While you are there it is well worth refuelling on the moreish menu in The Tack Room, under the watchful gaze of a bronze statue of Frankel, the stallion rated as the best racehorse in the world.
With the first race looming we duck through into Rothschild Yard and meet the horses who have been there and done it. Winners on their way to a new life after racing. I got to meet Our Vic, a beautiful chestnut who after chewing a bit of the fence and letting me rub his nose, definitely winked at me. A winner giving me the eye. Surely luck was on my side?
We leave Our Vic and friends and cross to what remains of Charles II’s Palace House, which now houses a national collection of racing and sporting art. The Heath features many times and its strange to think just moments earlier we stood where Kings once did centuries before doing the same thing - watching the gallops, hoping for a sign, looking for a tip, wanting to be lucky.
The final stop for our tour is at the only place in the UK that allows the public behind the scenes of a working Thoroughbred stud farm, The National Stud. Studs complete the journey from wannabe to winner to highly sought after sire commanding a sizeable fee for the politely named, covering. Where the bloodlines from founding stallions, the Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian and Godolphin Arabian collide and future champions are made.
Top stallions command top fees. We are told that Frankel’s owners are rumoured to charge nearly £175,000 for four minutes of his finest post-race work. “I now know what you men want to come back as,” says our brilliant guide Char. We don’t set eyes on Frankel today – he is enjoying his retirement at Juddmonte Farms under tight security, although if you book a Frankel Tour you can get to meet him. We meet Bahamian Bounty, one of Dettori’s past mounts and a veteran of the National Stud who has been in action here for 18 years. He’s sired a number of champions and as Char tells us, has a record covering of under a minute. The women in the group nod knowingly at this fact as the men avoid eye contact.
Before we know it, it’s time to go racing on the Rowley Mile - Newmarket is the only place in the world with two racecourses. To put everything we have seen and been told into action. Being a behind the scenes experience our tickets allow us access to the parade ring and weighing room and I’m starting to think this might be the only way to go racing in the future.
Maybe it was the early start. Maybe it was Larry and his tips. Maybe it was magic of walking the Heath in the footsteps of kings and queens. Perhaps even the wink from my old friend Our Vic or just the general accumulation of the knowledge I now owned in a morning I will never forget, but that afternoon’s racing was my most successful ever.
Back at the Best Western Heath Court’s aptly named Tipster’s Bar that evening, surrounded by well-known racing journalists, regular race goers in loosened ties and top buttons, there was a nodding, knowing appreciation of what we had all been through. Just one day in Dettori Town had turned me from novice to champion.
That’s the kind of form we racing experts love.
For more information about Newmarket and to book a behind the scenes tour visit:
- Short Head Tour – From £55 per person
- Race Day Tour – From £130 per person
Imagery - Palace House, Newmarket | Mark Atkins