The Future Champions Festival is the highlight of the so-called Gold Season, which is the term used by the Jockey Club to describe the late summer and autumn programme of horse racing on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, Suffolk, in the East of England. The two-day meeting, which is staged annually in October, is sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and, under the terms of the sponsorship deal, is officially known as the Dubai Future Champions Festival.
As the name suggests, the Dubai Future Champions Festival combines races of the highest class for promising young horses, including Group 1 feature races on each day, with a selection that are open to their older counterparts.
The highlight of the opening day, a.k.a. “Autumn Ladies Day”, is the Group 1 bet365 Fillies’ Mile, which offers £500,000 in prize money and is, in fact, the most valuable race for two-year-old fillies’ in Europe. The Fillies’ Mile was inaugurated in 1973, at Ascot, where it was run under various names, for sponsorship purposes, before being transferred to Newmarket, as the Shadwell Fillies’ Mile, in 2011. The race was awarded Group 3 status in 1975, elevated to Group 2 status in 1986 and finally achieved Group 1 status in 1990.
Similarly, the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes, run over 7 furlongs and open to two-year-old colts and fillies, is the feature race on the second day. The outcome of the prestigious race, which also offers £500,000 in total prize money, making it the most valuable race of its kind in Europe, jointly with the bet365 Fillies’ Mile, usually has a bearing on the betting for the One Thousand Guineas and/or the Two Thousand Guineas, back on the Rowley Mile the following spring.
Nowadays, the second day of the Dubai Future Champions Festival also includes the second leg of the traditional “Autumn Double”, the Cesarewitch, an historic ‘heritage’ handicap run over 2 miles 2 furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards. In 2018, the total prize money for the Cesarewitch doubled, to £500,000, with plans for further increases, to £750,000 in 2019 and £1 million in 2020.