Many of us are veterans of the Rowley Mile and July courses but the town has a great deal more to offer than just racing upon its venerable turf. If immersion in the equine world is your thing, there is no finer place to tip yourself in than Newmarket; a self-contained idyll of everything horse, situated in the far reaches of Cambridgeshire as the flat lands give way to the shapely folds of the beautiful west Suffolk countryside. For racing folk everywhere, the place just bubbles with goodness.
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The chalk downland of Newmarket Heath is an exceptional piece of ground upon which to prepare and train horses. Local lore has it that Boadicea (Boudica), warrior Queen of the Iceni, had her camp at nearby Exning and trained her horses and chariots there upon the ancient heath. Racing at Newmarket has been dated as far back as 1174, the earliest known racing venue of the modern era.
King James I greatly increased the popularity of racing in Newmarket, and King Charles I followed this by inaugurating the first cup race in 1634. An association which gathered pace during the Restoration of 1660, and the reign of King Charles II, who became passionately involved with the sport and the last English monarch to ride a race winner at Newmarket. The bushes on the Rowley Mile mark his favourite position for spectating across the course he devised for late summer and spring
My favourite time to visit the Rowley Mile is in October on Champions Day, the highest class single day's flat racing in Europe. This is a terrific meeting with an excellent blend of races, made all the better by manageable attendance levels. Unlike the Guineas meet, it remains relatively simple to achieve a good position at the paddock and for the race itself - so difficult around the country at other times.
So much for the racing, but what of the town itself?
The National Stud
AWhere better to begin than with a tour of the National Stud, located beside the famous statue of Hyperion near the July Course. From the moment the automatic gates swing open it's clear you're in for a civilised experience - places are reserved by phone or email and you simply roll up and pay on arrival. Here, thanks to Mr Phil Cunningham, we can see new sire Cockney Rebel together with a mixed roster that includes Bahamian Bounty and Silver Patriarch. Then there are the paddocks with the broodmares and young foals, the stallion men, covering barn, foaling unit, Mill Reefs' statue and grave, plus the odd celebrity guest: Grand National winner Amberleigh House has cheerfully greeted visitors here for several seasons.
At the National Stud they take little prompting to confide that Newmarket Hospital has no A&E facility - for that, you will need to visit Cambridge. On the other hand, if any one of the residents of the National Stud requires emergency care, a vet can be summoned on site within 8 minutes, 24/7. This, Sir, is the town of the horse.