As the name suggests, the July Festival – which, in 2018, was sponsored by French fine winery Moët & Chandon – is a three-day meeting staged annually on the July Course at Newmarket Racecourse, in Suffolk, in the East of England, in July. Collectively, the prize money on offer for the three days is over £1.6 million.
The opening day, a.k.a. Ladies’ Day, on the Thursday starts with the Bahrain Trophy, run over 1 mile 5 furlongs and restricted to three-year-old colts, geldings and fillies. The race was promoted to Group 3 status in 2008 and, nowadays, is often used as a preparatory race for the fifth, and final, Classic of the season, the St. Leger. The feature race on Ladies’ Day, however, is the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, run over 1 mile 4 furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards. Named in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who held the title between 1863 and 1901, the race was promoted to Group 2 status is 1978.
The feature race on the second day, a.k.a. Feel Good Friday, is the Falmouth Stakes, run over a mile and open to fillies and mares aged three years and upwards. Inaugurated in 1911, the Falmouth Stakes was promoted to Group 1 status in 2004 and is now part of the British Champions Series Fillies & Mares Category.
The feature race on the third, and final, day, a.k.a. Darley July Cup Day, is the titular July Cup, run over 6 furlongs, open to horses aged three years and upwards and currently sponsored by Darley Stud, the global breeding operation owned by Sheikh Mohammed. Inaugurated in 1867, the race was promoted to Group 1 status in 1978 and is now one of five races over 6 furlongs in the British Champion Series Sprint Category. The roll of honour for the July Cup reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of European sprinting talent over the years, including Habibti, Mozart, Oasis Dream and, more recently, Harry Angel.