The British Classics are five long-standing Group 1 horse races run during the traditional flat racing season.They are restricted to three-year-old horses and traditionally represent the pinnacle of achievement for racehorses against their own age group. As such, victory in any classic marks a horse as amongst the very best of a generation. Victory in two or even three of the series (a rare feat known as the Triple Crown) marks a horse as truly exceptional.
The five British Classics are:
|2,000 Guineas Stakes||Late April / early May||1 mile (1,609 m)||Newmarket||1809||Three-year-old colts and fillies|
|1,000 Guineas Stakes||Late April / early May||1 mile (1,609 m)||Newmarket||1814||Three-year-old fillies|
|The Oaks||Late May / early June||1 mile 4 furlongs 10 yd (2,423 m)||Epsom Downs||1779||Three-year-old fillies|
|The Derby||First Saturday in June||1 mile 4 furlongs 10 yd (2,423 m)||Epsom Downs||1780||Three-year-old colts and fillies|
|St Leger Stakes||September||1 mile 6 furlongs 132 yd (2,937 m)||Doncaster||1776||Three-year-old colts and fillies|
It is common to think of them as taking place in three legs.
The first leg is made up of the Newmarket Classics – 1000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas. Given that the 1,000 Guineas is restricted to fillies, this is regarded as the fillies' classic and the 2,000, which is open to both sexes, as the colts' classic, although it is theoretically possible for a filly to compete in both.
The second leg is made up of The Derby and/or Oaks, both ridden over 1+1⁄2 miles at Epsom in early June. The Oaks is regarded as the fillies' classic, the Derby as the colts', although, as with the Guineas, a filly could theoretically contest both.
The final leg is the St Leger, held over 1 mile 6+1⁄2 furlongs at Doncaster and is open to both sexes.
The variety of distances and racecourses faced in the Classics make them particularly challenging as a series to even the best horses. It is rare for a horse to possess both the speed and stamina to compete across all these distances, making the Triple Crown a particularly notable achievement. In fact, in the modern era, it is rare for any attempt on the Triple Crown to be made.
Geldings are excluded from the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger, in common with all European Group One races restricted to three-year-olds,
Although the oldest race in the series, the St Leger, was first run 1776, the races were not designated "classics" until 1815,shortly after the first running of the 1,000 Guineas.
(see also Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing)
In 1902 Sceptre became the only racehorse to win four British Classic Races outright, winning both Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger. Previously, in 1868, Formosa won the same four races but dead-heated in the 2,000 Guineas.
Fifteen horses have won the standard Triple Crown (2,000 Guineas – Derby – St Leger), the last being Nijinsky in 1970. Three of these achieved the feat during the World War I when all five Classic races were run at Newmarket.
In addition to Sceptre and Formosa above, eight horses have won the fillies' Triple Crown (1,000 Guineas – Oaks – St Leger), the last being Oh So Sharp in 1985.
Many horses have won two classics, some of whom have gone on to attempt the Triple Crown, losing in the last leg at Doncaster. The most recent example of this was the Aidan O'Brien trained Camelot, who finished second in the St Leger in 2012 after winning the 2,000 Guineas and Derby.
Most wins as a horse
Most wins as a jockey
Most wins as a trainer
The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, often shortened to Triple Crown, is a series of horse races for three-year-old Thoroughbreds. Winning all three of these Thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment in Thoroughbred racing. The term originated in mid-19th-century England and nations where Thoroughbred racing is popular each have their own Triple Crown series.
Nijinsky, usually known in the United States as Nijinsky II, was a Canadian-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He was the outstanding two-year-old in Europe in 1969 when he was unbeaten in five races. In the following season, he became the first horse for thirty-five years to win the English Triple Crown, a feat that had not been repeated as of 2020. He is regarded by many experts to have been the greatest flat racehorse in Europe during the 20th century.
The 2000 Guineas Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket over a distance of 1 mile, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late April or early May.
The St Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at Doncaster over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 115 yards, and it is scheduled to take place each year in September.
The 1000 Guineas Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old fillies. It is run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket over a distance of 1 mile, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late April or early May on the Sunday following the 2000 Guineas Stakes.
The Oaks Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late May or early June. It is the second-oldest of the five Classic races, after the St Leger. Officially the Cazoo Oaks, it is also popularly known as simply The Oaks.
St. Simon was an undefeated British Thoroughbred racehorse and one of the most successful sires in the history of the Thoroughbred. In May 1886 The Sporting Times' carried out a poll of one hundred experts to create a ranking of the best British racehorses of the 19th century. St. Simon was ranked fourth, having been placed in the top ten by 53 of the contributors.
Rock Sand (1900–1914) was a British Thoroughbred race horse and sire. In a career which lasted from the spring of 1902 until October 1904 he ran twenty times and won sixteen races. He was a leading British two-year-old of his generation, winning the 2,000 Guineas Stakes The Derby and the St. Leger Stakes. He won another series of major races as a four-year-old before being retired to stud, where he had success in both Europe and North America.
Sceptre (1899–1926) was a British-bred and British-trained Thoroughbred racemare whose career ran from 1901 to 1904. In 1902, she became the only racehorse to win four British Classic Races outright.
Pommern (1912–1935) was a British bred Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a racing career which lasted from 1914 to June 1916 he ran ten times and won seven races. As a three-year-old in 1915 he won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the wartime substitutes for The Derby and the St. Leger Stakes to win a version of the English Triple Crown. After winning his only race as a four-year-old in 1916, he was retired to stud where he had limited success.
Swynford was a British Thoroughbred racehorse. Bred at the 16th Lord Derby's stud in Lincolnshire, England he was sired by John O'Gaunt, a son of Isinglass, winner of the British Triple Crown in 1893. His dam was Lord Derby's foundation mare and 1896 Epsom Oaks winner Canterbury Pilgrim who also produced Chaucer, the 1927 and 1933 Leading broodmare sire in Great Britain & Ireland.
Crucifix (1837–1857) was an undefeated, Classic Race winning, British-bred Thoroughbred racemare. She was also the dam of three sires who had a great influence on the breed.
Camelot is a British-bred, Irish-trained thoroughbred racehorse. He was one of the leading European two-year-olds of 2011 and won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. He was made the winter favourite for the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby. On his three-year-old debut, Camelot won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and followed up by winning the Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby at the Curragh. His bid for the Triple Crown failed when he finished runner-up to Encke in the St Leger.
Formosa (1865–1881) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse that was the first winner of the English Fillies Triple Crown in addition to running a dead heat with the colt Moslem for the 2,000 Guineas Stakes. Formosa was bred by James Cookson and was foaled in 1865 at his Neasham Hall stud farm. Formosa was sold to William Graham in 1866 and raced her entire three-year racing career under his ownership. After her racing career ended in 1871, she became a broodmare for Graham until his death in 1876. Formosa was exported to France in 1879 and died there in February 1881. While she did not produce offspring that excelled at racing, her daughters that were exported to Germany and New Zealand did produce descendants that were successful racers.
Encke was an American-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse, best known for winning the classic St Leger Stakes at Doncaster Racecourse on 15 September 2012 when he defeated the Triple Crown bid of Camelot. In spring of 2013 Encke was banned from racing after failing a drug test. He returned to racing in 2014 and was placed in three races including the Irish St. Leger. He sustained a fatal injury in training in October 2014.
Jannette (1875–1905), was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won two British Classic Races in 1878. She was one of the leading British two-year-olds of 1877 when she was unbeaten in seven races including the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood. On her first appearance as a three-year-old she was beaten by Pilgrimage in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket but reversed the form with that filly to win the Oaks at Epsom a month later. Later in the season she defeated some of the season's best colts to win the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster and added a victory in the Champion Stakes against some of the leading older horses. She was less effective in 1879 but won the Jockey Club Cup on her final appearance. She was then retired to stud, where she had some success.
Garden Path was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won the classic 2000 Guineas in 1944. In a racing career conducted entirely at Newmarket Racecourse the filly ran six times and won three races. She was one of the best British two-year-olds of 1943, when she won one race and was placed in both the Middle Park Stakes and the Cheveley Park Stakes. After winning on her first appearance of 1944 she became the first filly since 1902 to win the 2000 Guineas against colts. On her only subsequent race she was injured when finishing unplaced in the Derby. She was retired from racing at the end of the season and had some success as a broodmare.
Hannah was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and the second horse to win the English Fillies Triple Crown.
Chamossaire (1942–1964) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire best known for winning the classic St Leger Stakes in 1945 and siring the Derby winner Santa Claus. After winning twice as a two-year-old, Chamossaire contested all three legs of the Triple Crown in 1945. He finished fourth in both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby before winning the St Leger. He was retired to stud where he proved to be a successful sire of winners. Chamossaire died in 1964.
Walter Earl (1890–1950) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse trainer. After a riding career of limited importance he became a private trainer, first for Solomon Joel and later for Lord Derby. He was one of the most successful trainers of the 1940s, sending out the winners of six classics and winning the title of Champion Trainer in 1945. His best horse was Alycidon who won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1949.