Newmarket Future Champions Day Races, Format & History

October brings not only Autumn but the close of the British flat racing season. Although action continues on all-weather courses up and down the land, the turf meetings come to an end this month.

Newmarket holds a flurry of meetings during September and October known as Gold Season, but the last of the key racing fixtures comes in the form of their Future Champions Festival which takes places over two days, Friday and Saturday, during the second weekend in October.

The Future Champions is named as such because over half for the fourteen races are for two year olds. These will give us a glimpse of who will be competing for the major honours, including the five Classics, next season.

Juvenile races aren’t all that is show however, with the ever popular Cesarewitch Handicap one of the major highlights for punters.

Day One: Friday

Time Race Grade Distance
12:45 Godolphin Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Div I) Class 3 7f
1:15 Godolphin Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Div II) Class 4 7f
1:50 Cornwallis Stakes Group 3 5f
2:25 Godolphin Oh So Sharp Stakes Group 3 7f
3:00 Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes Group 2 7f
3:35 bet365 Fillies’ Mile Group 1 1m
4:10 bet365 Old Rowley Cup Handicap Class 2 1m4f
4:45 Darley Pride Stakes Group 3 1m2f

Dubai Future Champions Festival is an excellent way for some of the most promising horses in training to end their season. The calibre of races crammed into the two days of the meeting is incredible and there are no dud races right from the start to the end of Friday’s card at Newmarket. There is a great mixture of racing and some cracking bets to be found throughout which we’ve picked out for you below.

12:45 Godolphin Under Starters Orders Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Div I)

Newmarket, Class 3, 7f

We kick off Friday’s racing at Newmarket with the first edition of a maiden for fillies. The field comprises a mixture of horses who have yet to get off the mark and some very well-bred debutants. Of all the pedigrees on display, arguably the most impressive comes from Bawaady and it would be no surprise to see this daughter of Dubawi take this first chance to win.

However, even a small amount of experience can make a major difference. That much was evident in Haija’s first race at Newmarket when she was better than all her opponents apart from her more experienced stablemate. She is entitled to come on for that run and earn her first win at the second time of asking.

Haija to win at 11/8

1:15 Godolphin Under Starters Orders Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Div II)

Newmarket, Class 3, 7f

If experience is going to be key in the second division of this race as it could do in the first then connections of Nebulosa are right to be confident about her chances. She was very green and quite unsettled on her debut at Goodwood and stepped her performance levels up at Newmarket last time out when she ran into a couple of promising fillies including Saffron Beach who runs later in the day. If Oisin Murphy is able to keep her calm going down to the line then Nebulosa should lose her maiden tag.

Nebulosa to win at 9/4

1:50 Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 5f

Connections of some of the horses towards the top of the betting for the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes would have hoped their charges could compete at a higher level come this stage of the season. Martyn Meade and all connected to Method certainly had higher hopes for Future Champions Weekend after two impressive wins to kick off his career. However, it all went wrong last time out in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes where he finished last of all. If Method is able to put that race behind him he could make relatively light work of this drop down to five furlongs. But does he represent value at odds of 5/2?

If you don’t fancy supporting the favourite, there are a couple of more tempting options worthy of each way support. Acklam Express is the first of these. He became the first horse since 2016 to take on his elders in the Scarbrough Stakes in September. Although he was unable to hold on having hit the front at Doncaster, he emerged with real credit and looks generous at 6/1. The other horse to consider is Royal Address at odds of 8/1. She looked like a filly with more to give having won a pair of nurseries and subsequently took her form up a level with a win in a tough Listed race at Chantilly.

Acklam Express each way at 6/1, Royal Address each way at 8/1

2:25 Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 7f

Next up is an exciting edition of the Oh So Sharp Stakes, a Group 3 contest for fillies. The market leader for the race is Nazuna who is clearly a filly of some pedigree. For all that she was only beaten by a couple of good fillies in her last two starts – Spright in a nursery and Nazuna in the Rockfel Stakes – it would take an improvement in her form to win this.

By the time the race starts it would be no surprise if Thinking Of You had usurped Nazuna as the bookies’ favourite so now it is well worth taking the early price of 3/1 available. She makes her first trip over the Irish Sea having won impressively on debut and then getting unlucky in running when finishing third in the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes. She’ll want further in time but seven furlongs on soft ground at Newmarket should be fine.

The final horse to seriously consider is Saffron Beach who won a strong edition of a maiden at Newmarket which has produced four Group 3 winners previously. Her galloping style is well suited to the Rowley Mile so, if she can cope with the ground, Saffron Beach should be in the shakeup come the closing stages. She’s available to back at a price of 4/1.

Thinking Of You to win at 3/1

3:00 Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes

Newmarket, Group 2, 7f

The action moves away from the juveniles next with a strong looking renewal of this Group 2 contest. Punters will have to make a real judgement call when it comes to the favourite, Khaloosy. Roger Varian’s three year old clearly has a lot of ability but he has been very frustrating to follow this season, disappointing on both of his last two starts when sent off as the favourite.

It is easier to make excuses for Khaloosy’s poor run at Goodwood as it’s a track that doesn’t suit every horse and the ground was too firm for him. It is more difficult to excuse him for not justifying his support in the betting in the Superior Mile Stakes however. He could only finish third that day despite getting the soft ground he likes. Can he improve and win this time around? The ground is suitable again and he is drawn next to Happy Power who could well set the pace. As such it’s all set up well for Khaloosy at odds of 4/1.

Those unconvinced by Khaloosy’s claims should instead back Glorious Journey at 11/2. Whilst it is possible to question the strength of the form from his win at Newbury last month, connections were happy to see him bounce back from a couple of disappointments. He’s put poor form behind him before and should be able to build on that win to lay down a serious challenge here.

Khaloosy to win at 4/1

3:35 bet365 Fillies’ Mile

Newmarket, Group 1, 1m

The Fillies’ Mile is the feature race of the day. Punters will pay very close attention to this race and watch the replay a couple of times hoping to pick out the winner of next season’s 1,000 Guineas after Love’s third place in the race 12 months ago.

A field of 11 horses is set to compete but not all of them will be able to show their best on soft ground on a galloping track. Favourite backers will hope that Indigo Girl’s debut win on soft ground at Yarmouth means that she can cope with conditions underfoot on Friday. She took her form to another level last time out when winning the May Hill Stakes and is a very exciting prospect for next season.

Whilst it would be no surprise to see Indigo Girl kick on from this race to challenge in the 1,000 Guineas next season, she may just find that the signs of greenness she’s shown so far hold her back from winning a Group 1 race at this stage of her career. Therefore, it is tempting to take the favourite on with Isabella Giles who looked like she really enjoyed running at Newmarket when winning the Rockfel Stakes over seven furlongs. She was strong when hitting the front that day, got every inch of the trip and should come on for the step up to a mile. So back Isabella Giles to win at a generous price of 11/2.

Isabella Giles to win at 11/2

4:10 bet365 Old Rowley Cup Handicap

Newmarket, Class 2, 1m4f

It is finally time for a handicap on Friday’s Newmarket card and this should be well worth the wait as some very good three year olds do battle for the Old Rowley Cup. The last two renewals have gone the way of the favourite and we have a very good horse at the top of the betting in the shape of Shandoz. He arrives at Newmarket on the back of a hat-trick but Roger Varian believes he won’t be seen to best effect until next season when he has a little bit more time to grow into his frame.

As strong as the claims of Shandoz are, this looks a very competitive field and so it’s a race that could well reward each way backers. In that regard it is tough to overlook the 18/1 available about Kipps’ chances of winning. He has put in some cracking runs for Hughie Morrison and his owners already this season. He also looked to be better than ever in first time cheekpieces in a similar race at Ascot last time out. The soft ground shouldn’t be an issue so Kipps has a much better chance than his odds suggest.

Kipps each way at 18/1

4:45 Darley Pride Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 1m2f

It is well worth hanging around and watching the last race on Friday’s card at Newmarket as it ends very strongly with a Group 3 contest for fillies and mares. This looks another competitive race with a number of these in with a chance. Magic Lily is one of those right in there with a very good chance of victory whatever the form lines may say.

There was nothing impressive about her run last time out in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot but that was a strange renewal of the race in which a number of well-fancied horses fell well short of expectations. Magic Lily’s performances in Dubai earlier this year show that she is a much better horse than that. If she gets back to those sort of levels here she could be tough to stop.

Magic Lilly to win at 11/2

Day Two: Saturday

Time Race Grade Distance
1:10 Dubai Nursery Handicap Class 2 7f
1:45 Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes Group 3 1m2f
2:20 Emirates Autumn Stakes Group 3 1m
2:55 Darley Dewhurst Stakes Group 1 7f
3:35 Cesarewitch Handicap Class 2 2m2f
4:15 Dubai British EBF Boadicea Stakes Listed 6f
4:50 Darley Stakes Group 3 1m1f

The quality of racing during the Dubai Future Champions Festival really is excellent, especially at a time of the season when punters are really starting to turn their attention towards the National Hunt campaign. Everywhere you look on Saturday’s card there are a selection of top class races packed with hugely competitive fields. Picking the winners won’t be easy but it will be fun and could be lucrative for anybody following along. As such, we’ve helped to mark your cards with our Future Champions betting tips below.

1:10 Dubai Nursery Handicap

Newmarket, Class 3, 7f

The Saturday of the Dubai Future Champions Weekend begins with a compelling nursery handicap. The winner will win just shy of £10,000 but this is about more than just this race for connections of all nine horses set to compete. Earning experience in this sort of race can pay dividends in future big Saturday handicaps.

The bookies’ favourite, Tawaareq, may well go on to have the best career of these but he is some way from the finished article and perhaps lacking in the battling spirit required to win a seven furlong nursery on soft ground. In contrast, Fairmac has shown a very likeable attitude already and that he has what it takes to run well on the sort of ground that he’ll encounter at Newmarket. Fairmac gets five pounds from Tawaareq and second favourite, Zoffarelli, which should be enough for him to win at odds of 13/2.

Fairmac each way at 13/2

1:45 Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 1m2f

The Zetland Stakes is up next, an important race for impressive juveniles who have been bred for longer distances. That is certainly the case for Kyprios who is the firm bookies’ favourite at a best price of 11/2. Aidan O’Brien’s two year olds tend to take fairly big steps forward from their first start to their second. If that is the case with Kyprios then he will, in all likelihood, have too much for the opposition in this one. Despite signs of greenness on his debut he was able to do enough to win having hit the front thanks to an excellent ride from Seamie Heffernan. He’ll get just as good a ride from Ryan Moore on Saturday who should partner Kyprios to victory.

Any punters looking for a horse to take the favourite on should consider the 8/1 available on Lone Eagle. Martyn Meade’s very well bred colt has set the standard in each of his last two starts and lived up to the billing with a couple of very good performances. He’s breeding suggests he’ll only get better for the step up to 1m2f so Lone Eagle could well be a contender.

Kyprios to win at 11/2

2:20 Emirates Autumn Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 1m

The calibre of racing at this year’s Future Champions Festival really is out of the top drawer. There are strong renewals throughout the two days including the Autumn Stakes which features some beautifully bred horses who should end up facing off against each other in some of the biggest races of next season.

Dhahabi is one of those in the field for this Group 3 contest who is not going to be seen to best effect until next season. The Godolphin colt was the second most expensive yearling in 2019 so big things are expected. He wasted no time getting off the mark on debut but remained green on his second appearance and was beaten by a more experienced rival. We could easily see more of the same on Saturday as Van Gogh, the only horse above Dhahabi in the betting, has already run five times this season. It may have taken him five wins to get off the mark but the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt was a good second in a Group 2 race at Leopardstown and he should be able to earn a second win of his career at a price of 5/1.

As good as the top two are, this is more than a two horse race. Maximal (6/1) won his novice race last time out and should work his way up to the top in time. Meanwhile, One Ruler (6/1) has finished ahead of some good horses already and Akmaam (10/1) was eyecatching on debut. It is Latest Generation (12/1) who is the most appealing for an each way bet against the field though as he built on a strong debut performance with his win at Doncaster last month.

Dhahabi to win at 5/1

2:55 Darley Dewhurst Stakes

Newmarket, Group 1, 7f

There’s another top class renewal of prestigious race up next with a 14 strong field competing in the Dewhurst Stakes. This Group 1 has been won by star juveniles in recent years with the last 10 winners bookended by Pinatubo and Frankel. A few of those in the field for this year’s renewal have shown glimpses of real star quality already and we should be in for a thrilling race.

The bookies have Chindit as the narrow favourite. That’s a billing that he deserves having taken steps forward with each run to date. His most recent run came in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster when he saw off a strong challenge from Albasheer but the way that race panned out suggested that neither of those two can be considered the standout juvenile from this year’s crop.

With just two runs to his name so far it is a bit too soon to say that Thunder Moon is that star but it may well be a different story come Saturday afternoon. Anybody who saw the way he burst out of trouble to convincingly win the National Stakes in his second start knows that Joseph O’Brien has a seriously good horse on his hands. It took something special to win a Group 1 win his second start but he is entitled to find even more this weekend and set himself apart at odds of 3/1.

Thunder Moon to win at 3/1

3:35 Together For Racing International Cesarewitch Handicap

Newmarket, Class 2, 2m2f

Next up is one of the last big Saturday handicaps of the Flat racing season. The Cesarewitch is not a race for the faint of heart. It takes place over a very testing distance of 2m2f and features a mammoth field of 34 runners doing battle on the soft ground at Newmarket. As such, the winner will richly deserve the £124,500 that is up for grabs. Unsurprisingly, it’s a race that has been tough to call with just one winning favourite, two winners at single odds and three winners priced 50/1 or above in the last 10 years.

The nature of the Cesarewitch means that it makes sense for punters to have more than one option. From the top of the betting, the best option is Coltrane who is an 8/1 chance for the Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy team. It takes a pretty special three year old to win the Cesarewitch but Coltrane arrives at Newmarket on the back of completing a hat-trick. The last two of those wins came in handicap company and he remains fairly well treated off a mark of 97 and can go in again.

For a longer shot, Indianapolis is tempting at a price of 20/1. The five year old has had a very busy season with no fewer than eight runs under his belt since the start of June. Connections have decided that he is seen to better effect over the longer trips than the middle distances and he has what it takes to grind out a place.

Coltrane each way at 8/1

4:15 Dubai British EBF Boadicea Stakes

Newmarket, Listed, 6f

The penultimate race of the Future Champions Festival comes in the shape of the Listed Boadicea Stakes. All connected to Millisle will hope that this is a very good chance for her to bounce back to form after a disappointing showing last time out. The problem is, that run at the Curragh was not the only blip during this season so it is tough to get excited about her chances at odds of 11/4.

Maid In India is a better option at 4/1 as she showed signs of improvement last out. She showed some real pace to get right into things in the Group 1 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh and although she wasn’t able to maintain her effort when she met the rising ground it should be different on this drop down in class.

Maid In India to win at 4/1

4:50 Darley Stakes

Newmarket, Group 3, 1m1f

The final race of the meeting is for horses aged three years and older but it is a progressive horse with his best days still to come who sits at the top of the betting for the Darley Stakes. Highest Ground has only run three times so far and was narrowly denied a hat-trick at York when he was just unable to see off the challenge of Thunderous.

Oisin Murphy admitted that he was frustrated with himself after that race because he thought he could have steered Highest Ground to the win. However, the champion jockey is convinced that this son of Frankel will make it into a very good horse in time and this looks a good race for him to earn another win at odds of 11/4.

Highest Ground to win at 11/4

A Complete History of the Newmarket Future Champions Festival

The Newmarket Future Champions Festival is a modern creation, only established as a two-day event in 2015. While a complete baby as far as racing festivals go, it does have links dating back further than this. The festival stems from the Future Champions Day, created in 2011, which itself was modified from an existing day of October racing.

Given its initial success and popularity, it would not be at all surprising if this festival is one that remains on our calendars for years to come. Currently scheduled every October, the festival contributes to an exceptional autumn schedule of racing at Newmarket. Whilst many view it as a very modern affair, as we will soon find out, in one sense we can trace its roots way back to the 19th century!

1839 – Cesarewitch established

The Cesarewitch Handicap, the longest running race to feature at the Future Champions Festival, first appeared in 1839. The name stems from the anglicised version of Tsesarevich as Tsesarevich Alexander (subsequently Tsar Alexander II of Russia) donated £300 to the Jockey Club. The inaugural running was won by a horse named Cruiskeen. Established during the same year as the Cambridgeshire Handicap, the pair were later referred to as the Autumn Double.

1875 – Dewhurst Stakes founded

The Dewhurst Stakes is one of the events that has made the Future Champions Meeting possible. Founded in 1875, it has a truly rich history and one that has witnessed some of the finest juvenile thoroughbreds around. For many years it has stood as the most prestigious contest exclusively for two-year-old horses. Among the former list of winners include the likes of true racing greats such as Nijinsky (1969), Mill Reef (1970), Rock of Gibraltar (2001) and the incomparable Frankel (2010).

1945 – Filly wins the Dewhurst

The Dewhurst Stakes often ends up an all-colts affair but the contest has been open to fillies since its inception. In fact, its first nine renewals saw four victorious fillies in what was a largely even battle of the sexes. There has since been a huge shift towards the boys though who have dominated this race ever since. Our last female winner came in 1945, by the name of Hypericum, a filly bred and owned by none other than King George VI.

1973 – Inaugural running of the Fillies’ Mile

Today the Fillies’ Mile stands as one of the standout races of the Future Champions Festival but it has spent much of its history at Ascot. It was at the royal racecourse where it first emerged, then known as the Green Shield Stakes and later the Argos Star Fillies’ Mile. The race did not get off to the best off starts though as the second ever running had to be cancelled due to waterlogging at Ascot.

1987 – Oh So Sharp Stakes introduced

The Newmarket-trained fillies’ Triple Crown winner, Oh So Sharp, received a race named in her honour two years after her superb hat-trick of wins. It began as an ungraded conditions race but six years later it enjoyed promotion to Listed status and then later another promotion to Group 3.

1988 – Darley Stakes & Autumn Stakes make first appearance

The Darley Stakes & Autumn Stakes were first scheduled to appear in 1987 but high winds and structural damage to Newmarket forced the postponement of their inaugural running. Both were, however, able to appear the following year without issues. In the Darley Stakes, jockey Ray Cochrane and trainer Luca Cumani combined to clinch victory while future 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby winner Nashwan won the Autumn Stakes.

1988 – Dewhurst dead heat

Dead heats are something of a rarity in racing especially since the invention of photo finish technology. Newmarket spectators did however witness one during the 1988 renewal of the Dewhurst Stakes. Coming into the final furlong there was virtually nothing to separate horses very much at opposite ends of the market, Prince of Dance (6/4F) and Scenic (33/1). The huge underdog threatened to pull away slightly just as the line approached but Prince of Dance, ridden by the brilliant Willie Carson, dug deep to share the spoils.

1998 – Pride Stakes established

The Pride Stakes was rolled out for the first time in 1998 with Lady In Waiting crowned our first champion. The race should not be confused with the Pride Stakes that briefly featured at Newmarket before becoming the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stake at Ascot.

2011 – Future Champions Day Meeting Established

To find the origins of today’s Future Champions Festival you do not have to look back far. In 2011, Newmarket launched the first ever edition of Future Champions Day on Saturday 8th October.

The new fixture was part of a major shakeup to British racing, which also saw the creation of Champions Day at Ascot, scheduled just a week later. Sponsored by Dubai, the inaugural running of Future Champions Day saw a prize fund exceeding £800,000 across seven races.

Part of the new plans saw Newmarket swap several races with Ascot, the likes of the Champion Stakes, Jockey Club Cup and Pride Stakes moving from Suffolk to Berkshire. To fill the Future Champions schedule, Newmarket received the Autumn Stakes in return while the Middle Park Stakes and the Darley Stakes were brought back and forward a week respectively. Got that?

2012 – Aaim to Prosper makes Cesarewitch history

The only eligibility requirement for the Cesarewitch is that a horse must be at least three-years-old. This provides horses with the opportunity to give this race multiple attempts providing they are high enough in the weights. Despite this, the regularly competitive handicap did not see a double winner for the first 173 years of its history. This finally can to an end in 2012 as Aaim to Prosper, two years after his first triumph, scored a shock 66/1 win as top weight.

2014 – First ever Varsity Race

Oxford and Cambridge University have had a long history of battling it out in sport, most famously in rowing boats on the Thames, but never previously through a Varsity flat horse race. This new way of scoring bragging rights featured as the final race of Future Champions Day 2014.

10 student riders competed in the one-mile contest, an equal split of five for each university. With spectating students enjoying free admission, many fellow students were in attendance to cheer on their respective university.

To mark the inaugural running of the Varsity Race, Cheltenham Racecourse Chairman Robert Waley-Cohen donated the Bearsted Trophy. It is for this reason you may see the contest referred to as the Bearsted Perpetual Challenge Trophy. It was a fitting donation as the trophy had previously been handed to the winner of a point-to-point contest between riders from Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

Last held in 1939, Waley-Cohen’s father in law, Lord Bearsted, won the final renewal. In 2014, the trophy went the way of Cambridge who bested their rivals 56 points to 45.

2014 – Fillies’ Mile added to the schedule

The Fillies’ Mile had spent much of its illustrious past at Ascot Racecourse, as mentioned earlier. This changed on a permanent basis in 2011 when the contest moved to Newmarket, taking a spot in the three-day Cambridgeshire Meeting. It did not stick around long here though as just three years later it swapped places with the Rockfel Stakes, becoming the latest addition to the Future Champions Day.

Aidan O’Brien’s Together Forever won the first running following the move. This marked the first of three successive victories the Irish trainer secured in this race, a feat that had never previously been achieved.

2015 – Extra day of racing sparks birth of festival

Keen to build on the initial success of Future Champions Day, organisers at Newmarket opted to turn the day into a two-day festival. New races needed bringing in to fill the schedule so the likes of the Oh So Sharp Stakes, Zetland Stakes, Autumn Stakes, Cesarewitch Handicap and the Boadicea Filles’ Stakes all moved from elsewhere in Newmarket’s calendar.

Although it was mainly a case of new contests being brought in, the Middle Park Stakes left the Future Champions rota, returning to its previous slot in the Cambridgeshire Meeting.

Over £2m in prize money was up for grabs in the first edition of the Future Champions Festival sponsored by Dubai. This represented an increase of more than £500,000 compared to the 2014 Future Champions Day and Cesarewitch Day combined.

The British Horseracing Authority, who had been receiving requests to improve the two-year-old autumn programme, warmly received and approved the proposal. In doing so, it prevented the Dewhurst Stakes running at the same weekend as Ascot’s Champions Day. Both days of the festival saw seven ‘official’ races but the Saturday also hosted the second running of the Varsity Race between Oxford and Cambridge.

2019 – Pride Stakes and Zetland Stakes upgraded

The one mile, two furlong Pride Stakes was reclassified as a Group 3 contest. Formerly a Listed outing, the race previously known as the Severals Stakes became yet another group level event to feature during the Future Champions Festival. Frankie Dettori rode the winner on the contest’s Group 3 debut, moving his overall tally to a record-breaking six.

The Zetland Stakes, which was ungraded between 2007 and 2014, was also reclassified from Listed to Group 3 the very same year. Two years earlier, eventual St Leger and British Champions Long Distance Cup winner Kew Gardens, secured victory in the 1m 2f battle.