accompanies the race makes this day shine like a beacon on the racing calendar. In terms of betting and racing, it is a standout day in the year.
The Derby is usually an ultra-competitive event but such is the power attached to Aiden O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard that his 2019 win with Anthony Van Dyck means he’s just one away from holding the all-time record on his own (eight wins).
Perhaps the most iconic flat jockey of his generation, Frankie Dettori was forced to wait until 2007 for his sole maiden Derby victory, the enigmatic Italian steering Authorized to victory after he had been heavily backed for trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam.
No one however can match the incredible feats of Lester Piggott, who defined his career with nine victories in his sport’s premier contest.
5. The St Ledger – Doncaster – September
Distance – 1m6f
The final chapter in the Classic story and another two-furlongs are added to the mix, ensuring that any potential Triple Crown (2,000 Guineas, Derby, St Leger) hopefuls will have been well and truly tested for speed and stamina alike.
The St Leger heads north to Doncaster and the famous Town Moor track where the colts and fillies are united for the one and only time in the Classic calendar.
No horse since Nijinsky in 1970 has managed to come to Doncaster and complete the hat-trick – with Camelot (2012) the only one to get the opportunity – on that occasion O’Brien and powerful owners Coolmore’s old adversary had the last laugh when Encke scored for Godolphin.
2019 hero Logician is the latest potential superstar for trainer John Gosden and rider Frankie Dettori, having maintained his unbeaten record with an impressive St Leger success.