This sweeping panorama of the Round Course at Newmarket, traditionally believed to show Frederick, Prince of Wales in the foreground, is a defining image of racing in the early 18th century. The painting is furthermore a remarkable record of the topography around Newmarket, with the various gaps in the Ditch, the buildings at the end of the Beacon Course, St Mary's Church, the windmill, Warren Hill and a few of the buildings in the town itself.
We are very grateful to David Oldrey for suggesting that the race depicted is almost certainly 'The Noblemen's and Gentlemen's Contribution Stakes' of October 1724, which was run on the Round Course to the West of the Ditch and was an important event that had been transferred from the Duke of Wharton's establishment at Quainton a few years earlier. The field had started just to the right of the stables this side of the Ditch and have covered about a mile to reach the turning post in the foreground. They would have left the post shown in the middle distance near the mounted crowd on their right in getting to this point, and the crowd would have watched them pass by and is now making off in haste to watch the later stages of the race. The field would then have galloped about another mile to the North and then made a second turn to go roughly East for much the same distance before swinging South in order to race up what is now the July Course straight to the finish - some 3¾ miles in all. The finish was on the far side of the line of spectators running more or less parallel with the Ditch. The winning post with a flag on top can be seen just to the left of the stable.
The race was won by the grey named Windham in the colours of the Duke of Somerset - the 'Proud Duke'. The leader in this picture is the Duke of Bolton's Sloven, which eventually came second. It is not possible to identify all the others as some of the owners' silks are unknown but the eventual fourth is Miss Hen in Thomas Panton's colours (third here), with the two bringing up the rear being the Duke of Rutland's Bonny Bay and Sir Richard Grosvenor's Shag, which finished seventh and last respectively.