The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in no racing taking place in the UK or Ireland for the better part of three months. It has been a very difficult period for many in the sport, but the flip side to this unprecedented situation is that there is going to be a sustained deluge of Group racing action for the first few weeks after racing resumes in a bid to catch up on lost time.
It promises to be quite literally the most concentrated period of top-class racing in long history of the sport. Appropriately, it is Newmarket that will be the first host of Group 1 action after racing restarts, with the Rowley Mile playing host to a four-day meeting from June 4 to June 7 that features the Coronation Cup (moved from Epsom) and the first British Classics of the season, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas.
The home of British racing
Known as "Headquarters" in horse racing circles, Newmarket has a racing history that only a couple of racecourses around the world can claim to rival. Horses have been raced on the Newmarket heath for centuries, but the first racecourse was established there in 1636.
The Newmarket Town Plate was run for the first time in 1666 under rules set by King Charles II and it is considered to be the starting point of formal, organised horse racing. The Newmarket Town Plate continues to be run every year up to this day, with it being contested over three-and-three-quarter miles by amateur jockeys on the "Round Course", which is used only for that one race every year.
On the subject of courses at Newmarket, it is worth noting that there are two racecourses in very close proximity to each other there, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. The Rowley Mile is used in the opening and closing months of the Flat season while the July Course is only raced on in high summer.
For more insight on the course, check out Betfair's video guide to Newmarket, in association with Timeform...
Classics a big part of Newmarket's Group 1 calendar
The Newmarket Town Plate may be one of the quirkier remnants of Newmarket's past, but many of the other long-standing races at Newmarket form a crucial part of the fabric of British Flat racing. Last year nine of the 36 Group 1 races in the British racing calendar took place at Newmarket and the most famous of those races are perhaps the first Classics of each season, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas.
Run over a mile on the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas offer the first opportunity for three-year-old colts and fillies to meet and stake their claim to be the best of their generation. The 1000 Guineas is confined to fillies and while both colts and fillies can contest the 2000 Guineas, it is very rare for a filly to take on the colts in the latter race.
Both the Guineas have been run for over 200 years, with the 2000 Guineas first taking place in 1809 and the fillies equivalent first being run in 1814.
Excitement growing as racing returns
As well as representing the first opportunity for top-class three-year-old colts to prove their worth on the biggest stage, the 2000 Guineas is also the first leg of the British Triple Crown, with the Derby and the St Leger being the other two legs.
Perhaps the most difficult feat to achieve in all of horse racing, the Triple Crown has only been completed 12 times in the history of the sport, with only two of those winners having achieved it in the last 100 years. Nijinsky in 1970 was the most recent, though Camelot narrowly failed to complete it in 2012.
This year's 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on the weekend of June 6/7 will perhaps attract even more focus than usual, as the racing world have been starved of top-class action for months. The moving of the Coronation Cup from Epsom to Newmarket on June 5 as well as other stakes races having been moved there will only serve to raise the excitement levels even higher.
Newmarket has been known as the headquarters of British horse racing for well over 300 years, but with so much top-class action packed into a four-day meeting starting June 4, it is sure to be the focus of the racing world.
With more eyes on racing than ever before as it returns to action, Kevin sat down with host of our football podcast, Caroline Barker, to break down some of the jargon and explain how it all works... Listen here