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Rachel Rennie cherishes Newmarket Town Plate success


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Jubilant amateur rider Rachel Rennie described winning the historic Newmarket Town Plate as “one of the highlights of my life” – five years after a breast cancer diagnosis ruled her out of the race.

Rennie was supposed to line up in the 2016 running of what is believed to be the world’s oldest and longest Flat race, until she discovered what turned out to be a cancerous lump near her left breast.

Five years later and after surgery, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 20 rounds of radiotherapy, she was finally able to realise her dream of not only riding in the 3m 6f contest – which dates back to 1666 - but WINNING it.

The 49 year old and her mount, Friends Don’t Ask, produced a grandstand finish to secure victory in the 351st running of Newmarket Town Plate, prompting emotional celebrations in the winner’s enclosure.

A beaming Rennie laughed: “I think we will hit up Newmarket town to celebrate this!

“It has to definitely be one of the highlights of my life. Although I said I’m competitive I’ve never done loads of competitive stuff apart from horse based stuff so to do something that is a bit more than your local show is good.

“I’m probably going to have about 100 WhatsApp messages on the phone. The whole thing has been very special.”

Rennie, who works for Newmarket-based trainer Martin Smith, found herself positioned at the head of the chasing pack behind runaway leader Torquay as the field turned for home heading into the final mile of the historic race.

Waiting for the right moment to hit the front again, Rennie and Friends Don’t Ask surged into the lead with three furlongs left and battled hard to the line for victory by around a length from Stripe Of Honour and Jon Day.

Talking about the race itself Rennie added: “I wanted to sit fairly handy so I nicked a bit at the start. I looked around and thought I’d nicked a bit too much here so, I thought I would just let him roll. Then I had somebody come up my inside so I didn’t feel half so bad then.

“I just cruised around the bottom part of the course and a couple of people came up and passed me so I just let them take me on and save a bit of energy for myself. I was determined not to ride a ride until I was on the straight. I pulled him out and he took off then I thought I was going to get caught again at the end. I just had enough energy to push him out a bit and I managed not to fall off.

“I was thinking ‘where is the line?’ when I took up the lead and I was glad to see it coming. You can’t help but think that you are going to get beaten when you have one come up your inside like the runner-up did but I knew he would stay the distance.

“It was just a case of whether he had the speed to keep going at the end against something that might have had a little bit more toe but luckily his stamina pulled out and he switched up a gear and was a willing partner.”

After the race Rennie was presented with the Golding Perpetual Challenge Plate, silver photograph frame, £125 Golding voucher and a box of Powters celebrated Newmarket Sausages.


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The Newmarket Town Plate is one of those glorious anachronisms which somehow survives.

It's NOT a race as defined by the Rules of Racing these days but it is one of the oldest horse races in England dating back, as said, to the days of Charles II.

The race is run over 6000m or 3 miles and 6 furlongs, making it a mile longer than the official longest race, the Queen Alexandra at Ascot.

The race is run over part of what was called the Round Course at Newmarket - it hasn't been used for races for a very long time. They start at the end of one of the gallops at a place called Thomond's Post. You can see from the attached what the Round Course must have been like in its day. It backs on to the main July Course just past the Grandstand.


Anyway, they run for about a mile turning right through the trees across land now used as gallops and then with 4000m to go, they join the main racecourse and race home down the July Course straight.

It's normally contested by locals and, to quote League of Gentlemen "it's a local race for local people". There are normally no odds but I'm told the local bookies will stand a bet. I suppose it's the Flat race equivalent of the old fashioned steeplechase from one church to the next.

I can thoroughly recommend the sausages which are excellent.

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