It 14 years since a filly from the Fens shocked the bigger stables with a Newmarket spring double to remember.
Speciosa’s Nell Gwyn Stakes success and eventual 1000 Guineas win was certainly a victory akin to that of David over Goliath – but it was also no flash in the pan with her fourth place on unsuitable ground over a half a mile further in the Oaks marking her as a true top-class runner.
Trainer Pam Sly described herself as “just a Fenland farmer” and perhaps that description came into play when Speciosa was allowed to go off a 9-1 chance for her Classic trial.
The daughter of Danehill Dancer liked to do it the hard way, running from the front, and she defied a 3lb penalty for having won the Rockfel as a juvenile.
Usually a Nell Gwyn winner would be among the 1000 Guineas favourites, but Speciosa again went in under the radar for her biggest day, being sent off a 10-1 shot – although her win was no surprise to jockey Michael Fenton.
Sly said: “She was the horse of a lifetime – winning three Group races at Newmarket was very special.
“She won the Rockfel the previous autumn and I think she’d have been a shorter price for the Nell Gwyn had she been trained by Sir Michael Stoute or Henry Cecil rather than me.
“She liked to run from the front – that’s how she won all her Group races, making all and then she would just hang a bit left across the track.
“Everything went right for her that day and Michael (Fenton) said to me before the Guineas he thought she was the one they had to beat.
“It was a great day, the track suited her and she just seemed to love it there.”
The Guineas was to prove the last success of Speciosa’s career and while she did not win again, her subsequent nine starts did produce notable places behind exceptional runners in Manduro and Peeping Fawn.
Speciosa had cost just 30,000 guineas as a two-year-old and her owners – Sly, her son Michael and Dr Tom Davies – at one point reportedly turned down a seven-figure offer for her, so it is no surprise she remains with the team now.
While her offspring have not quite set the world alight, she has produced three individual winners and remains in service at 17 years old.
Sly added: “We still have her now – she’s just had a filly by Cracksman and she will be going to Territories this year.
“She’s had some nice foals, three of them have been winners and rated in the 80s. We have a two-year-old by Nathaniel but he’s a huge horse – already 16.2 – so I’ve just turned him away.
“Speciosa is absolutely fine though, she had an operation a few years ago, but she’s in good form.”