- Three-year-olds and upwards. One mile and six furlongs. First run 1997
The QIPCO Sussex Stakes is one of Europe’s most prestigious mile contests with a roll of honour to match any major horse race in the world. It is therefore interesting to note that Goodwood’s race of champions had inauspicious beginnings.
Lord George Bentinck and the fifth Duke of Richmond devised the race for two-year-olds, but it did not match the prestige of either the Stewards’ Cup or the Goodwood Cup.
First staged in 1841, the Sussex Stakes was aimed at two-year-olds for 37 years. During that time, however, the race was uncontested on no fewer than 25 occasions and included 14 walkovers!
The race’s fortunes changed for the better after 1878 when it became a mile event for three-year-olds. Its status rose so that by 1885 the 2,000 Guineas winner Paradox lined up and augmented his earlier Classic triumph with victory on the Downs.
Royal patronage was received in 1909 when King Edward VII’s Derby winner Minoru took the spoils, his victory coming three years after Troutbeck, owned by the second Duke of Westminster, won en route to Classic success in the St Leger.
Other winners of note in that period include 1,000 Guineas scorer Winkipop (1910), the prolific Stedfast (1911) and two more St Leger heroes in Tracery (1912) and Black Jester (1914).
The First World War (1914-18) halted the sport at Goodwood including the Sussex Stakes and, upon racing’s resumption, the Sussex Stakes failed to draw the same calibre of horses. It took until 1932 when the Aga Khan’s Irish Derby victor Datsur won for the race’s profile to be raised again.
Within a decade, global conflict had again caused the cessation of racing at Goodwood. After Eastern Echo won a replacement contest staged at Newmarket’s July Course in 1941, the Sussex Stakes was not held again until 1946 when a golden era ensued.
The post-war years witnessed the ascendance of the Sussex Stakes as a premier mile championship event. In 1948, the Maharaja of Baroda’s My Babu, who had earlier won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, became the first of seven horses from 1945 to win the first colt’s classic and the Sussex Stakes in the same season.
Others to complete this famous double have been Palestine (1950), Brigadier Gerard (1971), Bolkonski (1975), Wollow (1976), Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), Henrythenavigator (2008) and Frankel (2011).
The Queen owned the winner of the 1954 Sussex Stakes, Landau, who was ridden by Willie Snaith following the accident to Gordon Richards which ended the leading jockey’s career 18 days earlier.
Brigadier Gerard, sired by 1963 Sussex Stakes winner Queen’s Hussar, is arguably the greatest horse to grace the race and that is a fine compliment given the quality of the others on the roll of honour. The Dick Hern-trained superstar won 17 of 18 career starts over three seasons, ranging from six furlongs to a mile and a half. Brigadier Gerard made all to win the 1971 Sussex Stakes comprehensively by five lengths.
More recently, Rock Of Gibraltar equalled the record of six consecutive Group One victories, set by Brigadier Gerard’s one-time rival Mill Reef, when defeating the previous year’s winner, Godolphin’s Noverre, in 2002.
Four-year-olds were allowed to compete from 1960 and, after another 15 years, five-year-olds and upwards were also able to run in the Sussex Stakes. Le Levanstell, trained in Ireland by Seamus McGrath, became the first four-year-old to win in 1961, while the oldest winners have been six-year-olds Noalcoholic (1983) and Court Masterpiece (2006).
Three fillies have won the 1,000 Guineas and BGC Sussex Stakes in the same season – On The House (1982), Humble Duty (1970) and the great Petite Etoile, who, ridden by Lester Piggott, justified odds of 1/10 to beat five rivals in 1959. Trained by Sir Noel Murless for Prince Aly Khan, the grey Petite Etoile had also won the Free Handicap and Oaks before Goodwood and later captured the Yorkshire Oaks, Champion Stakes and the Coronation Cup twice. She won a total of 14 races ranging in distance from five furlongs to a mile and a half.
Sayyedati, trained by Clive Brittain, won the Sussex Stakes in 1995, having landed the 1,000 Guineas two years earlier. Sonic Lady, second in the 1,000 Guineas, made amends in the 1986 Sussex Stakes, having already annexed the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and subsequently won the Prix du Moulin.
Another superb filly, Marling, narrowly missed out in the 1992 1,000 Guineas but made no mistake in the Sussex Stakes later that summer. Lining up against the imposing figure of the previous year’s champion miler, Selkirk, the brilliant daughter of Marwell belied her slight frame and dug deep to repel her older rival at the end of one of themost thrilling duels the Goodwood crowd has ever witnessed.
Most of the best milers of recent years have landed the BGC Sussex Stakes and the roll of honour also includes such greats as Kris (1979), Chief Singer (1984), Soviet Star (1987), Warning (1988), Zilzal (1989) Giant’s Causeway (2000) and Ramonti (2007).
Godolphin’s Aljabr put up a tremendous front-running display in 1999 that resulted in the grey colt lowering the course record, while 2000 saw the “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway collect the third of five consecutive Group One wins that season.
Ramonti, a third winner for Godolphin following on from Noverre in 2001, won a thrilling renewal of the BGC Sussex Stakes by a head from Excellent Art, having gained a definite advantage soon after taking the lead two furlongs out and then holding on as the runner-up produced a strong run. Ramonti won four Group Ones in 2007 and finished a close second in another two.
The 2008 winner Henrythenavigator was the third Sussex Stakes scorer for trainer Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien. The three-year-old replicated the feat of the trainer’s Rock Of Gibraltar in winning the 2,000 Guineas, St James’s Palace Stakes and Sussex Stakes in the same season.
O’Brien was again on target in 2009 when Rip Van Winkle gained an impressive victory. Rip Van Winkle went on to take the Group One Queen Elizabeth II stakes, also over a mile. The Galileo colt attempted a second victory in 2010 but was no match for the Richard Hannon-trained three-year-old Canford Cliffs. The Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner unleashed a scintillating burst of speed to win by a cheeky neck under Richard Hughes.
Canford Cliffs returned in 2011 for a race termed ‘The Duel on the Downs’ with the unbeaten three-year-old Frankel taking him (Europe’s best older miler) on. Frankel, owned by Khalid Abdulla, trained by Sir Henry
Cecil and ridden by Tom Queally, put up a brilliant performance. He made all to beat Canford Cliffs impressively
by five lengths, confirming his position as a horse out of the ordinary.
Frankel ended the year unbeaten and the best horse in the world on a rating of 136. He was the champion horse in the inaugural QIPCo British Champions Series.
Sir Gordon Richards, with eight victories, has been the most successful jockey in the race’s history, enjoying his first win on Marconigram in 1928 and final one on Agitator in 1952. Piggott and Pat Eddery each triumphed on six occasions. Richards, who was knighted in 1953, made the Sussex Stakes almost his own from 1946 through to 1952, winning the mile contest five times in seven runnings.
Eddery’s first victory came aboard Posse in 1980 and further success followed with King’s Lake (1981), Warning (1988), Marling (1992) and Distant View (1994). The jockey had already decided to retire from race riding at the end of the 2003 season when he went to post aboard 20/1 shot Reel Buddy for that season’s Sussex Stakes. The unheralded outsider provided the fairytale ending to a phenomenal riding career as he swooped from last to first under a vintage Eddery ride to win by a head.
There have been 66 renewals since 1946 and 36 favourites have won, including the last four. The shortest-priced scorer was Petite Etoile at 1–10 in 1959.
QIPCO, which also supports the QIPCO British Champions Series, sponsored the Sussex Stakes for the first time in 2011.