The Newmarket Town Plate

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The Newmarket Town Plate is a historic race which has been run here at Newmarket's Round Course since 1666. The race was instigated by King Charles II, who also won the first running. He stated that it should be run 'forever'. This year’s renewal will take place ahead of racing at 1pm on Thursday, 13th July, the first day of the Moët and Chandon July Festival and we are currently operating a waiting list for riders due to demand.  A full list of riders and their biographies will be available here very soon and we look forward to making more history in this special race.

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The History of the Town Plate

Founded in 1666 by King Charles II, the Newmarket Town Plate is the world’s oldest surviving race and was the first to be run under a specific set of rules and regulations. Its 2017 incarnation – its 348th – will take place on Thursday July 13th (the opening day of the Moët & Chandon July Festival).

For many years one of the most prestigious races in the land, the Town Plate is now a glorious historical eccentricity, competed for by true amateurs and boasting a jockeys’ prize of a Perpetual Challenge Plate; a photo frame; a voucher from the Newmarket High Street clothes shop, Golding; and a box of Powters Celebrated Newmarket Sausages.

It is run over a stamina-sapping three-and-three-quarter mile course, much of which is only used for this single race each year but ending on the same home straight (and in front of the same grandstands) as the Darley July Cup.  It is by far the longest flat race staged on a British racecourse - a full mile further than the second longest, the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.

As part of the ‘Newmarket 350’ celebrations marking three and a half centuries as the world headquarters of racing, the race was moved in the 2016 calendar so that it marked the start of the Moët & Chandon July Festival.  Following the race, a specially commissioned statue of King Charles II, production of which was made by the generous agreement of the House of Lords Work of Arts Committee to take a cast of an existing statue, was unveiled by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani as the 2016 Newmarket Town Plate winner along with a carefully selected unveiling party, including major benefactor Dr Cyrus Poonawalla.   

Fittingly, the 2016 Town Plate provided a thrilling spectacle as it attracted a maximum field of 15 runners and ended with a remarkable finish fought out between its two of its best-known competitors: Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, through QIPCO a major owner, breeder and investor in British Racing; and Matthew Hancock, the Paymaster General and Member of Parliament for the constituency of West Suffolk, which includes the town of Newmarket.  Hancock, aboard Medieval Chapel, was more than half a furlong clear of the field at one stage in the final mile, but was collared close to home by Sheikh Fahad, riding Almagest.

The race’s original rules covered a remarkably diverse range of topics, such as: ‘whosoever winneth shall give to the Clerk Of The Course 20 shillings, to be distributed to the poor of Newmarket’ and ‘no man is admitted to ride that is either a serving man or a groom’.  Some of these rules still apply today, in particular those concerning the amateur status of the riders – neither professional jockeys nor stable staff are allowed to take part. 

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