A history of Newmarket: Flat racing’s iconic home


Newmarket, often referred to as the headquarters of British horseracing, holds a special place in the heart of flat racing enthusiasts. This historic Suffolk town has been at the centre of the sport for centuries, offering a rich tapestry of history, tradition, and top-tier racing. For those who bet on horse racing, Newmarket’s storied past and its ongoing significance make it an enduring focal point of interest.

In this article, we explore the fascinating history of Newmarket and its pivotal role in the world of flat racing, including the contributions of the National Stud.

The origins of Newmarket racing

Newmarket’s association with horse racing dates back to the early 17th century. King James I was instrumental in establishing the town as a racing centre, making it a regular stop on his travels.

By the 1660s, King Charles II, an avid horse racing enthusiast, further cemented the town’s status by founding the Newmarket Town Plate, a race that is still run today. His patronage helped transform Newmarket into the prestigious racing hub it remains.

The birthplace of the Classics

Newmarket is home to some of the most important races in the flat racing calendar. The 2000 Guineas and the 1000 Guineas, two of the five British Classics, were first run at Newmarket in 1809 and 1814, respectively.

These races, held in the spring, attract the finest three-year-olds and serve as early indicators of future champions. The Rowley Mile course, named after King Charles II’s nickname “Old Rowley,” is where these and many other significant races are contested.

Tattersalls and Thoroughbred sales

Another key aspect of Newmarket’s influence is its role in thoroughbred breeding and sales. Tattersalls, the oldest bloodstock auctioneers in the world, was established in London in 1766 but later moved its headquarters to Newmarket.

Today, Tattersalls’ auctions are pivotal events, attracting buyers from around the globe looking to purchase potential champions. These sales play a crucial role in shaping the future of flat racing, ensuring that Newmarket remains at the heart of the sport.

The National Stud

The National Stud, established in 1915, is a cornerstone of British breeding, playing a significant role in the development of future racing champions. Located just outside Newmarket, the National Stud provides facilities for breeding and rearing thoroughbred horses.

It also serves as an educational centre, offering courses and training for those interested in the breeding and racing industries. The National Stud’s influence extends far and wide, contributing to the genetic pool and enhancing the quality of British racehorses.

The Jockey Club and racing governance

The Jockey Club, founded in 1750, has long been central to the governance of British horse racing. Although its regulatory functions have largely been transferred to the British Horseracing Authority, the Jockey Club continues to own and manage many of the UK’s premier racecourses, including Newmarket.

The Club’s historic base, the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket, has been a meeting place for racing’s elite for centuries, further underscoring the town’s importance in the sport’s administration and heritage.

Modern Newmarket

Today, Newmarket continues to thrive as a hub of flat racing. The town boasts two world-class racecourses — the Rowley Mile and the July Course, each hosting a range of top-tier races throughout the year. The July Festival, with its mix of high-quality racing and social events, is a highlight of the summer season.

Newmarket is also home to some of the most prestigious training yards in the world. There are around 70 fully licensed trainers in the area, with big names like Charlie Appleby, John Gosden and William Haggas basing their operations here, taking advantage of the town’s state-of-the-art training facilities and extensive gallops.

The Newmarket Heath, with its carefully maintained training grounds, provides an ideal environment for preparing racehorses.

The future of Newmarket

As the sport of flat racing evolves, Newmarket remains at the forefront, blending tradition with modernity. Advances in training techniques, veterinary care, and breeding technology continue to be pioneered in Newmarket, ensuring it retains its status as the epicentre of the sport.

The town’s ongoing commitment to excellence in racing and training guarantees that it will remain a key destination for those who bet on horse racing and follow the sport.