Berkshire is well served when it comes to top-class racecourses, with the likes of Ascot and Windsor located in the county so favoured by the Royals. Another track to be added into that mix is the excellent dual purpose venue of Newbury, which lies around 50 miles to the west of London.
Given that proximity to the capital and the nearby training centres in Wiltshire and Berkshire, the track – which opened for business more than 100 years ago in 1905 – was ideally situated to take high rank amongst British circuits, and has duly delivered on that potential. Here we take a look at the home of Flat racing’s, Lockinge Stakes and National Hunt’s Ladbrokes Trophy.
Both the bulk of the main flat course, and the National Hunt track at Newbury consist of a left-handed, roughly oval-shaped course. The first bend following the winning post provides a continuously sweeping turn into the back straight, with two more fairly gentle bends then taking the field from the back stretch into a home straight of around 4½f. The track is very level almost throughout, with the exception being the home straight which features slight undulations.
Newbury is noted for the consistently good racing ground which it provides. This reliability, regarding the going conditions, is in large part a result of the excellent drainage afforded by the gravel subsoil at the track. When soft ground does occur, it is most likely to appear down the back straight, which does tend to ride slower than the rest of the course. At the other end of the spectrum, Newbury also has a high quality watering system, making firm ground a real rarity.
Be it on the flat or over jumps, the wide straights and sweeping turns make Newbury one of the fairest tracks in the country, and a course where hard luck stories are thankfully in short supply. As such, it is understandably popular with trainers, jockeys and punters alike and is not a bad place for a horse to have their first race or two.
Frankie Dettori has been the man to follow in the saddle at this Berkshire track, with the evergreen Italian boasting an impressive strike-rate of around 20% across his last 1000 or so rides at the venue, returning a level stakes profit of over £100 in that time.
It is one of Dettori’s chief partners in crime who leads the way in the training ranks, with John Gosden also operating at a 20% strike-rate and around £60 level stakes profit across his last thousand runners.
Newbury Flat Course
The flat course lies outside of the jumps track and boasts a circumference of 1m7f. The main oval of the track contains starts for races over distances of 5f, 1m1f, 1m2f, 1m3f, 1m4f, 1m5f and 2m, with two additional spurs in the back straight providing the starting points for 1m and 1m5f contests.
The third spur of the flat course is the 3f extension which runs directly into the home straight, effectively creating a straight course of 1m in length – enabling races over 6f, 7f and 1m to take place. Over the 1m distance, this straight one mile track tends to be used more often than the turning 1m offered by the round course.
Overall there is no inherent pace bias to the flat track at Newbury. The long straights do favour the long striding galloping type, but conversely also provide hold-up performers with plenty of time to get themselves organised and deliver a late challenge. One thing which definitely is required around here is an ability to see out the trip, with the galloping nature of the course meaning that most races provide a thorough test at the distance.
Although generally a fair track, the left-handed nature of the course does naturally confer a very slight advantage to those drawn low against the rail on the round course. This bias becomes more noticeable over the longer distances, particularly those of 1m4f or further.
Over the sprint distances on the straight course, those with a middle draw have boasted the best record over the past 10 years. At 5f the strike rate for those with a middle berth stands at 10% as opposed to 7% and 4% for low and high drawn runners respectively, whilst over 6f the figures are 10% for middle and 7% for both low and high.
The final thing to note regarding the draw is that the bias can be reversed on the round course when the ground is soft. A tendency for the inside rail to ride slower than the outside in the back straight in such conditions can lead to the field tacking over to the far rail, and so confers an advantage on those drawn high.
Newbury Jumps Course
Newbury’s jumps track lies just inside the flat course and as such is a shade shorter in circumference at 1m5f. Other than that reduced length, and the absence of the spurs present on the flat course, the configuration of the jumps track is almost identical to that of the flat, providing competitors with long wide straights and gentle sweeping turns. Again left-handed and galloping in nature, the jumps track is well suited to long striding types with an ability to stay the trip well.
The chase track features 11 fences in total, made up of nine plain fences and two open ditches – one of which is a water jump. Newbury’s fences are considered to be stiff, without posing quite the same level of difficulty as those to be found at Cheltenham for example. The obstacles are laid out fairly evenly around Newbury’s oval, with five in the back straight, one down the far side and five more in the home straight. A final run in of 250 yards greets the runners following the final fence.
Hurdle contests are held on the same course as the chase events, and feature seven standard hurdles per circuit. Events over the smaller obstacles are again well suited to long striding types who are able to get into a good jumping rhythm.
Major Races at Newbury
|Start Date||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|29th Dec 2020||Challow Novices’ Hurdle||Grade 1||Thyme Hill (4/6)|
|19th Sep 2020||Mill Reef Stakes||Group 2||Alkumait (8/1)|
|15th Aug 2020||Hungerford Stakes||Group 2||Dream Of Dreams (13/8)|
|19th Jul 2020||Weatherbys Super Sprint||Class 2||Happy Romance (10/3)|
|16th May 2020||Lockinge Stakes||Group 1||Mustashry (9/1)|
|8th Feb 2020||Betfair Hurdle||Grade 3||Pic D'Orhy (33/1)|
|30th Nov 2019||Ladbrokes Trophy Chase||Grade 3||De Rasher Counter (12/1)|