The racing gods looked kindly upon a rain-sodden Newmarket on Saturday as Chaldean handed Frankie Dettori a fairytale victory in the 2,000 Guineas in his final season of riding.
All had not gone to plan during Chaldean’s reappearance in the Greenham Stakes at Newmarket when the pair parted company shortly after exiting the stalls. But matters were far more straightforward on Saturday, with the Andrew Balding-trained colt making light of the softening ground to hold a good position before overhauling the errant leader Hi Royal coming out of the dip to win by a length-and-three-quarters as a 7/2 shot. Outsider Hi Royal held on for second ahead of a staying-on Royal Scotsman in third. Several of the strongly fancied horses failed to fire, notably the Ballydoyle pair of Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear who trailed home in 12th and 14th respectively.
“My emotions are all over the place,” said Dettori. “I want to cry, I want to laugh. It’s my last year and it doesn’t feel real, I don’t know if I’m dreaming. To win a Classic at any time is great but to win one in my last year is phenomenal.
“Funnily enough, I felt very relaxed beforehand. He was a horse with a chance so I should have been a bag of nerves but I was very chilled – maybe because I’ve done it so many times before or maybe because I’m in a happy place.”
On how the race unfolded, he added: “I was having a good fight with Oisin [Murphy, on Hi Royal] but once I got to the bottom of the dip, he started to quicken and I was able to really enjoy it.
“I wasn’t actually that worried about the ground because he’d given me a better feel with ease in the ground when he won at Doncaster [in the Champagne Stakes] than he did on better ground in the Dewhurst. A lot of Frankels do like a cut in the ground – Cracksman, he loved this kind of ground. My only concern was that it would test his stamina more but there were no problems there.”
For trainer Andrew Balding, it marked a second 2,000 Guineas victory in four years following Kameko’s win in 2020. Remarkably, Chaldean belongs to the first batch of horses sent to Kingsclere by his owner Juddmonte Farms, for whom he was a rare foal purchase.
“It’s brilliant,” said Balding. “When you win the Dewhurst, you look forward to a race like this. “It’s great for Frankie – what a wonderful ride he gave him. It’s just a fitting result.
“I was always happy, he always looked to be travelling comfortably. And once he mastered Oisin, I was pretty confident. He looks to have had a hard enough race today so I think we’ll wait for Royal Ascot [St James’s Palace Stakes], that is the logical step.
Chaldean, who was one of the youngest in the field as a May 10 foal, was one of the highlights of the 2020 Tattersalls December Foal Sale when knocked down to Juddmonte Farms for 550,000gns out of the draft of his breeder Whitsbury Manor Stud. In winning the 2,000 Guineas, he emulates his sire Frankel, for whom he is one of 26 Group or Grade 1 winners.
His dam, four-time winner Suelita, was bought by Whitsbury Manor for just 21,500gns in 2013. She has since become something of a blue hen for the Harper family since Chaldean heads a group of five stakes horses out of the mare alongside the likes of Mill Reef Stakes scorer Alkumait and Listed winner The Broghie Man. The daughter of Dutch Art, who descends from Gerald Leigh’s Ghislaine family also responsible for top miler Markofdistinction, also has a Kingman yearling, who topped last year’s Tattersalls December Foal Sale when snapped up by Juddmonte for 1,000,000gns.