Newmarket Racing History

1990: Steve Cauthen of the USA on Oh So Sharp is led in after winning the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse in Newmarket, England. Allsport
Newmarket racing history dates all the way back to 1622, when the first documented race was run between Lord Salisbury and the Marquis of Buckingham, for a then very substantial prize of roughly £100.

Charles II and Newmarket Racing

In 1660, King Charles II recognised the potential of Newmarket’s open heath and turf for riding and racing, built the Palace House, and moved his court there for visits each year. Charles II’s mistress, Neill Gwynn, lived in the town of Newmarket, which no doubt added to its appeal. You can visit the Palace House today in the town of Newmarket.

Charles II was sometimes nicknamed “Old Rowley” and rode a horse of the same name. Hence the name of the Rowley Mile Course, which has been home to the 1000 Guineas and the 2000 Guineas since they were first raced.

In 1665, Charles II used an Act of Parliament to declare that the Town Plate race should be run every year at Newmarket – the first race run under written rules in Newmarket racing history, and still raced to this day. In 1671, Charles II himself rode in and won the Town Plate.

Newmarket Racing in the USA

Also in 1665, Charles II’s governor in New York built a race track and named it after the King’s favoured Newmarket. The Newmarket track in New York was the first race track ever constructed in the United States.

Start of Newmarket Racing Fixtures

In 1750, the Jockey Club started meeting at Newmarket to regulate horse racing in the UK. By the 1760s, Newmarket was home to several annual racing fixtures.

In 1809, the first 2000 Guineas was raced. Five years later, in 1814, the inaugural 1000 Guineas was run. With the two Guineas races, Newmarket Racecourse is host to the two earliest of the five British Classic races.

In October, 1839, the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch handicap races were added to the Newmarket fixture. They were joined in 1877 by the Champion Stakes.

Newmarket Racing History in the 1900s

During the 1900s, Newmarket Racecourse added several more “firsts” to its history. In 1929, it was the first racecourse to introduce the tote. In 1949, it was the first to introduce a photo finish camera at the winning line, and in 1965, it was the first to introduce starting stalls.

During both World War I and World War II, Newmarket Racecourse continued to host races – the only racecourse in Britain to do so – and all of the five Classic Races were run there. It also served as an RAF base.

Since the mid-1900s, Newmarket Racecourse has undergone substantial modernisation. In 2000, the Queen opened its imposing Millennium Grandstand. In 2007, Newmarket Racecourse embarked on a £10m redevelopment of the July Course.