Newmarket Racecourse Guide

Newmarket Racecourse
Newmarket Racecourse (Alarnsen / Wikipedia.org)

Often called both the headquarters and the birthplace of British racing, you won’t find many racecourses as prestigious or as historic as Newmarket. With a capacity of 45,000, it can be home to some huge crowds, especially at the several high profile meetings it hosts during the Flat season which runs from the spring to the autumn

Based in a small market town in Suffolk, Newmarket is home to all things racing including both the National Horse Racing Museum and the National Stud. Racing has been a big part of the area for centuries now and it has helped give the racecourse a history so rich that it’s no wonder it is the home of many of Britain’s top class races. Note that you can read more about Newmarket’s unique role in the development of racing in our special feature on the history of horse racing.

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The Course

What makes Newmarket a very unique racing venue is that is has two separate courses, the Rowley Mile and the July Course which both resemble an ‘L’ shape as opposed to your standard circular track.. There is sometimes overlap between the two tracks Races greater than 10 furlongs on the Rowley Mile and one mile on the July Course will begin on the same straight known as the ‘Cesarewitch’ or ‘Beacon’ course, before making a right handed bend to either of the long run ins.

The July Course, as the name suggests, is spared for summer racing and fixtures that take place here are some of the most popular given the often sunny conditions. Its right hand bend is tighter than that of the Rowley Mile and it’s one that leads to a straight run in called the Bunbury mile. There are some undulations for the first three quarters of a mile and towards the end there is a noticeable decline before the final uphill furlong.

The Rowley Mile, is noticeably different from the July Course, not just because of its two furlong further run-in but it also has two famous features that make it highly recognisable. First of all are the famous ‘Bushes’ that appear between two and three furlongs out. After this there is a sharp downhill slope for the penultimate furlong before a steep climb to the finish, creating what is known as ‘The Dip’.

Major Races

Newmarket hosts an abundance of Class 1 races throughout the flat season and you never have to wait long to see view some talented thoroughbreds. The nine Group One races it holds are the pick of the bunch however. The July Course is home to two of these contests, the one mile Falmouth Stakes and the six furlong July Cup, which is one of the most valuable sprint races in Britain.

The other seven Group 1 races take place on the Rowley Mile and are between six furlongs to one mile in distance. They include, the Cheveley Park Stakes, the Middle Park Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes but perhaps the biggest races come at both ends of the season. October sees the Dewhurst Stakes, the most prestigious juvenile race in Britain, as well as the Fillies’ Mile, which regularly attracts some of the most promising two year old fillies around.

It’s hard to argue that the two British Classic races, the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas are not Newmarket’s most cherished events though. Introduced in 1809 and 1814 respectively, these two races mark the real starting point of the Flat season and there are few races held in such high regard amongst trainers and racing fans alike.

Visiting

Newmarket Grandstand
Newmarket Grandstand (Alarnsen / Wikipedia.org)

Newmarket is often associated with its glitz and glamour and it regularly makes for a wonderful day out which all racing fans should try at least once.

Useful Info

Dress Code

In the Grandstand & Paddock and Family Enclosure, shorts and t-shirts are allowed to ensure you can make the most of any warm weather. Fancy dress is also permitted in these areas, but common sense needs to be applied and if you have any doubts you are encouraged to check beforehand.

In the Premier Enclosure, smart attire is encouraged with ladies often bringing hats, and while jeans are accepted, few people are seen wearing them here.

Ticket Prices

As with virtually all tracks, ticket prices differ at Newmarket depending on which meeting you go to. Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure tickets can vary from the £15 to £25 mark while Premier Enclosure tickets are available for around £22 to £40. The Family Enclosure is your cheapest way into the big meetings, with tickets available at around £15 but it is often closed on the less popular days.

There are also a wide range of premium hospitality packages to choose from. Restaurant experiences start at £108 per person and bigger fixtures will hold special one-off packages with limited availability. Due to the popularity at Newmarket, it’s wise to book tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Membership

There are two choices when it comes to membership at Newmarket. The cheaper option is the standard annual badge which gives you Premier Lounge access on all race days at a cost of £445, or £260 if you are aged between 18 and 24.

For £815, you can purchase the Thoroughbred Lounge Annual Badges which provides you with a more exclusive experience. Both types of memberships come with the standard perks of reciprocal meets, six friends and family passes (three for 18-24 members) and special rates for restaurant and hospitality packages.

Getting There

For the most busy race days, bus services stretch as far as Cambridge train station, Royston train station or Bury St Edmunds bus station at a cost of £4.50 one way and £6.50 return if you pre-order, or £5 one way and £8 return if you buy on the day.

On all fixtures, a regular free shuttle bus will take you to and from Newmarket town centre. Pick up begins around two hours before the first race and the final drop-off is around an hour after the last. If you get the train into Newmarket you may prefer to walk to the course which is around a 25 minute walk away.

Parking

For those of you choosing to drive to Newmarket, you will not be charged for parking at either the Rowley Mile or July Course unless you opt to pay £5 for a spot in the Premier Car Park.

History

Newmarket marks 1666 as the day everything began as it was the year King Charles II returned to the town. Five years later, the King was involved in the Newmarket Town Plate, a race he stated should be run ‘forever’. His demand has been met so far, the race is still active and takes place on the three mile Round Course which is used only for this event.

It took almost a century for a pattern of racing to be formed but in 1762 there was a regular schedule with a July meeting added three years later. A very famous horse by the name of Eclipse ran at this time and was unbeaten in his 18 races and a statue in his honour can be found at the Rowley Mile. There are a number of awards and races named after this legendary horse, the most famous of which is Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes.

By 1840, there were seven annual meetings in total, each ranging between a few days to a week long and it was in this century that most of Newmarket’s biggest races began.

Racing in Newmarket received an extra boost at the start of the 20th century when King Edward VII regularly came to visit. He kept many racehorses nearby with plenty of wealthy people doing the same and this led to a rise in local stables and stud farms. An increase in racing talent also came with a vastly improved station in 1902 thanks to Colonel Harry McCalmont, at a cost of £4,000 which helped Newmarket deal with far greater race day traffic.

First Host for Government-Owned Tote

Soon after and Newmarket, along with Carlisle, became the first host of the then government-owned Tote, when it made an appearance on the July Course on 2nd July 1929. Newmarket also became the first course in Britain to introduce starting stalls in 1965, 26 years after they were first used in Lansdowne Park in Vancouver. Now there’s an “interesting” fact for the anoraks!

Famous Thoroughbreds

Newmarket has been home to some incredibly famous thoroughbreds but few more so than Nijinsky, who in 1970, became the last winner of the Triple Crown (2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes). He was the 15th horse to complete the famous treble but the first in 35 years and we may not see a 16th given how rarely it has even been attempted in recent decades.

Newmarket Nights

Newmarket has been leading the way for racecourses nationwide for centuries and it did so again in 1987 when it introduced ‘Newmarket Nights’ which became the pioneer nationwide for post-racing entertainment. New income streams such as this and the consequent growing crowds and popularity meant that extra investment could be made.

Improvements

So, in 2000, the Iconic Millennium Grandstand was opened at a cost of £19m and a £10m redevelopment of the July Course began six years later. This and regular and ongoing refurbishment helps make Newmarket a fitting centre for British racing and a thoroughly modern and impressive racing venue.