If you’re into horse racing, you know that York is one of the greatest racecourses in history. There are nine racecourses in the area which host over 180 days of racing every year. Each of them offers pure adrenaline fans adore and include both relaxing and informal races and championship events.

The SkyBet Go Racing Yorkshire Summer Festival starts at Ripon in mid-July and ends at the Pontefract racecourse by the end of the month. It’s a week of heavy action for horse racing fans that makes Yorkshire a region synonymous with British horse racing. Cheltenham betting is a big part of it all. Historically, it’s one of the events most UK bettors put their money on. It’s a common thing for racegoers, but online betting sites have even better Cheltenham odds and offers on the festival’s races that can put race track betting to shame. 

If you don’t know where to start with the various events, this article will cover the biggest horse races in York.

Nine Championship Tracks

There’s a total of nine championship tracks at York:

  • Catterick
  • Beverley
  • Doncaster
  • Pontefract
  • Ripon
  • Thirsk
  • Wetherby
  • York
  • Redcar

While none of them bear the significance of Cheltenham, they’re still an important piece in British racing history. Out of them all, the main course—York—is the most well-known. As a matter of fact, York is the third-biggest racecourse in the UK in terms of money prizes, sitting just behind Ascot. Around 350,000 racegoers visit it every year, with three out of the UK’s 36 Group 1 races held at this racecourse.

A flat-type racecourse, racing in York has been found to date back to Roman times. There’s archeological evidence which suggests equine activities have been held there. For example, at the Knavesmire track, some forms of racing have been held as early as Neolithic times. Racing has also been known to take place on River Ouse. In the XVI century, an annual golden bell race took place in the Forest of Galtres.

In 1711, Queen Anne became the first monarch to race horses in York. That’s the year she founded the Ascot Racecourse and presented a new gold cup worth £100 – a fortune for that time. Three years later one of her horses won a £40 plate.

In 1731, racing in York was relocated to Knavesmire. The first permanent racecourse building at this track was erected in 1756 – the Carr grandstand. It still stands as one of the most significant buildings for any sporting occasion. Decade by decade and century after century, York saw a lot of horse racing action, becoming one of the most prominent tracks in the UK.

Biggest Races in York

The racecourse holds several important meetings on the UK’s Group 1 calendar of races. Among them are the Ebor Festival where bettors love to put their money on the Ebor Handicap. It’s one of the premier handicap races in York. It takes place in summer during mid-August, and draws a big crowd of spectators and bettors. Of course, the handicaps are offered online much earlier than the event, featuring York’s oldest, richest, and famous races. The festival takes place over 4 days and sports racing excellent paired with fashion and loads of fun and betting action.

Juddmonte International Stakes

York is also famous for hosting the Juddmonte International Stakes, an event that the organizers call the ‘best horse race in the world’. While that statement may be a bit over the top, there’s no question that it oozes excellent and has a solid prize purse hot enough for trainers, jockeys, runners, and bettors. It’s one of the biggest annual summer races in York.

The Juddmonnte Stakes is a 10-furlong Group 1 race and one of the top middle-distance races on the calendar. Some of the most notable winners include Frankel, Australia, and Sea The Star, so it’s no wonder why it gets that much attention from racegoers and bettors.

Nunthorpe Stakes

Nunthorpe may not get the nod over Juddmonte, but it is one of the premier sprints in Europe. It’s another Group 1 event open to horses over the age of two. It is run over 5 furlongs and takes place on the 3rd day of the Ebor Festival.

Between 1976 and 1989, the top winners include Sharpo. Later, the spring was won by Lochsong, Sole Power, and most recently Bataash who scored two wins in 2019 and 2020. The true hero of Nunthorpe is Piggot, who has won the race a total of seven times. It’s fair to say that this record may never get broken.

Yorkshire Oaks

The Yorkshire Oaks is another Group 1 race for mares and fillies aged 3 and up. It’s a race run over 1 mile and 3 furlongs that takes place each August. It was first ran in 1849, with the opening race won by Ellen Middleton. The current race system was introduced in 1971. While it was initially available to fillies and mares of 3 years, the second-day Ebor Festival race has raised the age in 1991.

Yorkshire Oaks enjoys stellar reputation and is known as a race for horses that previously ran at the Oaks. The three most successful horses include Only Royale, Islington, and Enable.

Other Things to Do in York

With such a rich horse racing scene, you’ll need accommodation and places to eat and drink if you’re visiting the York racecourse. The good news is that the region is full of great places and you have many things to do and see in York.

For example, there’s a handful of summer festivals in York that have nothing to do with horses. If you’re planning to visit, you can go ahead and check out the Resident’s Festival in January, the York Ice Trail in February, the Viking Festival in February as well, or the Chocolate Festival in April.

In September and October every year it’s time for the Food and Drink Festival where you can try some local delicacies. Of course, York has its fair share of excellent restaurants if you’re visiting earlier. Fine wine and dine is just as exciting as the horse races, but if you’re ever there for the Ebor Festival, we urge you not to miss the action. It’s a roller-coaster.



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