Best Vintage Stakes Winners of the 21st Century

Goodwood Racecourse

First run in 1975, the Vintage Stakes is just about the pick of the juvenile events on offer at Glorious Goodwood. Taking place on the opening Tuesday of the meeting, this seven-furlong Group 2 affair boasts a mightily impressive roll of honour, with Epsom Derby winners Troy and Dr Devious and 2,000 Guineas hero Mister Baileys all coming home in front during the 20th Century.

Here we turn our attention to more recent times as we pick out our top five Vintage Stakes winners of the past 23 years – with an honourable mention going to 2006 Derby hero Sir Percy, who just misses the list.

5. 2015: Galileo Gold

We kick things off with the horse responsible for Hugo Palmer’s only British Classic win to date. Sired by star miler Paco Boy, Galileo Gold was bred to thrive at around this trip and – having progressed nicely during his first three starts – was sent off as a 9/2 shot for this.

Held up under a confident Frankie Dettori, Galileo Gold swept into the lead at the furlong pole and never looked like being passed, with the manner in which he hit the line auguring well for a tilt at the 2,000 Guineas.

A third-place finish in the Grand Criterium then saw Galileo Gold bumped down the pecking order ahead of the Newmarket Classic. However, he proved more than up to the task on the day, staying on best of all for a famous success by one and a half lengths. Disappointingly beaten in the Irish 2,000, he bounced back with a career-best effort in the 2016 St James’s Palace Stakes.

4. 2012: Olympic Glory

In common with Galileo Gold, number four on our list also ran in the famous Al Shaqab silks. Sired by Australian sprint sensation Choisir, this Richard Hannon Snr-trained star certainly wasn’t short of speed, but it was over trips of seven furlongs to one mile that he would achieve his most notable successes.

Heading into the 2012 edition of this race, Olympic Glory had won two of his first three career starts – with the only blemish being a narrow loss to subsequent 2,000 Guineas champ, Dawn Approach.

Sent off as the 11/4 second favourite, he appeared to be going nowhere quickly when behind the entire field in the straight. However, once switched to the outside by Richard Hughes, his class and acceleration
kicked into gear
, in some style.

Rounding out his juvenile campaign with a first career Group 1 success in the Grand Criterium, further top-level victories followed at three, in the QEII Stakes, and at four, in the Lockinge and Prix de la Foret.

3. 2004: Shamardal

When pressed to name the most talented horse he has ever trained, Mark Johnson wastes very little time in replying with the name, Shamardal. Sired by the “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway, this tough and talented colt was a perfect six from six during his turf career.

Having sauntered to an eight-length win on debut, Shamardal headed here for his second start as the red-hot 8/11 favourite. Odds-on backers had barely a moment’s concern, with the mount of Joe Fanning leading from the off and never seeing another rival on his way to success by a margin of two and a half lengths.

Claiming a first Group 1 win in the Dewhurst Stakes on his final start at two, Shamardal added to his haul when making all the running in both the French 2,000 Guineas and Prix Du Jockey Club – holding off the brilliant Arc winner Hurricane Run in that latter event. The Godolphin runner then saved the best until last when dominating the field in the St James’s Palace Stakes Stakes, before retiring to a successful career at Stud.

2. 2019: Pinatubo

The pick of Shamardal’s progeny to date is none other than number two on our list, the explosive Pinatubo. Also going in the Royal Blue of Godolphin, this brilliant juvenile was invincible during a stellar debut campaign – posting six wins from as many starts and climbing to a rating of 128. For purposes of comparison, the sensational Frankel managed a rating of “only” 126 in his first season.

Winning as he liked in his first two outings, Pinatubo hinted at brilliance in a Listed event at Ascot, before really making people sit up and take notice with a five-length rout in this race. And then came his simply jaw-dropping display in the National Stakes at The Curragh, followed by a second Group 1 in the Dewhurst Stakes.

Pinatubo certainly had a lot to live up to in his Classic campaign, and in the end, he couldn’t quite sustain his dominance – finishing third as the odds-on favourite in the 2,000 Guineas, and second in both the St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin. However, he did also register a third top-level victory in the Prix Jean Prat and, if judged on ratings alone, he would sit on top of this list.

1. 2014: Highland Reel

With a peak career rating of 123, Highland Reel is a little below Pinatubo, Shamardal, and Olympic Glory. However, there is more to racing than ratings, and on his overall body of work, this Aidan O’Brien-trained star takes our top spot.

Heading to Goodwood on the back of a 12-length romp at Gowran Park, it was no surprise to see the son of Galileo sent off as the odds-on favourite on the day. With Joseph O’Brien in the saddle, he didn’t disappoint, cruising up on the outside, before putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.

That success wasn’t immediately built upon during a three-year-old campaign which began with defeats in the Irish Guineas, and Irish and French Derby. However, those disappointments were soon forgotten, with the Michael Tabor-owned colt winning both the Secretariat Stakes and Hong Kong Vase before the season was up.

Racing on at four and five, by the time Highland Reel headed into the stallion sheds, he had amassed seven Group 1 wins, and an incredible £7.5m in prize money. It’s hard to zero in on a single highlight, but for us, his fairytale victory in his final start in the 2017 Hong Kong Vase is tough to beat.