Newmarket is a real hub of horse racing and the sport’s spiritual home. The Suffolk town is used as the base of many racing trainers so a large number of people in the town are involved in the industry. It’s also home to the world class Newmarket Racecourse which is ready to host its signature summer meeting, the July Festival.
Each day of the July Festival includes excellent races which take top billing. The Princess Of Wales’s Stakes, Falmouth Stakes and Darley July Cup are the undoubted highlights but each race has its merits.
Day One Races (Thursday)
|12.10||British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes||Class 2||6f|
|12.45||Price Promise at bet365 Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|1.15||Each Way Extra at bet365 Handicap||Class 3||1m|
|1.50||Bahrain International Sir Henry Cecil Stakes||Listed||1m|
|2.25||Bahrain Trophy Stakes||Listed||1m5f|
|3.00||Tattersalls July Stakes||Group 2||6f|
|3.35||bet365 Handicap||Class 2||6f|
|4.10||Princess Of Wales’s Tattersalls Stakes||Group 2||1m4f|
Day Two Races (Friday)
|12.10||Cashout at bet365 Handicap||Class 3||1m4f|
|12.45||Each Way Extra at bet365 Handicap||Class 3||5f|
|1.15||bet365 British EBF Maiden Stakes||Class 3||1m|
|1.50||Price Promise at bet365 Handicap||Class 3||7f|
|2.25||Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes||Group 2||6f|
|3.00||bet365 Trophy||Class 2||1m6f|
|3.35||bet365 Handicap||Class 2||1m2f|
|4.10||Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes||Group 1||1m|
Day Three Races (Saturday)
|12.10||bet365 Handicap||Class 3||1m4f|
|12.45||bet365 British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes||Class 4||7f|
|1.15||bet365 Novice Stakes||Class 4||1m|
|1.50||bet365 Mile Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|2.25||British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|3.00||bet365 Superlative Stakes||Group 2||7f|
|3.35||Darley July Cup Stakes||Group 1||6f|
|4.10||bet365 Bunbury Cup||Class 2||7f|
About the Meeting
One of the real sporting highlights of the summer months is the plethora of flat racing festivals on offer. No sooner is one over and done, than another seems to be on the horizon. From Royal Ascot to Glorious Goodwood, from Chester to York, racing is the sport which just keeps on giving over the summer months, with top class action all over the country.
It is the course of Newmarket which is the spiritual and organisational home of the flat racing game though, and as such it is only fitting that the Suffolk venue throws its hat into the ring with a top class festival of its own.
Held in mid-July each year and taking place on the July course at HQ, this three-day meeting lays on 21 contests for our viewing and punting pleasure. With seven Group races in all, including two at the very highest level, intermixed with high quality handicapping and juvenile action, this is one summer racing show that is definitely not to be missed. Here we take a look at this excellent meeting’s flagship contests to get your racing juices flowing.
This is the July Meeting, held on the July Course and it is the July Cup which fittingly acts as the headline act across the three days. Part of the British Champion Series, this prestigious Group 1 affair, a six furlong sprint, annually attracts the real superstars of the sprinting game, who line up to do battle for the £500,000 in total prize money on offer. Open to all runners aged three and older, be they fillies, geldings or colts, this contest really does determine who is the fastest of them all.
Diadem, Abernant and Right Boy all have their names in the sprinting hall of fame, and all won this race twice. Sundridge bettered those achievement though when landing three successive editions between 1902 and 1904. The names of Oasis Dream, Muhaarar and Harry Angel feature prominently on the list of champions from the current century, in what is a high class roll of honour.
Princess of Wales’s Stakes
Taking centre stage on the opening day is this 1m4f Group 2 event open to all runners aged three and older. Named in honour of Alexandra of Denmark who became Princess Of Wales back in 1863, this race was added to the Newmarket offering in 1892 and quickly became established as one of the summer’s top targets for the middle distance performers. Initially held over the one mile trip, both the distance and prize money have increased over the years, with a more than tidy purse of £100,000 on offer in 2018.
Sir Michael Stoute seems to have a particular affinity with this race having recorded a hugely impressive nine wins as of 2018, putting him out in front in the training ranks. This race has also been the scene of a returning hero on a few occasions over the years, with Lance Chest, Primera, Lomond, Millenary and more recently the ever popular Big Orange all winning back to back editions.
Duchess of Cambridge Stakes
The juvenile fillies provide the chief supporting act on Day 2 in this Group 2 contest held over the straight 6f. With £80,000 (2018) up for grabs this event regularly attracts the speediest and most promising fillies in the game. Initially known as the Cherry Hinton Stakes, the race was renamed in honour of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in 2013.
The top trainers in the game tend to target the stars of their fillies strings at this event, with previous winners of the race often going on to achieve great things. Sweet Solera was good enough both to go on and win the subsequent season’s 1000 Guineas and then even have a race named in her honour. Another to achieve Classic success was the Mark Johnston-trained splay-legged wonder, Attraction, who landed the 2003 edition of this.
The first Group 1 contest of the meeting sees the fillies aged three and older line up for this one mile long event which acts as the centrepiece to the Day 2 card. Named in honour of the 6th Viscount Falmouth, who counted horse racing amongst her chief interests, the contest offers £200,000 (2018) in total prize money, and regularly attracts a star studded field.
The tough and talented Soviet Song and Sir Michael Stoute’s Sonic Lady are the only dual winners of the race as of 2018, with the brilliant duo of Goldikova and Alpha Centauri two others to feature prominently on the list of former heroines.
Best Of The Rest
It’s not all about the Group class action at Newmarket in July though, with one of the many attractions of this meeting being the quality and range of the handicaps on offer. The pick of those for us is the historic Bunbury Cup. Taking place on the closing day, this fiercely competitive Class 2 7f event is open to all runners aged three and over. Not always an easy one to call, it does often throw up some winners at tasty odds, rewarding those who manage to unpick the tricky puzzle of this race.
The stamina laden three year olds take to the track in this contest which acts as one of the highlights on the opening day. 1m5f is the trip for this Group 3 affair which offers £150,000 (2018) prize money. Three time Arc runner up, Youmzain, St.Leger hero, Masked Marvel and the hugely popular Persian Punch all feature on the roll of honour.
The meeting’s top contest for the juvenile colts regularly kicks off the action on the final day. Taking place over the 7f trip, this Group 2 event generally sees a field of Classic aspirants going to post. Won by the likes of Derby winner, Dr. Devious, and one of the greatest stallions of modern times, Dubawi, this is a race well worth keeping an eye on.
There’s certainly no shortage of high class two year old action at this meeting, with this Group 2 6f event held on the opening day representing another chance for the youngsters to showcase their talents. Having first been run in 1786, this is actually the oldest two year old contest run anywhere in the world. The speedy 1985 winner Green Desert is the standout amongst the list of previous winners, both for his exploits at the track and subsequently as a stallion, with many of his progeny, including Cape Cross and Desert Prince going on to great things.
There are few – if any – racing venues that are quite so steeped in history as Newmarket. Harking all the way back to 1667, when the track acted as the venue for match races between the nobles, it wasn’t long before the Suffolk course soon became the epicentre of the flat racing world.
It was close to a hundred years after those first knockings of racing at the track that this meeting came into being in 1765. Initially a two day affair, the popularity and quality of the festival continued to grow in subsequent years, which saw a number of the contests we know and love to this day join the party. Firstly we saw the July Stakes added in 1786, with the July Cup itself following in 1876.
The names of the other races here are littered with significant figures from racing’s gilded past, none more so than that of Sir Charles Bunbury. Bunbury was the man behind both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas held at this track, and also played a significant role in the introduction of the Derby itself. Indeed – but for a lost coin toss – the Derby – and all other Derby’s held around the world – would likely have been known as the Bunbury. The Kentucky Bunbury anyone?
It’s safe to say things have come a long way from those initial £100 match races held at the course, with the event now encompassing three days, and offering in excess of £1.2million in total prize money. Now well into its fourth century – how many sporting events can say that? – this excellent meeting is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
A Complete History of the July Festival
Newmarket’s July Festival combines music, fashion and top-class horse racing to create a truly wonderful three-day summer spectacle. Its history goes back more than 250 years and below is a timeline of the key events that have shaped this brilliant meeting.
1765 – July Fixture Created
Newmarket introduced a fourth date to its racing calendar in July. Sometimes only featuring a small handful of races in its early years, by the following century the meeting spanned the course of a few days. The July Festival was born!
1786 – First Running of the July Stakes
The July Stakes is run for the first time. Now the longest running race specifically for two year olds in British flat racing, this is a six furlong sprint and, as of 2003, a Group 2 race. Bullfinch was the first winner of this one and whilst there can be no repeat victors from an equine perspective, George Fordham and Sir Gordon Richards have both ridden a record six winners in this historic contest.
1876 – Inaugural July Cup
The July Cup, now the centrepiece of the entire July Festival, was founded. The globally recognised six furlong dash crowns the champion European sprinter in the eyes of many and is a real highlight of the July Festival. Now a Group 1 contest, Springfield won the first two renewals and Sundridge is the only horse to land three July Cups, winning consecutively from 1902.
1894 – Creation of the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes
The Princess of Wales’s Stakes is run for the first time, the £10,000 contest being won by Isinglass, who had won the 2000 Guineas the previous year. Now a Group 2, this is run over 1m4f, having been extended from one mile in 1902. In recent times Big Orange (2015 and 2016) and Millenary (2002 and 2003), have joined the short list of multiple winners of the race.
1894 – Bunbury Cup Added
The Bunbury Cup is also added to the Newmarket card and honours British politician Sir Charles Bunbury, who is credited with introducing the 1000 and 2000 Guineas to Newmarket. The seven furlong handicap is open to all horses three and up and has been won three times by Mine (2002, 2005 and 2006).
1900 – Doricles shares the spotlight
Future St Leger champion Doricles secured the first win of his career in the July Stakes but it was a win shared with Veles following a dead heat. In the same race, Handicapper, who a year later beat Doricles to 2000 Guineas glory, finished among the unplaced finishers.
1911 – The First Falmouth Stakes
The (now) Group 1 Falmouth Stakes was established, a race contested over one mile, originally restricted to fillies aged three-years-old but now open to fillies and mares of that age and above. The name honours Evelyn Boscawen, a leading racehorse owner and the 6th Viscount Falmouth. The simply named Alice won the inaugural contest and since then Lester Piggott has ridden a record seven winners in this historic contest.
1929 – Tote Introduced On Course
Spectators of the July Festival now enjoyed the Tote by the course. It was the first major meeting in which the Government-owned corporation ever appeared.
1931 – Dead Heat
The Princess of Wales’s Stakes witnessed its first and only dead heat before the advent of the photo finish. Judges, unable to determine who crossed the line first, had no choice but to award the race to both Shell Transport and The Recorder.
1940 – Rowley Mile Used as WWII Airbase
The RAF commandeers the use of the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, turning it into an official Bomber Command Airbase. The July Course is then used all-year round for racing, making Newmarket the only course that remained operational during then entire course of the conflict.
1947 – Cherry Hinton Stakes Introduced
The Cherry Hinton Stakes is first run, with Great Fun taking the honours. Now called the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes, this six furlong contest for the fillies is one to watch as a guide to who might deliver the goods in the following year’s 1000 Guineaas.
1965 – Starting Stalls Used for the First Time
The July Festival sees the use of starting stalls, yet to be introduced at any other racecourse in the country.
1977 – Gentilhombre Awarded Controversial July Cup
Marinsky finishes first in the July Cup but shortly after the race is demoted to second following a stewards’ inquiry. Gentilhombre is instead crowned champion, with the win later seeing him named the best sprinter in Europe.
1977 – Girls excluded from July Stakes
For nearly two centuries the July Stakes had been open to horses of both genders but this changed in 1977. Fillies could no longer take part with only colts and geldings now available for the six furlong sprint.
1991 – Bahrain Trophy moves
In previous July Festivals, the Bahrain Trophy had been the name of a seven furlong handicap restricted to three-year-olds. In 1991 however the name transferred to another event, replacing the H & K Commissions Stakes which in previous years had been run as a handicap. The new Bahrain Trophy took place over a distance of one mile and seven furlongs and carried Listed status.
1992 – Piggott Takes July Cup Total to Ten
Lester Piggott makes it win number 10 in the July Cup as he rides Mr Brooks to glory at Newmarket. Only in one other Group 1 race (the Ascot Gold Cup) did the legendary jockey enjoy more victories.
1999 – Royal Line disqualified
For the first time in Godolphin’s history, one of their horses failed a post-race test. The culprit was the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Royal Line who finished first in the Bahrain Trophy. The victory was scrapped from the record books however when tests revealed pentoxifylline in Royal Line’s system and instead Aidan O’Brien’s Moon Dragon claimed the win.
2002 – Clerk of the Scales Expels Capricho
Capricho crosses the finishing post neck and neck with the James Bethell-trained Mine for a rare dead heat in the Bunbury Cup. During the weigh-in though it was discovered Capricho ran 9lbs under his correct weight as trainer John Akehurst, who was fined £1,500 for the incident, forgot to add the weight cloth. Or should that be “forgot”?!
2004 – Falmouth Promoted to Group 1 Status
The Falmouth Stakes is handed Group 1 status, joining the July Cup as the festival’s two elite level races.
2004 – Dubawis First Group Win
Legendary stud Dubawi lands the Group 2 (then Group 3) Superlative Stakes with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. The Superlative Stakes was renamed thus in 1991 having originally been named in honour of the trainer Bernard van Cutsem Stakes, who died in 1975.
2007 – Creation of the Henry Cecil Stakes
The Xplor Conditions Stakes is added to the card and is won by Traffic Guard. Now called the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes, this one mile listed contest honours the legendary 10-time Champion Trainer.
2007 – July Course Redevelopment
Redevelopment work on the July Course is complete. The £10m project saw the removal of redundant buildings behind the Grandstands, which made way for new bars, catering outlets and toilets. Another new addition was that of the twin pavilion buildings, connected by an aerial walkway which has proved a hit among July Festival attendees.
2009 – Bahrain Trophy Given Group 3 Status
The Bahrain Trophy becomes a Group 3 contest and is a key race on the July Meeting’s card. Normally featuring on the opening day of the festival, this 1m5f contest offered almost £100,000 to the winner in 2019.
2014 – Cavalryman finally fires
With Newmarket form reading 223 you might have thought Cavalryman had missed out on his chance to win at the course. At the ripe age of eight-year-old however the Godolphin runner claimed a neck’s length win after setting an especially slow pace in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes. By doing so he became the only horse older than six to win this race in decades.
2016 – 350th Anniversary
The historic Newmarket Town Plate, inaugurated in 1665 by the order of King Charles, marks the beginning of the July Festival. Typically the three mile six furlong contest runs later in the summer but organisers brought it forward as a way of celebrating Newmarket’s 350th anniversary.
2019 – Silver Bunbury Cup dropped
Having only managed to attract seven declared runners in 2018, Michael Prosser, clerk of the course at Newmarket, announced that the Silver Bunbury Cup would be under review. After some careful deliberation, Prosser and his colleagues opted to axe the Cup from the following July Festival schedule, replacing it with the brand new bet365 Trophy. The decision proved a popular one as 69 horses found themselves entered for the new £120,000 contest, targeted for older stayers.