Held on Champions’ Day at Newmarket Racecourse each October, the Dewhurst Stakes is Britain’s most prestigious flat race for juvenile Thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run over the turf of famous Rowley Mile, covering a distance of seven furlongs. As the penultimate Group 1 event of the racing season, the Stakes attracts considerable attention and heavy betting. It is watched even more closely as an indicator of which 2-year-olds will graduate to entry in the 2000 Guineas Classic the following spring.
Originally established I 1875 as the Dewhurst Plate, the race was the invention of Tom Gee, who named it after his Dewhurst Stud located in Sussex. As an indication of just how important the event would become, all of its winners in the first four years went on claim at least one classic title the following year—Kisber (1875) took the Derby, Chamant (1876) and Pilgrimage (1877) won the 2000 Guineas, and Wheel of Fortune (1878) came first at the 1000 Guineas, as did Pilgrimage the preceding year.
This tradition of being the proving ground for next year’s 3-year-olds has continued right up to the modern era. Sir Percy (2005) and New Approach (2007) both were able to triumph in the Derby after winning at the Newmarket October Meeting.
Those who know juvenile racing know that riders, owners, and trainers are as much a factor in winning the Dewhurst Stakes as the runners themselves. The top jockey of all-time in the Dewhurst is Lester Piggott, with ten wins between 1956 and 1982. The leading trainers, with eight victories apiece, were John Porter, who posted his wins between 1884 and 1898, and Frank Butler, who took home the honours during the period 1927~1946. The owner with the most Dewhurst Stakes wins was HH Aga Khan III, an avid fan of racing, who dominated the field between 1923 and 1946 with runners coming in first, five of which were trained by Butler.
More recently, the team of trainer Jim Bolger and jockey Kevin Manning opened eyes at the Dewhurst Stakes with a three-peat performance. Their winning entrants were Teofilo (2006), New Approach, and Intense Focus (2008). The latter was of special interest, running as an outsider at 20-1. And in the 2009 contest, another trainer made eyes pop. Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien had four starters in the race, and they finished a remarkable first, second, fourth and 14th.
No discussion of the modern Dewhurst Stakes can be undertaken without mentioning the close association that has developed with the nation of Dubai since 1988. That was the year in which Thoroughbred owner Sheikh Mohammed, the Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, saw his horse Ajdal run to victory. Two years later, his steed Scenic shared the prize in a dead heat with Sir Michael Stobell’s Prince of Dance. And in 1994, the head of state’s Pennekamp ran first.
These victories induced other leaders of the Middle East to enter their Thoroughbreds in the Dewhurst Stakes, and they did so with great success. Between 1995 and 2000, four of the winners were owned by Dubai-bred runners, and the other two were from the stables of Khalid Abdullah, a Saudi Arabian prince.
Nor has the Dubai connection been limited to breeding Dewhurst winners. Sponsorship has become an integral component of racing in Britain in the past decade, and Dubai’s international luxury hotel chain called Jumeirah took up the race’s title through 2009. In 2010, Dubai itself, which is one of the seven United Arab Emirates, announced that it would assume sponsorship of the race, which will be known hereafter as the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.
As result of Dubai’s interest, the purse for the prestigious juvenile race climbed to £300,000 in 2009. Of that, £180,160 went to the most recent winner, Beethoven, owned in part by British billionaire Michael B. Tabor. For 2010, the sponsor has created a special prize for the “Best Dressed Racegoer.” It will offer two people the opportunity to visit Dubai for the Dubai International Racing Carnival in February 2011, inclusive of flights and accommodations.