Compared to other countries and sports like NFL in the US, there is so much history to our sport. Newmarket has two racecourses, the Rowley Mile, which is the older of the two, and the July Course. ‘Old Rowley’ was a stallion belonging to King Charles II, who was a passionate horse racing enthusiast and spent much of his time – too much, in the eyes of Parliament – in Newmarket. Indeed, the ‘Merry Monarch’, as he was popularly known, was largely responsible for the development of the town as a national centre for horse racing.
Away from the racecourse, Charles II was a notorious womaniser, with a string of mistresses, of which Eleanor ‘Nell’ Gwyn was probably the most famous. All told, he fathered 14 illegitimate children and his scandalous liaisons were seized upon by wits of the day, who ridiculed the King by nicknaming him ‘Old Rowley’ or simply ‘Rowley’, in reference to the aforementioned stallion. Old Rowley, the stallion, was ‘renowned for the number and beauty of its offspring’, so the joke was that, in terms of his own prowess, the King was not unlike his nicknamesake. Nevertheless, Charles II was a popular monarch in his day and, in 2017, a statue of him was unveiled at Newmarket Racecourse to celebrate 350 years of racing at his favourite venue.