Newmarket, a small town in Suffolk, has been considered “Headquarters” of horse racing since the sport blossomed under Royal patronage during the 17th Century. King James 1 was the first to discover that the flat land in the area was ideal for galloping horses, and the tradition was carried on by his grandson Charles 11. It was Charles “Merry Monarch” who made Newmarket truly fashionable. He used to move his court here from London so that at times the town was capital of England in all but name. The first recorded race was in 1622, when a horse belonging to Lord Salisbury beat one of the Marquess of Buckingham’s for a stake of £100, then an enormous sum. But there were horses here long before that, for Queen Bodicea’s Iceni tribe used the heath to tune up their war chariots before battles with the Roman invaders who built the road that runs through the town and into East Anglia.
She also built the famous landmark Devils Dyke which runs between the Rowley Mile and July courses.
Newmarket’s royal history is apparent at every turn. Near the end of the High Street the Rutland Arms stands on the site of King Charles old palace, and just down the road are his stables and the house of his mistress Nell Gwynn. The Rowley Mile Racecourse was named after the King, whose nickname was that of his favourite horse, Old Rowley.
The first public trainer in Newmarket, Tregonwell Frampton, had Queen Anne among his owners.
The present Queen, who maintains her family’s tradition of breeding racehorses at the Royal Stud in Norfolk,
is a frequent visitor to the town.
King Charles used to enjoy watching his horses being exercised on Warren Hill. Three centuries later champions are still being trained on the timeless turf, but much else has changed, and for the better.
Newmarket may be steeped in history, but now it is a centre of excellence where heritage and technology
lie easily together.
Today Newmarket is not just headquarters of racing in Britain, but arguably in the world, with facilities second to none. There are 2800 acres of heath and woodland devoted to racing and training horses, including 40 miles of turf gallops, 17 miles of artificial gallops and 30 miles of traffic-free walking tracks.
The other facilities include 2 public equine swimming pools, two top-class veterinary practices,
and a state-of-the-art research centre.
Europe’s biggest horse auction house, Tattersalls (founded 1766), is based in Newmarket, bringing a wonderful cosmopolitan atmosphere to the town in the autumn, when buyers from all over the world come to bid.
A century ago the auctioneers used to sell horses in the High Street, outside the Jockey Club Rooms, but now business is conducted in a handsome domed arena, where bids are translated into yen, dollars and euros on the flickering number board.
Newmarket is surrounded by Studs, where some of the world’s best stallions and most desirable broodmares are based. Many a champion has been born and raised in Newmarket.
Of course Newmarket is famous for its racing. From the early days when nobility used to match there horses against each other, the sport has developed into a major industry and a much loved hobby to others, but fun and enjoyment to all.
At “Headquarters” there are two racetrack, the Rowley Mile for the autumn and spring sport and the July course for the summer. There are top-class contests at both venues: The 1000 and 2000 guineas; The Champions Stakes; The July Cup; The Middle Park and Cheveley Park Stakes; The Dewhurst……….
There are now more than 60 training stables in the town – large and small – housing some of the world’s best horses. Trainers come to the place because of the facilities, and owners come because of the results.