Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas (gr. I)

(ENG-I , 8f ,)

KING'S BEST (B h, 126 lb) $265,820
Kingmambo —Allegretta (GB) , by Lombard (GER)
B—M-3 Elevage, KY.; O—Mr Saeed Suhail; T—Sir Michael R. Stoute

Giant's Causeway (CH h, 126 lb) $100,828
Storm Cat —Mariah's Storm , by Rahy
B—Michael Tabor, KY.; O—Mrs John Magnier & Mr Michael Tabor; T—Aidan P. O'Brien

Barathea Guest (GB) (B h, 126 lb) $50,414
Barathea (IRE) —Western Heights (GB) , by Shirley Heights (GB)
B—Chippenham Lodge Stud Ltd, GB.; O—Mr John Guest; T—G. G. Margarson

Margins: 3½, 1½, 2. Others: Zoning (GB) 126($22,916) , Compton Bolter (IRE) 126($11,458) , Umistim (GB) 126($6,875) , Primo Valentino (IRE) 126 , Distant Music 126 , Summoner (GB) 126 , Lincoln Dancer (IRE) 126 , Millenium Moonbeam 126 , Cape Town (IRE) 126 , Western Summer 126 , Onlyman 126 , Free Rider (GB) 126 , Fath 126 , French Fellow (IRE) 126 , Mana-Mou Bay (IRE) 126 , Scarteen Fox (IRE) 126 , Broche 126 , Winning Venture (GB) 126 , Race Leader 126 , Shamrock City (IRE) 126 , Mastermind (IRE) 126 , Misraah (IRE) 126 , Bernstein 126 , Alfini (GB) 126 . Winning Jockey, Kieren Fallon.

Gary Stevens could feel the vibes, and he told the world. “I would love to come back and ride this horse in the classics next year,” he said.

Trainer Michael Stoute confirmed that stable jockey Stevens felt he had found “one of the ones” in Kings Best. “The first time he won on him, Gary said, ‘I don’t know if I want to go back (to the U.S.) now,’ and he repeated it at York after he won the Acomb,” said Stoute.

But back to America and subsequent retirement Stevens went, missing out on being the first American rider to win a British classic since Steve Cauthen took the 1989 St. Leger (Eng-I) with Michelozzo. Into champion jockey Kieren Fallon’s lap fell another classic winner, his first in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), but his fourth of the last five. Fallon won last year’s One Thousand Guineas, Oaks, and Derby (all Eng-I) for Henry Cecil, but was fired amid rumors of a liaison with the trainer’s wife, Natalie, and linked up with Stoute for this year on Stevens’ departure.

Like Fusaichi Pegasus, Saeed Suhail’s Kings Best had the press questioning his temperament and ability to cope with the big occasion. The 2.3 million French francs ($381,570) Goffs Deauville sale yearling was awash with sweat in the Guineas parade ring, but had paddock judges scratching their heads as he stormed clear of Guineas favorite Giant’s Causeway up the Rowley Mile’s final 100 yards to win by 31¼2 lengths.

The Queen officially opened Newmarket’s £18 million Millennium grandstand before 27 went to post for the one-mile Guineas, the largest field since American-owned Baldric II clicked at 20-1 in 1964. The Guineas, sponsored for a third year by Wafic Said’s asset management firm Sagitta, was first run in 1809.

Winter book favorite Distant Music had eased in the betting after being defeated by Barathea Guest in the Lane’s End Greenham Stakes (Eng-III) three weeks before, and eased further on course as a major plunge on Giant’s Causeway built momentum. Trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, Prix de la Salamandre (Fr-I) winner Giant’s Causeway started the 7-2 Guineas favorite ahead of 11-2 Distant Music and 13-2 Kings Best.

Kings Best had finished last of five to Distant Music in the Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) last fall, when he “boiled over” in the paddock and pulled hard in the race, and also was headstrong when outbattled by Umistim in his seasonal debut, Newmarket’s Craven Stakes (Eng-III). But Stoute, who had his star vanned up to the Rowley Mile for paddock schooling on several evenings leading up to the Guineas, wasn’t worried by Kings Best’s appearance in the walking ring.

“He’s a horse with a lot of nervous energy and we realized there was that vulnerability when he got upset on Dewhurst day,” Stoute said. “Today he was sweating, but he never jogged around the ring...he was walking the whole time. Kieren’s been riding him out nearly every day since the Craven.”

Kings Best went to the post quietly and was dropped in behind after exiting post position 12 as Primo Valentino cut out the running. Umistim and Zoning, the least fancied of Godolphin’s three candidates at 50-1, raced close up, with Giant’s Causeway always handy. As Kings Best received a bump behind a wall of horses coming to the quarter-pole, Giant’s Causeway was making his bid on the outside to collar Primo Valentino coming to the furlong pole. But Michael Kinane was never really confident...“I had worked hard and knew I wasn’t going to find any more. I thought there might be something there, hiding away, and there was, but he ran a good race.”

Stoute also lacked confidence he was about to win his fourth Two Thousand after Shadeed (1985), Doyoun (1988), and Entrepreneur (1997). “At the bushes (21¼2 furlongs from home), I was already planning his next race because I didn’t think he was going to get a run today,” he said. But once Fallon found some daylight, Kings Best produced a burst of acceleration that the knowledgeable like to see in a classic winner. With majestic ease, he swept by Giant’s Causeway to collect the £174,000 ($265,959) winner’s purse.

“I was never really worried that I wasn’t going to get through,” the rider said. “It was a rough race with everyone wanting to be where there was only enough room for three horses. I ended up behind a wall of horses—a couple of horses nearly went down—so I thought I would move to the outside, at least to get a clear run. I haven’t felt such acceleration on any horse I’ve ever ridden.”

Giant’s Causeway held the staying-on Barathea Guest by 11¼2 lengths for the place with Zoning back in fourth. Barathea Guest’s trainer, George Margarson, had been adamant that after beating Distant Music in the Greenham, his colt would do it again in the Guineas. Distant Music came home eighth of 26 finishers after Alfini broke a hind leg near the finish and had to be euthanized.

“Philip (Robinson) felt he (Barathea Guest) would win two (furlongs) out but he got bumped around a bit,” said Margarson, who trains just 15 horses. “The winner is a good horse on this ground, but I would take him on again on soft ground.”

Barathea Guest is headed for the St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot next month while Stoute and Fallon will put their heads together as to whether Kings Best should undertake the Derby (Eng-I) on June 10. Nashwan was the last to accomplish the Guineas/Derby double in 1989, but the closest seven Guineas winners have come at Epsom since then was fourth.