Newmarket swaps horses for guinea pigs for first time in history

Too Darn Soft ran out the winner Picture: JOCKEY CLUB EAST

Too Darn Soft ran out the winner Picture: JOCKEY CLUB EAST - Credit: Archant

Newmarket Racecourse swapped thoroughbreds for guinea pigs for the first time in its 353-year history – to educate people on the origins of its two best-known races.

Too Darn Soft ran out the winner Picture: JOCKEY CLUB EAST

Too Darn Soft ran out the winner Picture: JOCKEY CLUB EAST - Credit: Archant

The world-famous QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas, part of the Guineas Festival staged at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, were first run in 1809 and 1814 respectively.

The races themselves get their name from the prize money originally offered to the winning horses, with one Guinea – a currency which was replaced by the pound in 1816 – equalling around £1.05.

Today, winners of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas take home more than £280,000 each.

A total of seven guinea pigs – all named after famous racehorses – were allowed to ‘run’ over two metres (rather than a mile) on the Rowley Mile’s official racing surface for a tongue-in-cheek film.

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Too Darn Soft ran out the winner, narrowly holding off Squeaking Lion in second and Rodent Dendron in third.

Each guinea pig wore bespoke ‘silks’ for the big race, with ITV Racing commentator Richard Hoiles calling them home.

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The action was captured for a special promotional film shot for Newmarket Racecourses, with presenters Ed Chamberlin and Derek ‘Tommo’ Thompson hosting the mock coverage.

Amy Starkey, regional director of The Jockey Club’s East region, said: “Most people have heard of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas even if they don’t know much about horseracing.

“But when it comes to getting people talking about the races themselves we often find that it’s just the racing community which takes an interest and that most people have no idea about the origins of the races or why they are called ‘The Guineas’ in the first place.

“We thought this would be a fun way to get more people talking about the first two classics of the flat racing season.

“It’s certainly the first time we’ve allowed guinea pigs onto the course and it put a smile on a lot of people’s faces when we had them in the weighing room, the parade ring, the winners’ enclosure and out on the track.

“I’m sure the runners in the QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas will set a bit more of a pace on Saturday and Sunday. It was an effort just to get some of these to go forwards, let alone in a straight line.”

The QIPCO Guineas Festival tickets are still available for both days, including some in the racecourse’s brand new for 2019 Century Stand Enclosure on the Sunday, available from

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