The Home of Horseracing
Newmarket’s association with horseracing dates back over 400 years. Back in 1605, James I first came to stay in Newmarket, attracted by the open land of the Heath as it possessed all the attributes needed to stage his and his courtiers’ favourite sporting activities: coursing, hunting and racing horses.
The peak of Newmarket’s royal patronage was Charles II’s reign, during which time he built a palace stretching from the High Street to Palace Street. What is left of the palace now forms part of the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art, Palace House.
From the era of Charles II developed the first organised racing - leading to the founding of The Jockey Club in around 1750, with its home on the same site as the current Jockey Club Rooms.
The origins of The Jockey Club’s property and land management interests also date back over 250 years. In 1827, when defending its right to ‘warn off’ people from the Heath, The Jockey Club produced evidence to show that it had enjoyed proprietorship of part of Newmarket Heath as the tenants of the Duke of Portland since 1753.
The acquisition by The Jockey Club of the land that today is the Newmarket Training Grounds was a gradual process with the bulk of the land either bought or transferred between 1819 and 1932.
For over three centuries the Heath has been protected from the ravages of agriculture, the demands of two World Wars and the development of the modern transport system, with even the railway line forced to tunnel underneath and new roads being built around it.
Meanwhile, the facilities on the training grounds have enjoyed man-made improvements. Since the beginning of the 20th century, layers of peat have been added to stretches of turf in order to produce extra cushioning and a natural, safe surface to enable fast work when other gallops become too firm.
The first artificial track was laid in the 1960s, adjacent to the Cambridge Road, and was surfaced with animal hide. This was replaced by woodchip in the early 1970s with further sand tracks also laid during this period. “Modern” waxed sand surfaces were introduced in the mid 1980s and now make up the majority of over 14 miles of artificial tracks.