Newmarket is the heart of the horse racing world and is recognised as being the capital of the horseracing industry in the UK, both in national and international terms. This arises from the range of horse racing interests in the town covering all aspects of the racing industry. There are more racehorses, trainers, stable staff, stud farms and racing organisations based in and around the town of Newmarket than anywhere else in the world.
If you like horses – then you can visit Newmarket as a tourist. This is where horse racing, as we know it today, really began back in the seventeenth century when the kings of England brought their courts to Newmarket to hold races across the heath.
Most famous of all was Charles II whose horse, Old Rowley, is commemorated in the Rowley Mile at Newmarket Racecourse. A plaque on a house just off the main street tells of another famous resident, Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwynn.
Now everywhere you go in Newmarket there are racehorses. Long strings of horses can be seen riding out, identifiable only by the colour of their saddle blankets and the caps of their riders. Watching them you cannot tell a top racer, and which is a future star.
There are tours that offer to show you a glimpse behind the scenes of the horse racing industry. Discover Newmarket offers sightseeing tours around Newmarket and is the best way to visit yards and hear from the expert local guides. There are 50 miles of grass tracks and 40 miles of all weather surfaces covering 2,000 acres of heathland.
Newmarket is a quaint town, surrounded by acres and acres of countryside and filled to the brim with interesting buildings, a rich history and, of course, horses. Known as the Home of Horseracing, it won’t come as a surprise that it is quite honestly a horse-lovers haven.
The town itself is full to the brim with bridle-paths that wind alongside the roads, with crossings for the horses and their riders, and with signs stating that cars must give way to the horses. If only every town could have the same respect for riders as the ones here in Sussex do!
The famous Newmarket Stud. Originally founded in 1915, the Stud is easily located just off one of the main roads into Newmarket and can be easily spotted by the large rearing horse statue on the roundabout you turn off from. What was originally a private stud, opened its doors to the public in the 1970s and is now renowned for being the only commercial stud farm in the UK to allow visitors a peek behind the scenes. The Wavertree’s Cafe, is located within the grounds for a cup of tea or lunch.
Visiting the Gallop Tracks
The famous Warren Hill Gallop Track is where you get the first glimpse into the racing world as group after group of horses in training come tearing up the track in front of you. It was far too cold to stand out there for long but it was incredible to see firsthand the speeds that the horses can get up to. On a sunny day (or at least a slightly less windy one), I could have lost a good hour or more simply watching them speed past one after another. The horses are out training from 6 am until 12 pm every day of the week, so you’re certain to be able to catch a glimpse of the action if you head out during those times. The tracks are opened to the public after 1 pm if you’d like to simply take in the scenery and go for a walk.
Jockey Club Rooms
Entering the Jockey Club rooms is by guided tour only and it is fascinating. Every wall is covered with paintings created by famous artists such as Stubbs and Munning, showing horses at rest or galloping in races.
The Jockey Club Rooms. Is a very prestigious, private members club and still is today. Entering the Jockey Club rooms is by guided tour only and it is fascinating. Every wall is covered with paintings created by famous artists such as Stubbs and Munning, showing horses at rest or galloping in races.
It has been open to the public for hire, tours and special events for several years now but it definitely still has that ‘posh boys club’ feel about it. And while it definitely isn’t that today, it’s evident inside that it once was exactly that – along one wall of the club hangs photographs of all of the members, dating way back to the 18th century. And the first image of a woman doesn’t appear until 1977.
Set in stunning grounds, with a range of rooms that vary from dining areas to bedrooms, it is easy to see why people choose to use it as a wedding venue. The club regularly hosts events and afternoon teas.
National Museum for Horseracing and Sporting Art
National Museum for Horseracing and Sporting Art. Located within Palace House, the museum was opened in 2016 by her Majesty the Queen (quite the contrast to the centuries-old Jockey Club Rooms). And in direct opposition to the previous stop, the shiny new museum is full to the brim with a range of highly interactive screens, displaying all of the information you could ever require to seek out about the horseracing industry.
Meet the Resident Horses in Rothschild Yard
But you can’t go to Newmarket and not get up-close-and-personal with the horses themselves. And the Heritage Museum is one of the many places in Newmarket that you can do just that.
Hidden in a block out the back of the Heritage Museum, is the Rothschild Yard. After watching the up-and-coming horses training on the gallops in the morning, getting to meet some of the retired stars of the sport had been on my mind all day so I was overjoyed to discover that we were able to do that while at the museum. Heralded as the flagship home of the Retraining of Racehorses charity, you can spend an hour fussing the retired racehorses, hearing about their past and see a glimpse into what their future might hold as you watch their training sessions in action.
Visit on a race day
The ultimate Newmarket experience, you really need to visit on a race day. The town spends close to 365 days of the year prepping its resident horses for racing, so it would be a shame to miss out on seeing them in action. It’s worth noting that the prices in hotels and restaurants are often more expensive on race day weekends, and the town itself will be a hive of activity but for the thrill of watching a race.
The horseracing industry is vital to Newmarket and its economy. It is estimated that up to 33% of jobs in Newmarket are directly related to horse racing being provided in the training yards, studs and stables and around 50% when include related industries such as bloodstock auctioneers, vets, farriers etc.
The existing facilities and racing infrastructure includes:-
Two of the country’s premier racecourses, being the NatWest Rowley Mile and July Course with over 2,500 racehorses in training at the peak of the season.
With over 79 licensed trainers; 62 stud farms; 2,800 acres of fully maintained training grounds; 50 miles of turf gallops and 17 miles of artificial gallops; Original home of the Jockey Club; National Horseracing Museum; British Racing School; Tattersalls Sales; Horse Racing Forensic Laboratory; The National Stud; The Thoroughbred Breeders Association; British Bloodstock Marketing Head Office; International Racing Bureau; Racing Welfare; Federation of Bloodstock Agents; Palace House, 17th Century royal residence for King Charles II; and the country’s top equine veterinary and equine hospitals, saddlers, farriers, transporters and insurance companies.
The training, breeding and racing parts of the industry are inextricably linked relying on each other for their activities and growth. A decline in any one part of the industry would inevitably have an impact on another part.
Snaffle Travel will be visiting Newmarket on there Burghley Horse Trials tour in September 2020.
Tours: Discover New Market – https://discovernewmarket.co.uk/
Newmarket information: https://www.visitsuffolk.com/explore/newmarket.aspx