Newmarket Racecourse Guide
Newmarket is one of the biggest, best and most historic racecourses in the world and the unofficial HQ of British racing. The Suffolk venue hosts a number of huge contests on the Flat calendar, including 40% of its Classics and 25% of the Group 1 races.
For many, Newmarket is all about the Guineas Festival. Taking place in late April or early May, this sees the first two Classics of the season take place. The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas are the jewels in Newmarket’s racing crown but it would certainly be wrong to focus only on them. If, however, that is what you’re interested in, check out our 2000 Guineas guide, or 1000 Guineas guide.
Read on as we take a look at the major meetings and races hosted by the course, as well as the history of racing at Newmarket, some practical information about visiting and also a look at the two main tracks over which racing is held.
The Guineas Meeting
Although Newmarket has so much to offer aside from its two British Classics, there is no doubt that these are the biggest races Newmarket hosts. The 2000 Guineas is open to both sexes, with the 1000 Guineas restricted to fillies only. Both are packed with history and invariably produce fields of the highest calibre, with massive prize money on offer in both races.
The two feature races are the highlights of the weekend, with the 2000 Guineas up first on the Saturday and the 1000 Guineas a day later. As said, these contests take place in spring, although the precise dates change each year.
The 2000 Guineas, won by greats such as Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Rock of Gibraltar, Sea The Stars and the legendary Frankel (in 2011) is one mile long and contested over the Rowley Mile.
First run back in 1809, it is the first leg, in theory at least, of the Triple Crown, though these days very, very few horses enter it. Indeed, the last horse to land the Triple Crown was the aforementioned Nijinsky, back in 1970, with only one other horse winning all three races since the First World War.
The race takes its name from the original prize, with a guinea equal to 21 shillings, or £1.05. Allowing for inflation that means the race was worth around £160,000, which is a tidy sum. The race was established by the Jockey Club, with Sir Charles Bunbury, who helped found the Derby, playing a key role.
In modern times the 2000 Guineas offers up an incredible £500,000 in prize money. Key trials for the race include the Craven Stakes and the Greenham Stakes, although some trainers prefer to throw their horses straight into the Classic.
In more modern times the 2000 Guineas has almost come to act as a trial for the Derby. Camelot did the double in 2012, with 2018 Newmarket third, Masar, going on to victory at Epsom.
The “fillies’ Classic” was established five years after its male equivalent, initially offering half the prize money. It took a whopping 187 years for fiscal parity to be reached and as of 2018 the 1000 Guineas is also worth a cool £500,000 in total.
Founded in 1814, this race is also run over one mile on the Rowley Mile and always takes place the day after the 2000 Guineas. Again, like the 2000 Guineas, there are two key trials, the Nell Gwyn Stakes and the Fred Darling Stakes but again, for some horses their trip to HQ will be their first outing of the season.
The top trainers and jockeys in the race date back to the 19th century, but more recently Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien have teamed up to win this three times since 2012. Recent additions to the roll of honour include Cape Verdi (1998), Minding (2016) and Winter (2017).
Other Key Races
There are a range of other races held over the two days of the Guineas meeting, with some of the best listed below:
- Jockey Club Stakes – 1m4f, Group 2
- Palace House Stakes – 5f, Group 3
- Newmarket Stakes – 1m2f, Listed
- Newmarket Stakes – 1m2f, Listed
- Dahlia Stakes – 1m1f, Group 2
Visiting Newmarket Races
Given Newmarket’s status within UK and global Flat racing, a pilgrimage to HQ is a must for any serious racing fan. Whilst Suffolk isn’t exactly the best-connected part of the UK, getting to Newmarket is simple enough.
- Location – The racecourse is within walking distance of Newmarket, Suffolk and about 60 miles north-north-east of London
- Address – Newmarket Racecourses, Westfield House, The Links, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 0TG
- Contact details – via contact form on website or call 01638 675 500
- Tickets – Newmarket offers a huge range of tickets and packages. As you would expect, tickets for Guineas days are more expensive but the course also offers lots of reasonably priced options for other dates.
- Dress code – Dress code is the same at either track at Newmarket, with strict requirements for those over 14 in the Premier, Hospitality and Champions Lawn facilities. That is listed as: No sportswear, trainers, t-shirts, fancy dress, cargo shorts, ripped or torn denim, or extreme attire. Smart tailored shorts are acceptable, as is dark denim. In the Grandstand, Paddock and Family Enclosures things are much more relaxed, with no real dress code aside from common decency. Fancy dress is permitted.
- Transport – Getting to Newmarket is simple enough, with drivers able to come by the M1 and M11, then the A11 or A14. Both courses have extensive free parking and a premier parking service is also available for a fee. There are various train options via Cambridge, Ipswich and Stansted, with free shuttles running regularly from the town centre to the course and back.
- Accommodation – There are lots of small hotels and B and Bs/pubs in the area, as well as a larger Premier Inn. In Cambridge and other surrounding areas there are more options, including more luxurious accommodation
- Hospitality – Those looking for a really special day out or a venue for a corporate occasion have lots to choose from at Newmarket. As well as premium boxes and seating areas at the finish line, there are a range of options including fine dining and various packages
- Food and drink – aside from the higher end options mentioned above, there are various walk-in restaurants, picnic options and lots of cheaper food concessions, as well as bars, drinks packages and so on. Note that only those taking picnics into the Garden Enclosure can bring their own alcohol and this is limited to one bottle of wine or similar per person but no spirits or fortified drinks.
Newmarket is arguably the most historic and significant course in UK, and possibly global, horse racing. Founded in 1666, racing in the area actually goes back even further, to James I and 1622. Given modern America was founded in 1776, that really illustrates quite how rich the history of racing at Newmarket really is.
Key Dates in the History of Newmarket Races
There are several fabulous books that go into the full history of Newmarket in a depth that is beyond our scope. Here, however, are some of the key dates in the establishment and history of the course:
- 1622 – first race in the area takes place, a £100 match race
- 1666 – King Charles II returns to Newmarket having ridden and attended races in the area as a boy. Founding the Newmarket Town Plate he simultaneously creates Newmarket Racecourse
- 1671 – King Charles II competes in a race at Newmarket with unverified but credible claims he won
- 1720 – the Newmarket Match Book records the winner of the Newmarket Town Plate for the first time
- 1809 – 2000 Guineas is first run
- 1814 – 1000 Guineas is created
- 1902 – new station at Newmarket helps course expand
- 1929 – Newmarket becomes the first track to use the new government-backed Tote
- 1939 – the Rowley Mile is used as an official RAF base
- 1949 – Newmarket uses photo finish technology
- 1965 – becomes first UK track to use starting stalls
- 1974 – becomes part of the Jockey Club
- 1987 – Newmarket Nights established
- 2000 – the Queen opens the £19m Millennium Grandstand alongside the Rowley Mile circuit
- 2009 – bi-centenary of the 2000 Guineas
- 2016 – Happy Birthday, Newmarket is 350 years old
It is not just this huge history that makes Newmarket the home of racing though, nor its long and illustrious record of royal patronage.
As well as not one but two great racecourses, Newmarket is also home to a number of key racing organisations and institutions:
- National Stud – key breeding farm founded in 1916
- Tattersalls – dating to 1766, this race horse auctioneer (the biggest in Europe) was originally based at Hyde Park but first held auctions at Newmarket in 1965
- National Horseracing Museum – tells the story and history of racing and is located in Palace House in the remaining part of King Charles II’s former racing palace
- Trainers – more than 70 trainers are based in and around Newmarket, stabling and honing well over 2,000 horses
Biggest Meetings and Races at Newmarket
Of course, the biggest two races at Newmarket have already been discussed, along with the other key races from the two great days of Guineas action that take place in spring each year.
However, there are some other big meetings and days during the year, hosting a number of top class races and great betting heats.
The Craven Meeting
The Craven Meeting gets things started at Newmarket and this three-day affair sees a number of cracking races over the Rowley Mile course. Flat fans can rejoice after a long, probably cold and wet winter of NH racing, because this meeting effectively signals the start of the Flat campaign. On the downside, for those that love the jumps game, the Cheltenham Festival couldn’t be much further away.
Taking place from Tuesday to Thursday in mid-April, key races include the listed Feilden Stakes on the opening day and the slightly shorter European Free Handicap, also a listed contest, on day two. The Nell Gwyn Stakes is a Group 3 fillies-only affair, with the Abernant Stakes, usually on the final day of the meeting, also a Group 3. The Abernant Stakes is a useful guide to both the Palace House Stakes and the Duke of York Stakes.
The Earl of Sefton Stakes is another of the meeting’s key contests but it is the Craven Stakes, inaugurated back in 1771, that is the one that gets people most excited. This is another Group 3, run over the Rowley Mile, with Sir Michael Stoute the most successful trainer in the history of this colts and geldings contest.
The Spring Meeting
The Spring Meeting takes place after the Guineas Meeting in mid-May and is a three-day affair that sees the start of evening racing at Newmarket on the opening Thursday of the meeting. The listed King Charles II Stake is the feature race of the Spring Meeting, taking place on day three, the Saturday.
The July Festival
The July Festival usually takes place around mid-July, the action moving to the beautiful July Course for another three-day, Thursday to Saturday affair. The big one is on the final day, with the Darley July Cup being Europe’s leading sprint race and offering a purse of £500,000.
This Group 1 dash is a real treat, dating back to 1876 and having been won by the likes of Limato and Harry Angel in recent years. The Group 2 Superlative Stakes also takes place on the Saturday, with super sire Dubawi taking that one back in 2004.
Other key races at the meeting include the Group 2, mile and a half Princess of Wales’s Stakes, previously won twice by both Millenary and Big Orange; the Group 2 July Stakes (six furlongs, two year old colts and geldings; the one mile Group One Falmouth Stakes; and the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes for two year old fillies only.
The Cambridgeshire Meeting
Sticking with the trusted format this also runs from Thursday to Saturday, taking place in late September. There are seven Group races over the three days, as the action returns to the Rowley Mile.
Key races include the Tattersalls Stakes, the Joel Stakes, the Princess Royal Stakes and the big Group One, the Cheveley Park Stakes.
It is a handicap which gives the meeting its name though and along with the Cheveley Park Stakes, the lucrative and historic Cambridgeshire Handicap really lights up the last day of the meeting.
Dubai Future Champions Festival
Mid-October is home to this relatively new meeting which takes place on Friday and Saturday. There is no doubting what the biggest races here are, with the Cesarewitch Handicap and the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes the pick.
The former was first run back in 1839, is contested over a mammoth two miles and two furlongs and offers up a huge purse of half a million pounds. The Dewhurst is altogether classier and is Britain’s most prestigious juvenile contest. Another serving up £500,000, you can expect to see successful horses feature in the following campaign’s Classics. This race has been won by the likes of Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Rock of Gibraltar, Churchill and, of course, the mighty Frankel. Not a bad roll call we’d say.
Much as those two races dominate the punting, there are a total of seven Group clashes over the two days. Other highlights include the Group 2 Challenge Stakes and the Rockfel Stakes, another Group 2 that is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
The Final Meeting
This one does what it says on the tin and closes off the year for Newmarket. Held over two days, Friday and Saturday, this takes place in early November or late October. The racing isn’t the highest class in truth, with the emphasis on fun, however, if you fancy one last trip to Newmarket, this is your chance.
Newmarket introduced Newmarket Nights way back in 1987 and it has proved a big hit. Running over the summer months this is a series of evening meetings that combine decent racing with some superb post-racing musical events.
George Ezra, Kylie Minogue, Paloma Faith, and Nile Rodgers and CHIC are just some of the great acts to have featured recently. Top tribute acts and musical shows such as Motown or Thriller have also performed and Newmarket Nights really do offer great value.
Newmarket is highly unusual in that it has two different tracks. This isn’t remarkable per se, with many UK courses having different circuits. However, what makes Newmarket unique is that the two courses are entirely different, with different stands, facilities and so on, and with about a mile between them. In fact, technically speaking, Newmarket also boasts a third course, although the Round Course is only used for one race a year, the historic Newmarket Town Plate.
The two major tracks are used exclusively for Flat racing, with the Rowley Mile, host to the Guineas Meeting, the more important of the two. This holds Newmarket’s spring and autumn meetings, with the July Course doing the honours in, to know surprise, summer.
The Rowley Mile
As said, the Rowley Mile is the course that really comes to mind when one thinks of Newmarket. This hosts the majority of the course’s Group One races, including the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the Fillies’ Mile, the Sun Chariot Stakes, the Cheveley Park Stakes, the Dewhurst Stakes and the Middle Park Stakes.
The Rowley Mile is named after Old Rowley, said to be one of King Charles II’s favourite stallions and also thought to be used as a nickname for the King himself. The course is just about two and a half miles and has a straight run in of 1m2f. In fact, the course is essentially two straights, joined by one relatively easy right hand turn, making it a joy for jockeys to ride.
There are some minor undulations but the biggest test is the well-known dip, created by the turn uphill for the final furlong. Whilst largely flat, the penultimate furlong is downhill, before turning uphill for the last furlong, this change creating The Dip.
That uphill finish can catch out horses who went too quickly from the off and if a big, galloping horse can handle the dip soundly they will be at a major advantage on the run in. This is a wide, galloping course in general, with a slight draw bias against the low numbers in big-field events.
The July Course
The July Course is slightly shorter at around 17 furlongs and is used for the summer meetings, including, of course, the July Meeting. Key races include the Bunbury Cup, Princess of Wales’s Stakes, the July Stakes, the two Group Ones of the Falmouth Stakes and the July Cup, and the Superlative Stakes, among others.
Also sometimes known as the Summer Course, Newmarket’s second circuit is similar to the Rowley Mile in many ways. Wide, galloping and largely easy to ride, it favours horses with a big stride and is a very fair course with no obvious benefit to either those that like to make the pace or come from behind.
The key difference between this and the Rowley Mile is that the July Course has a flatter finish. The turn that effectively links two straight is also a little sharper but this isn’t really a factor.