At 3pm on Tuesday 8th May, (VE Day) Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke to the nation and declared that the war in Europe had come to an end.
On that very afternoon thirty minutes earlier the 1000 Guineas was held at the July course and It’s hard to imagine the joy the large crowd must have felt as they made their way to the races on that historic day.
In our latest blog by Stephen Wallis, he gives a brief insight into the VE Day 1000 Guineas as Europe took it first steps into peace.
Racing was initially stopped when war was declared on 3 September 1939, which denied Blue Peter the chance of Triple Crown glory in The St Leger, only three days later. The programme restarted on 18 October at Newmarket for the Cambridgeshire meeting. Thereafter, the racing calendar was limited to a small group of courses to reduce the movement of horses to save fuel, and because the vast majority of racecourse land had been taken over for military and agricultural use and could not be used for racing, until it was formally regionalised in 1942.
As a guide in the last full season of 1938, 1,985 races were run while by 1943 this had fallen to only 471 races.
The regional restriction still remained in 1945 and the flat season had opened with the Ascot April meeting, run on Easter Monday, 2nd April. Racing at Ascot, Salisbury and Windsor was confined to horses trained south of the Trent with the exception of those trained at Newmarket. While north of the Trent, racing was only held at Stockton, Pontefract and Catterick Bridge. The latter only joined the list in 1945.
Meanwhile, racing at Newmarket’s July course, with a few exceptions was only for horses trained at Newmarket. The Classics, Free Handicap, Spring Two Year Old Stakes, Newmarket Stakes and the Coronation Cup were open to horses irrespective of area. The same rules applied to Ascot’s Queen Mary and Coventry Stakes races.
The Rowley Mile course had been taken over by the RAF in September 1939 where Wellington bombers remained until February 1945.
Newmarket’s first meeting on 1945 between 24 and 25 April had featured some trials for the opening two Classics. The principal 1000 Guineas trial was the Upwell Stakes over seven furlongs, which was won by Exotic, who beat Lord Derby’s homebred filly, Sun Stream (top right) by two lengths. Sun Stream was a chestnut filly by dual Classic winner, Hyperion out of Drift, who was by Swynford, Lord Derby’s 1910 St Leger winner. The well-bred filly was trained at Stanley House Stables by Lord Derby’s resident trainer Walter Earl. Hyperion had been the leading sire in three consecutive years (1940-1942).
On Tuesday 8 May the top two in the Upwell Stakes along with Miss Feather headed the betting. The latter was trained in Lambourn by Captain O M D Bell and had won her trial race at Salisbury. Sun Stream was sent off as the 5/2 favourite.
Reports indicate the field split into two halves and as they came down the hill Exotic was in the lead with Harry Wragg (bottom right) playing a waiting game on Sun Stream almost five lengths behind. At the bottom of the hill, Exotic lost the lead to Blue Smoke with Miss Feather challenging on her right. By now Wragg had started his run for home and soon eased past the field to win comfortably by three lengths. The “Head Waiter” as he was known had at no time used the whip. A filly of great brilliance reported The Times newspaper.
Blue Smoke was second at 25/1 while the southern filly Miss Feather was third.
Unfortunately, the eighty-year-old 17th Lord Derby was not at Newmarket on VE Day. It was the popular owner’s nineteenth Classic victory and later that season Sun Stream provided him with his twentieth and last when winning the Oaks on the July course.
One can only wonder how it felt to be at the July course on that momentous day after the struggles endured over the previous six years. Many spectators probably went back to street parties to celebrate with friends and family.
Hotspur in the Daily Telegraph said there was a record wartime Guineas crowd “filling the enclosures and lining the rails ten deep on the far side of the July course”. Perhaps we will have a similar feeling when we get the chance to return to the July course and the Rowley Mile.
Photo of Harry Wragg courtesy of Jockeypedia
Blog by Stephen Wallis