Newbury Racecourse

Published: 03/08/2013
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The Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire is conveniently situated in the centre of the South of England, just 10 minutes from Junction 13 of the M4 and easily accessible from the M3 and A34. In addition to a private runway for light aircraft in the centre of the course, there is also a dedicated railway station with direct connections from London and the West. Indeed, the course and station have grown up together, both established in 1905.

The Early Years at Newbury

Actually, the very earliest recorded racing in the Newbury area took place a hundred years earlier with an annual two-day race meeting called “Newbury Races.” The fixtures were held at Enborne Heath from 1805 through 1811 and then at Woodhay Heath until 1815. But despite such early interest in racing, no permanent track was constructed in the area for 90 years.

At the turn of the century, Kingsclere trainer John Porter proposed building a racecourse, but the Jockey Club rejected his plans several times. Only a chance meeting with King Edward VII, who lent his support to the effort, created the impetus for approval. In April 1904, the Newbury Racecourse Company was formed, land was purchased, and construction of the buildings and stables began at a cost of £57,240.

On 26~27 September 1905, the inaugural meeting took place at Newbury Racecourse. Copper King ridden by Charles Trigg and trained by Charles Marnes won the opening race, which was dubbed the Whatcombe Handicap. Marnes received a Silver Cup valued £25 and Trigg got a gold mounted whip valued at £10. Fittingly, a John Porter-trained horse named Zelis won the Regulation Plate on the second day of racing.

Within a year, National Hunt racing was added to the course and 1906 saw nine days of racing conducted at Newbury—six flat and three jumps. A quarter of a century later, Golden Miller made his steeplechasing debut here, winning the Reading Chase in 1931 and then the Sefton Steeplechase in 1932, before going on to claim five Cheltenham Gold Cups. As a jockey, Fulke Walwyn got his very first victory at Newbury’s January Moderate Handicap Hurdle in 1934 aboard Our Hope Walwyn would later train seven winners of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and have a Hennessy Meeting steeplechase named in his honor.

Racing at Newbury Today

Today, Newbury Racecourse offers 39 days of top quality racing all year round, both flat and jumps, including one renowned Group 1 flat horse race for Thoroughbreds aged four years or older—the £250,000 Lockinge Stakes held each May. The race covers a distance of one straight mile on turf with no turns, and runners carry nine stone, with allowances of three pounds for fillies and mares. Since 2011, the event has been included as a qualifier for the QIPCO British Champions Day staged at Ascot in October.

Other major events on the Newbury calendar include the £50,000 Group 3 John Porter Stakes in April, the £100,000 Group 2 Hungerford Stakes in August and the £80,000 Mill Reef Stakes, a Group 2 sprint contested at the annual Dubai Duty Free International Weekend in September along with two Group 3 races—the Arc Trial and the World Trophy. The £65,000 Group 3 St. Simon Stakes is held over a mile and a half in late October each year at the Armed Forces Day Meeting--the final day of the flat racing season—along with the £50,000 Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes over seven furlongs.

Newbury’s defining race, however, is for jumpers—the Hennessey Gold Cup, which takes place during the three-day Hennessey Heritage Festival in November. This is where Arkle gained fame, striding to victory in 1964 and 1965. With a purse of £150,000, the handicap takes jumpers aged four years or older along 3 miles and 2½ furlongs (5,331 metres) and over 21 fences. It’s not only a feast of top-class jump racing but also one of the highlights of the social calendar.

Published on: 03/08/2013

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