Newmarket is the historic “Home of Horseracing.” The first recorded race here took place 1622, a match race for a prize worth £100. A horse belonging to the Marquis of Buckingham beat Lord Salisbury’s steed, and races soon became a regular occurrence. So popular was the sport that King James I had a grandstand constructed on Newmarket Heath. Not long after, while in residence here in 1665, Charles II established the written rules for British horse racing and the original Jockey Club was formed at this very site.
Over the years, classics such as the 2000 Guineas (1809) and the fillies-only 1000 Guineas (1814) were introduced on the turf of the Rowley Mile at Newmarket Racecourse. And in October 1877, the Champion Stakes was inaugurated. It was won by a horse named Springfield, and thereafter, this event would become synonymous with “end of season” racing.
Today, the Newmarket October Meeting, or “Champions Meeting” as it is formally known, includes two full days of racing, with the eight-furlong Emirates Airline Champion Stakes held on the second day as its centerpiece. It is the final Group 1 flat race of the year, and the Saturday it is run is known as Champions’ Day. It features no fewer than six Group Races on the Rowley Mile and as much as £1 million on offer for the victors.
Two other closely observed contests held on Champions’ Day are the Group 1 Dubai (Jumeirah) Dewhurst Stakes for juvenile horses and the Totesport Cesarewitch for up to 30 stayers, also known as the Heritage Handicap. The former is of special interest to both bookmakers and punters. It is a race for 2-year-old colts and fillies that may be making their appearance the following spring as 3-year-olds in the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas, respectively. Ante post betting takes off in earnest once the top finishers of this race are known.
Aside from these top attractions, two Group 2 races are conducted over seven furlongs at the Newmarket October Meeting—the Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes and the Owen Brown Rockfel Stakes. There are also Group 3 events, such as the Newmarket Darley Stakes and the Jockey Club Cup.
During the two days of the meeting, bumper crowds descend on the racecourse and millions are wagered trackside. Part of the excitement is seeing so many of the best younger and older horses at a single venue. There are runners that specialise in circuits of a mile to a mile and four furlongs. Many past and current Classic winners are present and get their fair share of attention, such as 2007 Dewhurst Stakes winner New Approach, who went on to land the Epsom Derby in 2008.
Ante post betting is offered on all of the major races of the Newmarket October Meeting. Having seen the form of almost all of the entrants, handicappers have a fairly good idea of which horses will be in contention for the various contests. Among the most common wagers on the two race days are straight bets—“win” to finish in 1st, “place” for 2nd, and “show” for 3rd. Bookmakers, online race books, and Tote machines at the track are all ways of accessing these markets. Racing forms and online tips can be useful in sorting out the fields.
For those who seek more exotic wagers at higher odds, good choices are the Exacta or Perfecta for 1st & 2nd in order, the Trifecta for predicting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in order, or the Quinella for the first two runners in either order, have significantly longer odds with minimums starting at as little as 10p. Potentially the most lucrative wager is the “Pick 6,” which challenges handicappers to correctly identify every winner in the half dozen races held on Champions’ Day.