Newmarket July Festival: Betting Tips, Stats & History

The July Festival is one of the highlights of the racing world. It includes some of the best horses and with it, some of the most competitive races over the flat. The Festival is more than just about the horses though, with glitz and glamour oozing, it’s very much one of the high society's social events as well.

The meeting is held at Newmarket Racecourse on their July course as opposed to the earlier Guineas meeting on the Rowley Mile course.

It’s held over 3 days, from Thursday through to Saturday, with two of the days being able to host one a Group 1 race. These come in the form of the Falmouth Stakes and the star race of the meeting, the six furlong July Cup sprint.

Newmarket July Meeting Betting Tips for 2018

This summer is already shaping up to be one of the most memorable in quite some time. Royal Ascot was as spectacular as ever, as were the British flat racing Classics. That’s not to mention anything of the events involving the round ball out in Russia, and even the much-maligned British weather is doing its best to cheer us all up.

For fans of equine action though, the summer months are really all about the abundance of quality racing festivals on offer. This week we have another such betting extravaganza for our viewing and punting pleasure, as we head to Suffolk for the 2018 Newmarket July Meeting. The speedballs may take centre stage in the meeting’s biggest race of the July Cup, but there’s plenty more on offer besides and here we run through the racing highlights on each of the three days.

Day One – Thursday 12th July 2018

The meeting flies out of the traps on the opening day with the first of the week’s seven Group class contests kicking off the action. Restricted to the three year old colts and geldings, the Bahrain Trophy Stakes over a mile and five furlongs has been used as a stepping stone towards the St Leger at Doncaster in the past. This looks set to be a battle of the big guns this year with Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden being responsible for four of the current first five in the betting market. O’Brien’s Southern France leads the way at 7/2 with Coral, but we wouldn’t be too surprised should that change in the lead up to the race.

Another of the opening day’s highlights comes in race two: the Arqana July Stakes for the juveniles. Won by the likes of Mehmaas, Shalaa and Arcano in recent years, it often takes a serious dose of speed to come out on top here. John Gosden’s Calyx marked himself out as the current king of this division when landing the Coventry Stakes last time out, and whilst he doesn’t go to post, we do have the second and third from that Royal Ascot event in Advertise and Sergei Prokofiev. With no fewer than 12 who won last time out amongst the opposition, this looks set to be a thriller.

The pick of action on Day 1 may well come in the Princess Of Wales’s Arqana Racing Club Stakes. Held over the Derby distance of 1m4f, this event is open to both the Classic crop and the older performers, often leading to an intriguing clash of the generations. This year looks to be no different with Derby runner up Dee Ex Bee set to fly the flag for the three year olds, as he bids to master the likes of Mirage Dancer and Barsanti from the yards of Sir Michael Stoute and Roger Varian respectively.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 Bahrain Trophy Stakes Group 3 / 1m 5f Giuseppe Garibaldi
14:25 Arqana July Stakes Group 2 / 6f Advertise
15:00 bet365 Handicap Class 2 / 6f Gabrial The Saint
15:35 Princess Of Wales's Stakes Group 2 / 1m 4f Raa Atoll
16:10 EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes Class 2 / 6f Lover's Knot
16:45 Sir Henry Cecil Stakes Listed / 1m Purser
17:20 Saeed Suhail Saeed Handicap Class 2 / 5f Shaheen

Day Two – Friday 13th July 2018

Not all of the stars of this year’s Royal Ascot jamboree will be on show this week at Newmarket, but we do have a fair number who head to HQ for their next assignment. When it comes to the fillies category, two of the most impressive performers in Berkshire were Mark Johnston’s Main Edition and Jessica Harrington’s Alpha Centauri, and in a real treat for racing fans, they both look set to run here on Day 2.

It is the unbeaten Main Edition who is up first in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes over the 6f trip. Now three from three in her career to date, this daughter of Zoffany greatly impressed when continually finding more to fend off all comers in the Albany Stakes last time out. She did only score by a neck in the end that day though and with the second and third placed finishers La Pelosa and Fairyland amongst the likely opposition, this may be a close run thing once again.

The phrase “close run thing” certainly couldn’t be used to describe the victory of Alpha Centauri in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot as she simply blew a decent looking field apart. Six lengths was the winning margin that day as she turned a Group 1 contest into a procession in a track record time. If she turns up in the same sort of form here she looks mightily tough to beat and will be the banker of the meeting for many. Ladbrokes make her a 4/5 shot for Falmouth Stakes success.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 bet365 Silver Bunbury Cup Handicap Stakes Class 2 / 7f Maksab
14:25 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes Group 2 / 6f Main Edition
15:00 bet365 Handicap Class 2 / 1m 2f Wissahickon
15:35 Falmouth Stakes Group 1 / 1m Alpha Centauri
16:10 EBF Maiden Stakes Class 3 / 7f Dombra
16:45  The Gordon's Handicap Stakes Class 2 / 1m 6f Elgin
17:20 Saeed Suhail Saeed Handicap Class 3 / 1m Corrosive

Day Three – Saturday 14th July 2018

Saturday’s opener of the Superlative Stakes hasn’t always lived up to its billing, but has been won by a number of smart performers over the years, including Olympic Glory, Dr Devious and Dubawi. As ever we have a field packed with two year old colts of the highest potential with many of the major yards likely to be represented on the day.

The big centrepiece, not just of Day 3 but the meeting as a whole, comes in the final Group class contest of the week: the Darley July Cup. Now over 140 years old, this event over the fast and furious six furlongs continues to be one the most prestigious and highly-prized Group 1 sprint contests of the season.

Clive Cox’s Harry Angel lost all chance when getting tangled up at the start in the Diamond Jubilee last time but was scintillating in this contest 12 months ago and looks set to defend his crown. It is the fellow Godolphin runner, Blue Point, who heads the betting at 7/2 with Bet365 though, as the Charlie Appleby runner bids to follow up his success in the King’s Stand over 5f. With US Navy Flag also likely to go for Ireland and Aidan O’Brien, and Redkirk Warrior flying the flag for Australia, this contest looks like living up to its top billing once again this year.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:05 bet365 Superlative Stakes Group 2 / 7f Certain Lad
13:40 bet365 Bunbury Cup Class 2 / 7f Gilgamesh
14:15 Darley July Cup Group 1 / 6f Sands Of Mali
14:50 British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes Class 3 / 7f Zagitova
15:20 bet365 Mile Handicap Class 2 / 1m Argentello
15:55 British EBF Fillies' Handicap Class 2 / 7f Elysium Dream
16:30 Saeed Suhail Saeed Handicap Class 3 / 1m 4f Drill

The Course

July Course Track at Newmarket
Image Credit: Alarnsen, Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

There are two main courses at Newmarket racecourse, the July Course and The Rowley Mile. For the July Festival, they do all their racing on the July Course. Both of the tracks and synonymously wide, which means that horses and jockeys tend to take different lines for each race.

The courses are actually quite different, although both measure 1m 2f. The July course includes a 1m straight in it and has quite a few undulations running throughout. Those that know horse racing will know that even minor undulations can throw off even the best trained horses, which often makes for interesting viewing.

In the run up to the finishing post the horses go through a dip, heading downhill with the penultimate furlong and then pulling uphill for the final. The uphill nature of the track will extract all the last bit of stamina from a horse and often favours horses that stay well, rather than those that are simply built for speed. 

July Cup

The July Cup is probably the highlight of the festival for many. It’s held over just 6f and is one of the fastest races over the course of the festival. The Group 1 race is open to horses aged 3 years and over and have been running since 1876. In fact, the race is held in such high esteem that the winner of the race is often crowned the Champion Sprinter of Europe, although this is technically unofficial. 

In 2008, the July Cup was added to the Global Sprint Challenge. It includes 10 races around the world and the best sprinter is often thought as the horse that’s performed the best in as many of these 6 races as possible. Other races include the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Royal Ascot) and the Sprinters Stakes (Nakayama, Japan). The winning horse for the year receives a $1,000,000 bonus.

There are only two more valuable six furlong sprints held in the UK. These are the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and the season ending Champions Sprint Stakes in October, also from Ascot.

Most Valuable UK 6f Sprint Races

RacePrize MoneyLocationGrade
British Champions Sprint Stakes £600,000 Ascot Group 1
Diamond Jubilee Stakes £600,000 Royal Ascot Group 1
July Cup £500,000 Newmarket Group 1
Commonwealth Cup £500,000 Royal Ascot Group 1
Sprint Cup £260,000 Haydock Park Group 1
Lowther Stakes £250,500 York Group 2
Stewards Cup £250,000 Goodwood Handicap
Gimcrack Stakes £225,500 York Group 2
Cheveley Park Stakes £213,500 Newmarket Group 1
Middle Park Stakes £213,500 Newmarket Group 1
Richmond Stakes £200,000 Goodwood Group 2
Ayr Gold Cup £200,000 Ayr Handicap

Key Trends

In recent years with the July Cup there has been a real mix of winners, with no one trainer/jockey combination really asserting their dominance. Clive Cox has probably been the most successful trainer of late, with wins in 2017 with Harry Angel and previously in 2013 with Lethal Force. 

In terms of jockey’s the only multiple winners over the last decade or so has been Adam Kirby on Cox’s horses above and Paul Hanagan, wining on Muhaarar in 2015 and Mayson in 2012. 

3 and 4-year-old horses are often tough to beat around the track, with just one horse aged 6 or above winning in 2006, called Les Arcs. 

If we rewind the tape a little, Lester Piggott is the most successful jockey in the Cup’s history, winning on ne fewer than 10 separate occasions, ranging from 1957 through to 1992. Two trainers are currently tied with most wins at the race, Charles Morton and Vincent O’Brien with 5 wins a piece. 

July Cup Winners

Year

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Time

2017

Harry Angel

Adam Kirby

Clive Cox

1:11:25

2016

Limato

Harry Bentley

Henry Candy

1:09:97

2015

Muhaarar

Paul Hangan

Charlie Hills

1:09:34

2014

Slade Power

Wayne Lordan

Edward Lynam

1:12:40

2013

Lethal force

Adam Kirby

Clive Cox

1:09:11

Falmouth Stakes

The other Group 1 race that’s held on the Friday of the festival is that of the Falmouth Stakes. A 1 mile in distance race, it attracts some of the best fillies and mares in the country, all aged 3-year-old and up. With £200,000 on offer, it’s also the second most valuable race at the festival, behind only that of the July Cup. 

Key Trends

Unlike the July Cup, there have been many more trends to take note of, mainly down to the relationship between Ryan Moore and Aiden O’Brien. The pair have won the last two Falmouth Stakes on Alice Springs in 2016 and Roly Poly in 2017. 

Interestingly, the race has only twice been won by a horse aged 5 or up; first in 2001 with Proudwings and then again in 2004, when Soviet Song went back to back wins. Whilst the July Cup is the highest rated of the two, it could be argued that the Falmouth Stakes has seen more of the greats, such as Goldikova, Soviet Song and Sonic Lady, to name just a few. 

But, one thing that has remain consistent is that of the most successful jockey in the race, coming in the form of Lester Piggott. He managed to win a record 7 times throughout his career from 1957 through to 1994. 

Falmouth Stakes Winners

Year

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Time

2017

Roly Poly

Ryan Moore

Aiden O’Brien

1:36:01

2016

Alice Springs

Ryan Moore

Aiden O’Brien

1:34:42

2015

Amazing Maria

James Doyle

David O’Meara

1:42:05

2014

Integral

Ryan Moore

Sir Michael Stoute

1:41:96

2013

Elusive Kate

William Buick

John Gosden

1:40:54

Bunbury Cup Handicap

The Bunbury Cup is one of the most hotly contested handicap races of the year. Run over 7f, this is one for the sprinters and has seen some big names win it since it started life in 1962. Jockeys that have seen success in the race over the last decade or so include the likes of Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Adam Kirby. 

No trainer has win it more than Richard Fahey in that same time frame, with 3 wins to his name coming in 2011, 2014 and 2015. Interesting, since 2004, only 2 favourites have won the race, with the longest price winner coming in at 25/1 in the form of Material Witness in 2004. 

Bunbury Cup Winners – Last 5 Years

Year

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

Weight

2017

Above The Rest

Clifford Lee

David Barron

12/1

8-10

2016

Golden Steps

Frankie Dettori

Marco Botti

7/1 JF

9-00

2015

Rene Mathis

Paul Hanagan

Richard Fahey

16/1

9-01

2014

Heaven’s Guest

Tony Hamilton

Richard Fahey

12/1

9-03

2013

Field of Dreams

Adam Kirby

Jamie Osbourne

14/1

9-07

Group 2 & 3 Races at the Festival

There are 21 races in total over the three days of racing during the July Festival. Outside of the feature Group 1s and the Bunbury Cup handicap, there's also four Group 2 races and a Group 3 Race. This Group 3 comes in the form of the opening race of the festival, The Bahrain Trophy Stakes, which with £150,000 to be won is the third most valuable race of the meeting.

Princess of Wales’s Stakes (Group 2)

A race to honour that of Alexandra of Denmark, who became Princess of Wales in 1863, this 1m 4f race takes up all of the July Festival course. It’s left handed turn that needs to be negotiated is tougher than many think and as a result, some of the best three-year-old horses have seen success here. With £100,000 up for grabs, the race is another major attraction at the event. 

July Stakes (Group 2)

The July Stakes is almost the little brother to the July Cup, running over the same distance of 6f, but is targeted towards 2-year-old and up colts and geldings. It’s seen as a great stepping stone to the feature race and many horses that have done well in this race have gone on to de well in the July Cup also. 

The race is one of the oldest at the festival originally being run in 1786 and come with a prize fund of £80,000.

Duchess of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2)

The Duchess of Cambridge Stakes is one of the most important 6f races of the year. It’s often a great early indication to see which horses might do well in the 1,000 Guineas, with several winning this and then going on to win one of flat racing major races. 

At 6f and open to two-year-old fillies only, it’s a fairly unique bunch, but a great way to see the future potential over this distance. Prizemoney currently sits at £80,000. 

Superlative Stakes (Group 2)

The Superlative Stakes is run over 7f and is another Group 2 race that has great significance. It’s open to 2 year olds only and with it some of the stars of the future have raced. Past winners have included Dubawi, Olympic glory and Commander Collins, to name but a few. Prize fund is also at £80,000. 

Bahrain Trophy (Group 3)

The Bahrain Trophy comes with a higher prize fund than all of the Group 2 races, currently set at £150,000. It’s open to 3-year-old horses and is run over a distance of 1m 5f. It’s an important race at the July Festival due to the fact that it actually opens the festival on the Thursday. 

It’s importance comes from the fact that many horses that do well here are often put forward for the St Leger, one of the world’s most prestigious flat races.

Group 2 & 3 July Festival Winners – Last 3 Years

Race2017 Winner2016 Winner2015 Winner
Princess of Wales's Stakes Hawkbill Big Orange Big Orange
July Stakes Cardsharp Mehmas Shalaa
Duchess of Cambridge Stakes Clemmie Roly Poly Illuminate
Superlative Stakes Gustav Klimt Boynton Birchwood
Bahrain Trophy Raheen House Housesofparliament Mr Singh

History

Portrait of Charles II and James II
Charles II and James II via Wikimedia Commons

Racing at Newmarket dates back to around 1667 when it was officially opened. But, it’s reported that racing took place within the town even before that, namely under the rule of James I. It was Charles II who were frequenting the town with James II and it’s stated that the first ever race was between horses owned by Lord Salisbury and Marquees of Bucking in 1622, with a prize of £100 up for grabs. 

But, it was Charles II who took the reins to really kick on horse racing within Newmarket and from there started the Newmarket Town Plate. In fact, Charles II is still the only monarch to have ever rode a winner at Newmarket. 

The July meeting was started until 1765, where it took place over a couple of days in July. As the popularity of the meeting grew as did prize money and the calibre of racing on offer. The two longest standing races are that of the July Cup and the July Stakes.

The July Stakes was first run in 1786, which actually makes it one of the oldest horse races still in existence in the UK. In fact, it’s the oldest horse race in the world exclusively for two year olds! The July Stakes was upgraded from Group 3 to Group 2 status in 2003 and is now widely regarded as one of the most important races on the flat racing scene. 

The July Cup didn’t arrive until 1876, some 90 years later. Queen Victoria was the owner of the first ever race, with Springfield who was trained at the Hampton Court Stud. The Group 1 race is now one of the most valuable and prestigious sprint races in the UK, offering up a huge prize pool of £500,000 in 2017. 

Sir Charles Bunbury

Sir Charles Bunbury will go down as one of the real legends of the sport of horse racing and one of the main driving factors as to why the sport is so popular today. He was elected in 1768 as the senior steward to the Jockey Club and widely regarded as one of the great “Dictators of Turf”.

Whilst many of you will likely never have heard of him, it could have been very different when a coin toss with Lord Derby at the time decided the outcome of who’s name would take the mantel as one of the biggest races in the world, The Derby. It could have so easily been called the Bunbury stakes, totally changing the course of history, such was his importance. 

The Newmarket July Festival saw fit in naming the Bunbury Cup after him to honour his work and dedication within the industry over the years. 

Newmarket Town Plate

Painting of the Newmarket King's Plate Race
The Round Course at Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, Preparing for the King's Plate by Peter Tillemans, Wikimedia Commons

The Newmarket Town Plate has been running since 1666 thanks to that of King Charles II. He extended the Round Course and this is where and the only race that is run on the track for the festival. The race is run prior to that of the July Festival and often seen as the curtain raiser for most. At 3 mile 6 furlongs long, it’s also one of the longest races within the UK. 

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