Qatar Racing won its first 2,000 Guineas when the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko showed top-class ability and true determination to land the first British classic on Saturday under an inspired Oisin Murphy. It was also the fastest ever 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket!
Favourite was last year’s unbeaten dual Gr.1 winner Pinatubo but he could finish only third to Kameko, who was winning his second Gr.1 himself after smoothly taking the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle last November.
Kameko’s success in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas was a third European classic for Qatar Racing after Simple Verse (St Leger) and Just The Judge (Irish 1,000 Guineas). It was also a first British classic for Qatar Racing’s retained rider – and reigning champion jockey – Oisin Murphy and a second for trainer Andrew Balding after Casual Look in the Oaks.
There was drama from the start of the race as Kenzai Warrior nearly unshipped Jason Watson leaving the stalls, but all the main contenders soon settled in the pack as Persuasion and Juan Elcano made the running.
Kameko’s rail draw in 15 of 15 meant we always knew he’d need a bit of luck in running and thankfully he had plenty left in the tank as Oisin switched him in between Wichtia and Military March with a furlong and a half to run.
Kameko stuck his head down and hit the line with a neck to spare over Wichita and another length back to Pinatubo. It was a fantastic performance from both winning horse and jockey.
Oisin told the press afterwards: "I've never won a Classic in Britain and it means the absolute world to me. It's the stuff of dreams.
"It was a gutsy performance. He hardly blew a candle out afterwards - he must have a tremendous amount of ability.
"I'm thrilled, in those colours for Andrew Balding.
"I wanted to carry him (Balding) on my shoulders and swing him round and make him dizzy, but first of all I'm not big enough and strong enough to do that, and secondly there would have been a lot of bad press tomorrow morning!
"It obviously hasn't sunk in, there isn't the same atmosphere after the race - in fact there's no atmosphere - but it means just as much to me. I think really and truly Kameko is a very good horse."
Andrew added: "The form looked to stack up from the race at Newcastle and I'm just so grateful and thrilled to Sheikh Fahad and Qatar Racing for giving me a horse as good as this. I'm delighted for Oisin as well.
"This is massive, as a Classic is a Classic whenever it is run. It has been a long time since I last won a Classic and it has been a long time since Kingsclere has had a Guineas winner. It speaks volumes of the team at home. They have done an amazing job.
"It is huge and we are very grateful to everyone who has worked hard to get racing back on, and as I said a Guineas is a Guineas whenever it is run. I couldn't be happier."
Kameko - named by Sheikh Fahad's wife Sheikha Melissa - was promoted to Derby favouritism (best-priced 4/1) and naturally it’s an option.
Kameko was bought for just $90,000 in Keeneland by Qatar Racing's racing manager David Redvers, and his story so far has been especially poignant as he’s by the same sire – Kitten’s Joy – as our late champion Roaring Lion. We are proud of the horse and grateful for all those who have played apart in his great successes so far - thank you!