Newmarket Racecourse or, rather, Newmarket Racecourses – the racecourse complex comprises two individual courses, known as the Rowley Mile Course and the July Course – is situated on the outskirts of the town of Newmarket, Suffolk, on the border with Cambridgeshire. Newmarket has long been the headquarters of British Flat racing and is often referred to, colloquially, as ‘Headquarters’.
Newmarket Racecourse was founded in 1663, during the reign of King Charles II, shortly after the restoration of the monarchy in England three years previously. Indeed, the King, affectionately known as ‘Rowley’, or ‘Old Rowley’, was instrumental is the establishment and evolution of Newmarket Racecourse and for the transformation of Newmarket from a humble market town to a flourishing centre for horse racing.
The Rowley Mile Course, which commemorates the early Royal patronage of Newmarket, is used for racing during the spring and autumn and, annually, on the first weekend in May, plays host to the first two ‘Classic’ races of the season, 1,000 Guineas and the 2,000 Guineas. Both races were established by the Jockey Club, under the stewardship of Sir Charles Bunbury, but the 2,000 Guineas, which is open to thoroughbred three-year-old colts and fillies, was inaugurated in 1809, five years before the 1,000 Guineas, which is open to thoroughbred three-year-old fillies only. Interestingly, Sir Charles Bunbury is also credited with introducing racing to Newmarket during the summer months and the aptly-named July Course, which is used for racing between June and August, features a one-mile straight known as the ‘Bunbury Mile’.
Collectively, Newmarket Racecourses host a quarter of the Group One races run annually in Britain. Aside from the first Classics, the Rowley Mile Course hosts four major two-year-old races, the Cheveley Park and Middle Park Stakes in September and the Fillies’ Mile and Dewhurst Stakes in October. The July Course, on the other hand, hosts the July Cup, one of the most prestigious, and valuable, sprint races in the world and the Falmouth Stakes, open to fillies aged three years and upwards and run over the Bunbury Mile.