Horsing around at the home of horse racing

Not been lucky enough to get away this summer? If so, then you’d do well to consider a short trip over to Newmarket, the home of horse racing.

This UK Bank Holiday weekend, for example, will see a range of great events lined up for visitors, including the chance to “go racing” with the running of the historic Newmarket Town Plate, a race said to be the oldest in the world having first taken place way back in 1666.

King Charles II who came up with the idea of the race, won the first running and is still the only monarch to win a race as a jockey!

Horse racing may not be as big a sport here as in England but there are still plenty of fans of the sport of kings in both Belgium and Benelux.

Horse lovers in Belgium might also like to know that the county of Suffolk, or to be more precise, Newmarket, is widely seen as the home of horse racing.

This is where horse racing, as we know it today, really began back in the 17th  century when the kings of England brought their courts to Newmarket to hold races across the heath. Everywhere you go in Newmarket there are racehorses. Over 30,000 are trained here, exercising each day on the heath from dawn onwards. 

England brought their courts to Newmarket to hold races across the heath and it was thanks to King Charles II that the sport of horseracing came to be in 1666. 

It is here that you can also head out on a tour with Discover Newmarket, the town’s official Tour Guide, to the famed Training Grounds and see some of the area’s 3,000 equine athletes exercising every morning.

Not your usual traffic jam with horses given right of way when crossing Newmarket’s roads.

There are some great places to learn more about the area’s horsey history with a tour of The National Stud, the only commercial farm in the UK allowing such an opportunity, as well as a trip to Palace House, the home of the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art. 

A visit to The National Stud, which opened its gates to the public for the first time in the mid 1970s, is a chance to see some of the farm’s famed stallions, all champions of the turf as well as the opportunity to get up close to some of the mares and foals in the paddocks. The lively and informative tours last 90 minutes and explore the beautiful 500-acre site. 

Here you will hear entertaining and informed stories about some of the best known horse races in history, such as Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard.

Mill Reef was an exact contemporary of Brigadier Gerard, the English-bred who defeated him in their only racecourse meeting in the 2000 Guineas.

As the race was over Brigadier Gerard's optimum distance of one mile, the relative merits of the two colts continued to be the subject of debate.

A tour will also allow you to see some of the newly born foals in their paddocks and hear how they are lovingly and carefully raised by a very dedicated team.

At Palace House, visitors can see the work done by the Retraining of Racehorses charity with daily demonstrations showing how former racehorses are prepared to take on second careers in various other equestrian disciplines including show-jumping, dressage and showing.

The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art is situated here on a site that spans five acres in the heart of Newmarket and comprises three complementary attractions.

The National Heritage Centre at Palace House is the result of over ten years planning, building and fundraising to become the biggest new attraction to open in Suffolk in the last decade. It was also Voted Suffolk Museum of the year 2017 and retraining of racehorses demonstrations take place daily in the arena at 11.30 and 14.30 daily.

There are also some incredible galleries of sporting art and the chance to test your skill as a jockey on the simulator. 

The town of Newmarket has good road and rail links, being an hour away from London and just minutes from Cambridge, Ely and Bury St Edmunds.

These attractions in Newmarket also make for a great family day out. Tickets and tours can be booked through Discover Newmarket.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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