York Racecourse is seen by many as the jewel of northern England. It’s a sparkling gem capable of going toe‐toe with any racecourse in the world and the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival is its most spectacular showcase.
The Welcome To Yorkshire Festival kicks off on Wednesday (18 August) and the curtain comes down on Saturday (21 August) with the historic handicap that gives the Festival its name.
There are seven races each day with the first race scheduled to start at 1.50pm. The first four races on all four days will be shown live on ITV. Racing TV will screen all 28 races. Here are the big races.
The big race on the opening day is the Juddmonte International. With £1 million of prizemoney up for grabs, this Group 1 contest, run over 1m2f, attracts Classic winners and the cream of the older middle‐distance horses.
On Thursday the fillies take centre stage in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. Enable twice won this 1m4f prize, worth £400,000, during her illustrious career.
There’s no hanging around in Friday’s feature race. The Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes is run over one of the fastest 5f tracks in the country. This Group 1 contest, worth £400,000 in prizemoney, has been won by some of the great sprinters.
The Nunthorpe is supported by the Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup for the stayers and the Festival’s top race for two‐year‐olds, the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes.
All three of the meeting’s Group 1 races, as well as the Lonsdale Cup, are part of the British Champion Series.
The Sky Bet Ebor, worth £500,000, is the big race on the final day. It’s one of the season’s top staying handicaps and is always fiercely competitive.
Racing in York dates right back to Roman times. In a nod to the historic beginnings, the Ebor takes its title from the Roman name for the city, Eboracum. The current location of the racecourse is on the Knavesmire.
Nearly 300 years ago it attracted crowds for a very different occasion as it was the site where infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was hanged for his crimes. Racing is estimated to have first taken place on the Knavesmire in 1731 when it was the second course, after Newmarket, to formulate a structured race program.
The Ebor and the Yorkshire Oaks are two of the track’s oldest races and date from the early days of the August meeting in the 1840s. These days racing fans from all over the country flock to the course for the four‐day Festival.
Even those impressive crowds can’t compete in numbers with the 190,000 that turned up in 1982 for the visit of Pope John Paul II. When Royal Ascot needed a temporary venue in 2005 with its usual home being redeveloped, York was chosen.
It shone a spotlight on what remains one of the most wonderful racecourses in Britain. The great, the good and the downright surprising some of the greatest horses have carved their names into racing history at York.
Perhaps, the greatest of them all, Frankel, landed the Juddmonte International Stakes in 2012 with an effortless seven‐length victory when stepping up to 1m2f for the first time.
Now considered the premier Group 1 contest run over the distance, it has been won by some of the most familiar names to Flat racing fans. Dahlia, Rodrigo de Triano, Giant’s Causeway, Sakhee, Sea The Stars and Roaring Lion all figure on the roll of honour
It was first run in 1972 when Roberto was successful but the race is best remembered for the runner‐up. It was Brigadier Gerard’s only defeat in his 18‐race career.
Some of the fastest sprinters have won the Nunthorpe. This dash down the York straight suits the quickest of the quick and for 29 years 1990 hero Dayjur held the course record.
That was until recently‐retired Battaash won the great Group 1 prize at the third attempt with a blistering performance two years ago. Sharpo won the race three times in the early 1980s and the performances of Lochangel, Borderlescott, Sole Power and Mecca’s Angel all live long in the memory.
The Ebor has also thrown up some great winners. Sea Pigeon won the race under top weight in 1979 before going on to win two Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham.
Classic winners, one of the great stayers and some of the fastest sprinters on planet earth head to York this week. Sussex Stakes heroine Alcohol Free will take on Saudi Cup winner Mishriff and Irish 2,000 Guineas victor Mac Swiney in the Juddmonte International Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien relies on last year’s Oaks winner Love. He is also likely to run the impressive winner of this season’s Epsom fillies’ Classic, Snowfall, in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Stradivarius will attempt to win the Lonsdale Cup for the third time. The weather looks to have turned in his favour after the three‐time Gold Cup winner was withdrawn from the Goodwood Cup after the ground turned soft.
The Nunthorpe is the most open of the meeting’s top Group races. French filly Suesa looked very fast when winning the King George Qatar Stakes but she faces stiff competition from Wesley’s Ward’s American raider Golden Pal and improving Winter Power.
With no end of competitive handicaps and mouth‐watering two‐year‐old contests, it’s sure to be a wonderful four days for the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival.