York is one of the premier Flat racecourses in Britain with a rich history. It is the third biggest racecourse in terms of prize-money offered and second behind Ascot in prize-money offered per meeting. York attracts around 350,000 racegoers per year.
Records indicate racing first took place in some form in the city as early as 1530. The current course, on the Knavesmire close to the city centre, did not host racing until approximately 1731. Yorkshire is a county with many racecourses, but the high-quality fare at York adds an enormous amount to the region’s racing pedigree.
York’s biggest meeting is staged over four days in August, with the track’s most valuable race, the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, currently taking place on the opening day. It is one of the most prestigious events of the season and numbers Frankel and Sea The Stars among the winners in the past ten seasons. Legendary jockey Lester Piggott won the race five times, a record matched by Frankie Dettori when he scored on Authorized in 2007.
The feature race of the meeting is the Ebor Handicap, which has been hosted on the Knavesmire since 1843 and is the most valuable Flat handicap race in Europe, with a staggering £1 million in prize-money. Lester Piggott had a great record in this race, winning five times.
The Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks takes place on the Thursday of the Ebor meeting and often features horses who ran previously in The Oaks. The first to achieve victory in both races was Brown Duchess in 1861, a feat Enable matched in 2017.
This sprint began life as a low-grade selling race but is now a Group 1. Worth £350,000, it is one of the most prestigious races of its type and the winner earns an automatic invitation to compete in the same year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in America.
Great Voltigeur Stakes
The Great Voltigeur Stakes, and two-year-old contests such as the Lowther Stakes and Gimcrack Stakes, ensure high-quality racing is not restricted to just the top-tier contests.
Other feature races
York’s Dante meeting in May features the Betfred Dante Stakes, a key trial for the Derby at Epsom. The event is named after Dante, the Yorkshire-trained winner of the Derby when it was held at Newmarket in 1945. Golden Horn went on to win the Derby after winning the race in 2015.
The track also hosts the Betfred Yorkshire Cup, which is part of the recently introduced Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million. Other notable races include the John Smith’s Cup and the Sky Bet York Stakes.
Trivia: York is situated on an expanse of ground which has been known since pre-medieval times as the Knavesmire, from the Anglo-Saxon ‘knave’ meaning a man of low standing and “mire” meaning a swampy pasture for cattle.