A Little Off Base: Tracing the races
April 30, 2008
NEWMARKET — With the ponies running again, race fans should set their sights on the National Horseracing Museum before planning a day at the course.
Tucked next to the Jockey Club on High Street just a few miles from the Newmarket Racecourses, the museum gives visitors a look at the evolution of racing in Britain.
From its royal roots to the thriving industry it has become, the “sport of kings” holds a special place as one of Britain’s national pastimes. Though not on par with football, the races draw millions to the heaths all over England in the spring and summer.
And with Newmarket just a 15-minute drive from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, an afternoon at the races is the perfect day trip for singles, couples and families. But to really appreciate the history and inner-workings, start the day off at the museum.
Along with numerous paintings and sculptures dedicated to the sport, the museum offers a slew of tours that get visitors up close with the animals, trainers and behind-the-scenes crews.
Choose the “Classic Tour” for a look at the stables, a meeting with stable staff and a chance to see the horses training on the gallops. This outing also takes visitors to the giant pools where horses “swim” as part of their conditioning.
Take the “Private Tour at Dalham Hall Stud” to see mares and foals in their hay-filled nests at this prestigious horse farm in Newmarket.
Costing between 15 pounds and 30 pounds, the nine guided tours are pricey (and must be pre-booked), but also include admission to the museum, which costs 5.50 pounds for adults on its own. Admission for children is 3 pounds, though a family of four can get a special 12-pound ticket.
And if you’re taking the kids, make sure to check out the museum’s hands-on gallery. Dress up in silks and weigh in on a giant scale, the likes of which are used by jockeys for winter practice, according to the museum. A horse simulator also allows visitors (young and old) to climb on and get a feel for what it’s like racing toward the finish line.
Exhibitions include “Lester the Legend,” a gallery devoted to racing legend Lester Piggott, who took home 4,493 wins during his career, which spanned from 1948 to 1994. Then there’s “Racing Colors,” a presentation of the rainbow seen not only on the jockeys and horses but also race-goers.
A gift shop with tons of racing collectibles and trinkets and a cafe serving quiche and other quick bites are also worth popping into if you make the museum part of your trip to the races.