Newmarket Craven Meeting Betting Tips

Hot on the heels of jump racing's most prestigious meetings at Cheltenham and Aintree, mid-April brings the return of flat racing to the turf. The first meeting of the new season at Newmarket, British racing's headquarters, comes during the midweek Craven Meeting on their Rowley Mile course.

The three day fixture which runs from Tuesday to Thursday gives us the first chance to see some of the contenders for the upcoming Classics in action with the Craven Stakes and the Nell Gwyn Stakes in particular proven trial races for both the Guineas in May and the Derby and Oaks in June.

In total there are twenty two races to look forward across the Craven meeting, including four Group races. Below we take a look at the meeting and the feature races on more detail, as well as our tips for the three days when available.


About the Craven Meeting

Racecourses have meetings throughout the year, with different ones offering their own sense of import. At Cheltenham, for example, the Festival Trials Day in January is seen as an important moment on the road to the Festival itself. For Newmarket, the Craven Meeting might not hold the same sense of importance as the likes of the July Festival, but it is noteworthy because it is considered to be the opening event of the flat racing season by many.

The first meeting of races held on the Rowley Mile Racecourse, the Craven Meeting is the one to watch if you’re hoping for some clues about the likely contenders in the Classics that will be taking place in the coming months. The 2018 winner of the Craven Stakes, for example, went on to win the Epsom Derby later that season. It’s about more than one race, of course, offering as it does three days of racing for your amusement and entertainment.

Craven Meeting Race List

The flat season opener in the eyes of many, the Newmarket Craven Meeting takes place over three days and offers twenty two races. With the event usually spanning across a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it’s a fixture with a bit of a different feel to it than is usual for big race meetings as there’s no weekend revellers. As it’s the Easter holidays you might not see the same sort of crowd as a weekend, but the event is family friendly as a result.

The feature race on day one of the meeting is arguably the Feilden Stakes, which many trainers see as a chance to let their three-year-olds stretch their legs in advance of deciding whether or not they’ll be right for that season’s Classics.

Day two’s feature race is also the race that the meeting is named after, with the Craven Stakes considered by many as one of the key trials ahead of the 2,000 Guineas. Winners often go on to star during the flat racing season, so it’s worth taking your notepad and pen.

The Earl of Sefton Stakes, which used to be known as the Rubbing House Stakes, is the feature race for the last day of the meeting.

Here’s a look at the race cards as they were for the 2019 meeting, giving you an indication of the sort of races you can expect to be able to watch should you attend the meeting.

RacePrize MoneyAges
Day One - Tuesday
EBF Fillies' Maiden Stakes £10,000 3 Year Old Fillies
Weatherbys TBA Handicap £25,000 4 Years Old +
European Free Handicap £50,000 3 Years Old
Feilden Stakes £40,000 3 Years Old
Nell Gwyn Stakes £60,000 3 Year Old Fillies
British EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes £8,000 2 Year Old Fillies
EBF Fillies' Maiden Stakes £10,000 3 Year Old Fillies
bet365 Handicap £20,000 3 Years Old
Day Two - Wednesday
bet365 Handicap £25,000 3 Years Old
Wood Ditton Maiden Stakes £15,000 3 Years Old
Abernant Stakes £60,000 3 Years Old +
Craven Stakes £60,000 3 Years Old
Rossdales Maiden Fillies' Stakes £10,000 3 Year Old Fillies
British EBF Novices' Stakes £10,000 3 Years Old
Coates & Seely Handicap £13,200 3 Years Old
Day Three - Thursday
Alex Scott Maiden Stakes £10,000 3 Year Old (Colts & Geldings)
British EBF Novice Stakes £8,000 2 Years Old
British EBF Conditions Stakes £15,000 3 Years Old
Coates & Seely Handicap £25,000 4 Years Old +
Earl Of Sefton Stakes £60,000 4 Years Old +
bet365 Handicap £25,000 4 Years Old +
Barons Cambridge Handicap £20,000 4 Years Old +

The Key Races in Detail

As with any meeting, there are some races during the Craven Meeting that are of interest to the most diehard of racing fans but perhaps aren’t too high on the list of priorities for everyone else. Equally, though, there are also a number of races that are noteworthy enough to make it worth taking a closer look at them.

Here’s a look at those noteworthy races, with the feature races sitting at the top of the pile.

Craven Stakes

If a meeting is going to be named after a race then it’s a reasonably fair bet that it’s going to be considered important. The Craven Stakes was originally inaugurated in 1771 as an open-age race and was run on a Monday in April as the first race of the season for Newmarket. That continued until the 1870s, at which point it was discontinued and the current race came into being.

Run for the first time in 1878 as a one-mile race for three-year-olds, it is named in honour of the sixth Baron of Craven, William Craven, who was a strong support for racing at Newmarket and a member of the Jockey Club. Indeed, it was he who instigated the meeting named in his honour in 1771.

Ever since Scot Free won the race in 1884 and then went on to win the 2,000 Guineas, the Craven Stakes has been seen as a good indicator of which horses would do well in the Classic race later in the season. The race is run on the straight over one mile and is open to three-year-old colts and geldings with a weight of nine stone.

Earl of Sefton Stakes

Established under the moniker of the Rubbing House Stakes in 1971, the race was named after Hugh Molyneux, the Earl of Sefton, in 1973. It was typically held the day before the Craven Stakes as something of a warm-up to the main event though is now run the day after.

Run over one mile and one furlong on the straight, the race is open to horses aged four and over and has the following weight information:

  • Weight: 8 stone 13 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get a 3 pound allowance
  • Group 1 race winners: 7 pound penalty
  • Group 2 race winners: 5 pound penalty
  • Group 3 race winners: 3 pound penalty

Feilden Stakes

One of the younger races at the meeting, the Feilden Stakes was created in 1978 as the Heath Stakes. It became the Gerry Feilden Memorial Stakes in 1982 as a dedication to the memory of a former senior steward of the Jockey Club, Major General Sir Randle Feilden, who had died the year before. It took on its current title of the Feilden Stakes in 1987.

Run over one mile and one furlong on the straight, the race is for three-year-olds and has a weight of nine stone. Fillies get a five pound allowance and there are penalties of five pounds for winners of Group races and three pounds for Listed race winners.

As with a few of the other races run during the Craven Meeting, this race is seen as something of a trial event for the season’s Classics. Erhaab finished as runner-up in 1994 and Golden Horn won it in 2015, with both horses going on to win the Derby. Intello, meanwhile, won in 2013 before going on to win the French equivalent of the Derby, the Prix du Jockey Club.

European Free Handicap

This Listed race sees horses given a handicap depending on their position in the European Thoroughbred Rankings, which is published every January. Run over seven furlongs and open to three-year-olds, it was run for the first time in 1929.

Originally known as the Free Handicap, it took on its current moniker in 1981. It is a race that is often looked at for an indication for how horses are likely to do in the European versions of the Classics, hence its name. That’s not to say that successful horses don’t do well in the English Classics, however, with Mystiko winning this and then the 2,000 Guineas in 1991 and Harayir winning the 1,000 Guineas after this four years later.

Nell Gwyn Stakes

Established as the Spring Fillies' Stakes in 1961, the race took in its current name the following year in honour of King Charles II’s mistress. This is the race to turn towards if you’re wondering how fillies might do in the upcoming fillies’ Classics, with Speciosa going on to win the 1,000 Guineas after her victory in it in 2006.

The race is run on the straight over seven furlongs and is limited to three-year-old fillies. The weight is nine stone, with Group 1 and Group 2 winners receiving a 3 pound penalty. Frankie Dettori is the undisputed jockey in terms of success, winning the race seven times between 1991 and 2017.

Abernant Stakes

The final race worthy of a mention is the Abernant Stakes, which was inaugurated in 1969 and is named in honour of the horse Abernant, which was successful during the 1940s and 1950s. It was a Listed race until it gained promotion to Group 3 in 2013.

Open to horses aged three and over and run over six furlongs, the race boasts the following weight information:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 10 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 7 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 1 race winners receive a penalty of 7 pounds
  • Group 2 race winners receive a penalty of 5 pounds
  • Group 3 race winners receive a penalty of 3 pounds

Unlike most of the other feature races that tend to point towards success in the Classics, horses that do well in the Abernant Stakes tend to go on to be competitive in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket or the Duke of York Stakes at York later in the season.