First established in 1876, the July Cup at Newmarket ranks among Britain’s most valuable and prestigious sprint events. It is a Group 1 flat horse race open to Thoroughbreds aged three years or older and run over a quick course of just six furlongs (1,207 metres). So telling is its result in early July that many of the winners have been subsequently acknowledged throughout Europe as the champion sprinter of the year.
A colt named Springfield bred by Queen Victoria at the Hampton Court Stud won the inaugural event and then followed up a year later with a repeat win. The most successful runner over the years was Sundridge with three straight victories in 1902~1904. The race’s top jockey was Lester Piggott with ten wins stretched out between 1957 and 1992, and the most successful trainers were Charles Morton and Vincent O’Brien with five first-place finishes apiece in the periods 1903~1914 and 1973~1990, respectively.
Since 1996, the annual event has been sponsored by Darley Stud and is formally known as the Darley July Cup. Over the years it has drawn interest from around the world and featured winners from as far away as the United States, Dubai and Japan. In 2008, it became the fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which has helped attract even more high-quality international contenders.
An Historic Racing Venue
Newmarket, of course, is the historic “Home of Horseracing” and arguably the greatest horseracing centre in the world. It is said that “horseracing is lived and breathed on every street corner,” and for a fact there are more trainers, stable staff, stud experts, and racing organisers resident in and around Newmarket than anywhere else on the planet.
The Newmarket site features some 2,500 racehorses in training and 77 licensed trainers. It is where the original Jockey Club was founded and the 17th-century royal Palace House still stands, along with the National Horseracing Museum and the British Racing School. It features two separate racecourses, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. The latter is located alongside the National Stud on the approach to town, where it serves as home to all of Newmarket’s summer race meetings, including the July Cup.
The equestrian facilities here are extensive, too. Occupying 2,800 acres of fully maintained training grounds are 50 miles of turf gallops, 17 miles of artificial gallops, and 65 stud farms, including Dalham Hall Stud, the focus of Sheikh Mohammed’s breeding empire, which produced July Cup champions Ajdal (1987) and Soviet Star (1988).
The July Course, Cup, and Festival
A full three days of activities precede the annual running of this major sprint. Beginning on a Wednesday with Abu Dhabi Day and followed by Champagne Lanson Ladies Day, the racecards are full each day. Friday is known as the Darley July Cup Day, which kicks off with the well attended Breakfast in the Paddocks at 6:45am. Other surrounding events include Cricket on the Severals, a Charity Horse Show, and the Jockey Club Rooms Tour & Tea.
On the weekend following, the annual Newmarket Town Carnival takes place at the Rowley Mile racecourse. There is a polo match to finish up with, marking the height of mid-summer merriment at Newmarket.
From start to finish, the actual running of Darley July Cup typically takes only a minute and ten seconds with 14 runners vying for victory. The longest odds on a winner in recent history were 22-to-1 on Pastoral Pursuits in 2005, while the shortest were on 5-2 favourite Marchand D’Or in 2008. Competitive betting odds and betting specials for the race are available from all established U.K. bookmakers.