There a few British tracks so well known as the Suffolk venue of Newmarket, located around 65 miles to the north east of London. This course has been central to the historical evolution of the sport and was established way back in 1636. Then a notable playground of King Charles II amongst other Royals, both the course and the town of the same name have become almost synonymous with the sport.
A number of racing’s key organisational bodies are based in the local area, including Tattersalls and The National Horse Racing Museum, with the town itself being home to more horses and trainers than any other town in the world.
Also the stage for the opening two Classics of the season, in the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, in addition to huge handicaps such as the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch, it is with good reason that Newmarket is widely referred to as the headquarters of British flat racing.
Newmarket is actually made up of not one course, but two separate ones, namely, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. Although distinct, the two tracks join to form the arms of a huge, Y-shaped course, the base of which is commonly referred to as either the “Cambridgeshire Course” or “Beacon Course” and makes up part of both tracks.
There is actually also a round course at Newmarket, but this is only used once a year for the Newmarket Town Plate. This is a 3m+ amateur-only affair and whilst the historic “Town Plate” does maintain nostalgia value, it is not considered part of Newmarket’s mainstream racing offering.
One of the most notable aspects of the two main tracks at Newmarket is just how wide and straight they are – a feature which obviously caters well to large field handicaps. The maximum field sizes of 35 for the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarewitch are in fact the biggest for any race other than the iconic Aintree Grand National.
Newmarket can generally be relied upon to produce good racing ground on both tracks, although the chalk base does tend to drain quickly, meaning the ground can tend towards riding on the quick side – particularly in warm weather. That said, the track does have an excellent watering system in place and rattling quick ground is a rarity.
Another interesting fact about this beautiful track is that, with the start of the Beacon course being on Cambridgeshire soil, and the finishing posts of both the Rowley Mile and July courses being in Suffolk, it is the only racecourse in the country which is based in two counties. There’s one for the trivia fans!
Overall Newmarket is renowned for being one of the fairest courses in Britain, with the wide and galloping nature of the track resulting in hard-luck stories being few and far between. The only real bias from a pace perspective can come whenever there is a strong headwind. It takes a particularly tenacious performance to score from the front in such conditions, and getting some cover from the relentless wind can often prove crucial to victory.
There are no strong consistent trends regarding the draw at Newmarket, which is in large part a result of the fact that the course management team frequently move the rails. This is either to enable racing to take place on fresh strips of ground, or to effectively narrow the track and so deter the field from splitting into two groups. The best draw advice is to try and spot a trend early on at a meeting, rather than looking for any overarching bias at the course as a whole.
Newmarket-based John Gosden is no stranger to training success, and has been a man well worth following at his local track. On the Rowley Mile course Gosden boasts a career strike rate of 17% and a level stakes profit of over +£80, whilst on the July Course his near 20% strike rate has also been enough for supporters to nose into a level stakes profit, to the tune of over £10.
Newmarket Rowley Mile Flat Course
The venue for both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, racing takes place on the Rowley Mile in springtime, between the months of April and May, and then again in the autumn between September and October.
The straight section of the Rowley Mile course is the longer of the two arms of the Newmarket “Y”. In fact, at 1m2f in length, the straight of the Rowley Mile track is the longest of any British course. Races of 1m2f and below take place entirely on this straight section, with contests over 1m4f, 1m6f, 2m, 2m2f and 2m4f beginning on the Cesarewitch Course before sweeping right-handed to join the Rowley Mile.
Although just about perfectly straight in terms of the direction of the track, the underfoot terrain isn’t quite so consistent. The first 8f of the 1m2f course does feature only very slight undulations, but things change around 2f from home when the runners reach a landmark known as “The Bushes”.
From this point the ground descends steadily to the 1f pole, before then rising continually towards the line. Placing considerable demands on the balance of the runners, and also testing a horse’s stamina and resolution, this famous feature known as “The Dip” can represent the defining moment in many races.
As a combination of the Dip and the subsequent tough finish, the Rowley Mile is viewed as being the more difficult of the two Newmarket tracks. More suited to strong galloping runners than the smaller nippier types, an ability to thoroughly stay the distance is essential to success here. A proven ability to handle the Dip is certainly something to look out for as it is not a test all horses cope with equally.
Newmarket July Flat Course
The July Course is made up of the same Cesarewitch Course tail, as featured on the Rowley Mile track, in addition to the second, and shorter, of the two arms of Newmarket’s “Y”. 1m in length, the straight of the July Course is also commonly referred to as the “Bunbury Mile”. All races of 1m and below are held on this straight section, with those of 1m2f, 1m4f, 1m6f, 2m1f and 2m1½f beginning on the Cesarewitch course, before turning fairly sharply right-handed into the straight.
Another notable feature of the straight mile section of the July Course is that it is split by a rail down the middle, effectively creating two courses, side by side. Meetings tend to be alternated between these two sides of the track, with the aim of providing consistently fresh racing ground for the contenders. In conjunction with the good drainage and watering system this means that conditions are usually excellent under foot.
Containing both uphill and downhill sections, the July Course does place demands on the balance of the runners, without being so challenging from a stamina point of view as its Rowley Mile counterpart. From the 1m starting point the track is fairly level for the opening 2f, before a largely downhill section of around 5f followed by a final 200m climb to the line. This final section isn’t quite so foreboding as that of the Rowley Mile though, and begins to level off close to home.
Due to the easier nature of the track, the July Course rates as a more attractive proposition for trailblazers than the Rowley Mile. Regularly ranking amongst the top 10 tracks for frontrunners in the UK, this is a very dangerous place to grant a runner an easy lead.
Major Races at Newmarket
|Start Date||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|10th Oct 2020||Cesarewitch Stakes||Class 2||Great White Shark (9/2)|
|10th Oct 2020||Dewhurst Stakes||Group 1||St Mark's Basilica (10/1)|
|9th Oct 2020||Fillies’ Mile||Group 1||Pretty Gorgeous (5/2)|
|3rd Oct 2020||Sun Chariot Stakes||Group 1||Nazeef (17/2)|
|26th Sep 2020||Middle Park Stakes||Group 1||Supremacy (13/2)|
|26th Sep 2020||Cambridgeshire Handicap||Class 2||Majestic Dawn (40/1)|
|26th Sep 2020||Cheveley Park Stakes||Group 1||Alcohol Free (7/2)|
|11th Jul 2020||July Cup Stakes||Group 1||Oxted (12/1)|
|11th Jul 2020||Bunbury Cup||Class 2||Motakhayyel (5/1)|
|10th Jul 2020||Falmouth Stakes||Group 1||Nazeef (9/2)|
|10th Jul 2020||Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes||Group 2||Dandalla (Evens)|
|9th Jul 2020||Princess Of Wales’s Stakes||Group 2||Dame Malliot (8/1)|
|2nd May 2021||1000 Guineas||Group 1||Love (4/1)|
|1st May 2021||2000 Guineas||Group 1||Kameko (10/1)|