GUIDE TO THE JULY FESTIVAL AT NEWMARKET: The July Festival is one of Britain’s most stylish summer events, with visitors donning their finest attire to complement and enhance the formal garden party atmosphere at Newmarket’s July Course.
Alongside the world class racing, the best dressed ladies, gents and couples vie for an array of amazing prizes in the three-day ‘Style Awards’ as the July Course is turned into a sea of colour and high fashion.
Spectacular outfits and hats are everywhere to be seen in the grandstands, on the sun- kissed lawns and around the picturesque parade ring – especially so on the Thursday for Newmarket’s annual Ladies’ Day when the ‘Best Dressed Lady’ is chosen. On Friday, it’s The Gentlemen’s Day when the ‘Best Dressed Gentleman’ is selected. The Festival comes to a climax on Saturday when the ‘Best Dressed Couple’ competition is staged on Darley July Cup Day.
For many reasons, the Moët & Chandon July Festival is regarded by visitors as their favourite horseracing Festival of the year in Britain and is known as one of the most stylish events in East Anglia.
Saturday has lots of free entertainment on course to keep the kids entertained, and visitors can dance the night away at the official Après Racing after party with live music, dancing and cocktails after the last race on each day of the Festival.
The July Festival is the highlight of the summer season at Newmarket Racecourses and includes seven Group races over the Festival including the Darley July Cup on the Saturday, historically Europe’s greatest sprint race, which has been won by great horses such as Chief Singer, Green Desert, Anabaa, Oasis Dream and Dream Ahead. As part of the Global Sprint Challenge, the Darley July Cup always attracts strong international competition as well as top British and European talent.
The festival’s other Group 1 race, the QIPCO Falmouth Stakes, provides the first opportunity to see how the Classic generation of fillies compares with their elders.
The July Festival traditionally showcases emerging stars with no less than three Group 2 races for two-year-olds including the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes which has often been an initial proving ground for fillies who have gone on to be successful in Classic races and Group 1 contests during their three-year-old campaigns the following year; and the Group 2 Superlative Stakes on Saturday, with winning graduates including Olympic Glory and Dubai.
There are also two Heritage Handicaps on the Thursday and Saturday, the Handicap Stakes and the ‘ruthlessly competitive and prestigious’ Bunbury Cup respectively.
THE TOWN PLATE
This year also sees the latest renewal of the world’s oldest surviving race – the Newmarket Town Plate – which in 2016 was brought forward from its traditionally later summer slot, to launch the July Festival as part of the celebrations for Newmarket’s 350th anniversary as the Home of Horseracing.
In contrast with the other contests at the July Festival, the Town Plate has an annual first prize of just £200 for the winning owner. It epitomises the Corinthian roots of the sport of horseracing and is run for the honour of competing rather than for financial reward.
In 2016, in honour of 350 years, the winning rider of the Town Plate was awarded a specially commissioned copy of the King Charles II Challenge Whip, created by Spink Auction House, which also celebrated its 350th anniversary that year. The original copied artefact is kept in the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket. The 2016 Town Plate also saw the unveiling of a special legacy artwork.
All jockeys who compete are true amateurs – the race has been won by both an accountant and a neurosurgeon in recent years – and the rest of the prize package on offer to the winning rider is very much about tradition. There is a Perpetual Challenge Plate, a silver photo frame, a voucher from the Newmarket High Street clothes shop, Goldings, and a box of Powters Celebrated Newmarket Sausages.
Legislated in 1665 and thought to have first been run in 1666, the Town Plate is run over a stamina-sapping three-and-three-quarter mile course, much of which is only used for this single race each year but ending on the same home straight (and in front of the same packed grandstands) as where the July Cup is staged.
It is by far the longest flat race staged on a British racecourse (a full mile further than the second longest, the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot) and thus puts real emphasis on the fitness of its contestants – both the horses and the amateur riders.
To book tickets for the July Festival, visit www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk or call 0844 579 3010.