Along with Suffolk and Berkshire, Yorkshire has about the most important and richest history in horse racing of anywhere in England.
We’re taking a look not only at Yorkshire’s current racecourses and where exactly they are, but the ones which have closed, the biggest races in the area and how the sport has changed there down the years.
How Many Courses Are There in Yorkshire?
There are nine racecourses in Yorkshire.
Geographically, they range from Redcar in the north east, to Doncaster in the south.
Of Yorkshire’s nine tracks, none these days are jumps specific after Wetherby initiated some Flat meetings.
Three of the courses are dual-purpose, offering Flat and jumps, while the other six are all Flat-only venues.
Racecourses in Yorkshire and Nearby
Those living in and around Yorkshire, or visiting for that matter, will not struggle to find a racecourse to visit at any time of year.
Situated near Hull in East Yorkshire, Beverley is known as a tight Flat racing track at which the draw can be so important. Popular races there include the Beverley Bullet and Hillary Needler Trophy.
Catterick in North Yorkshire has been racing since 1783. A dual-purpose venue, racing takes place there all year round and while no top-class events are staged, the track remains very popular with visitors.
One of the top racecourses not only in Yorkshire but in Europe is Doncaster. Still known affectionately as ‘Town Moor’, Doncaster hosts two of Britain’s Group 1 events on the Flat. There are also major jumps races staged here during the winter.
Another Flat-only track in West Yorkshire, Pontefract is handily placed and well supported. Major races at the venue include five yearly Listed contests. One of them, the Silver Tankard, is for the juveniles and can be a good pointer towards the following season’s top three-year-old events.
The northernmost racecourse in Yorkshire is Redcar, home of the Zetland Gold Cup handicap and the Two-
Year-Old Trophy. Redcar has a popular straight mile course and is used frequently by top trainers such as William Haggas.
A beautiful setting, Ripon is known as “The Garden Racecourse”. On its current site, racing has been taking place in Ripon since 1900 with the Great St Wilfrid handicap being a major Saturday betting race.
Back in 1940, Thirsk actually hosted the St Leger but these days it tends to concentrate on lower quality, yet competitive Flat racing action. It remains a very popular track with visitors from outside the area.
Primarily a jump racing venue, Wetherby is thought of as the place that really kicks off the National Hunt season with its Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase every October or November. A couple of Flat meetings do take place there now too.
Known as the Knavesmire, York is one of the best racecourses in Yorkshire, Britain and in fact the world. Beautifully laid out, York has top-class facilities and stages three Group 1 races each year. It has also stood in to host Royal Ascot. York hosts the majority of Yorkshire’s biggest Flat races.
These nine racecourses together form part of the Go Racing in Yorkshire initiative. Via GRiY, punters can buy season tickets among other things, allowing them access to various meetings in Yorkshire regardless of course ownership.
Those in and around Yorkshire also have easy access to other tracks outside of the county. Nearby are:
- Newcastle Racecourse – 90 miles north of York Racecourse and easily accessible via the A1 and the East Coast Mainline, Newcastle is a busy dual-purpose track and the home of the Northumberland Plate.
- Haydock – a similar distance to the west is Haydock, a Group 1 venue on Merseyside.
- Aintree – via train stops in Liverpool and via the motorway system, the home of the Grand National is accessible to Yorkshire racegoers.
Depending on which part of Yorkshire punters leave from, many other tracks are within reach. They include Chester, Nottingham and Uttoxeter.
Yorkshire’s Major Races
A number of important Group races, Graded events and top handicaps take place in Yorkshire every year. The top events, though there are many more, include:
|Great Yorkshire Chase||Jumps||Doncaster||January||3-mile premier handicap chase.|
|Lightning Novices’ Hurdle||Jumps||Doncaster||Jan/Feb||Grade 2, two-mile novices’ hurdle.|
|Lincoln Handicap||Flat||Doncaster||March||A major one-mile handicap, the traditional start of the Flat turf season.|
|Dante Stakes||Flat||York||May||Group 2, 1m2f race for 3-year-olds. Considered the top trial for the Derby.|
|Musidora Stakes||Flat||York||May||Group 3. The fillies’ equivalent of the Dante, a top trial for the Oaks.|
|Yorkshire Cup||Flat||York||May||1m6f Group 2, the first quality staying race of the year in the build-up to the Ascot Gold Cup.|
|Thirsk Hunt Cup||Flat||Thirsk||May||A major one-mile handicap.|
|Zetland Gold Cup||Flat||Redcar||May/June||1m2f handicap, a huge betting race.|
|John Smith’s Cup||Flat||York||July||One of the biggest handicaps in Britain, run over 1m2f.|
|International Stakes||Flat||York||August||A major 1m2f Group 1 race, run during the Ebor Festival.|
|Yorkshire Oaks||Flat||York||August||Group 1 event for fillies, run over 1m4f during the Ebor Festival.|
|Nunthorpe Stakes||Flat||York||August||Group 1. Along with the King’s Stand at Ascot, the top 5-furlong race in the country.|
|Great Voltigeur Stakes||Flat||York||August||Group 2 1m4f race, the top trial for the St Leger.|
|Ebor Handicap||Flat||York||August||The biggest handicap in Europe, run over 1m6f.|
|St Leger||Flat||Doncaster||September||The last of Britain’s five Classics. Run over 1m6f for the 3-year-olds.|
|Portland Handicap||Flat||Doncaster||September||5½-furlong handicap, run during the St Leger meeting.|
|Futurity Stakes||Flat||Doncaster||October||The last Group 1 of Britain’s season, run over a mile for juveniles.|
|Charlie Hall Chase||Jumps||Wetherby||Oct/Nov||Grade 2 chase over 3 miles, the first major race of then NH season.|
|Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase||Jumps||Wetherby||December||3m1f handicap chase, run over Christmas time.|
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years in Yorkshire?
Organised breeding and horse racing in Yorkshire goes back to around the 1500’s. In 1595, a racecourse at Doncaster appeared on a map for the first time. In 1619, the earliest known rules of racing were drawn up at Kiplingcotes.
The world’s oldest Classic race, the St Leger, was run in Yorkshire for the first time in 1776.
Middleham began to attract more and more trainers and stud farms, and the area is still a major training centre to this day housing trainers such as Charlie Johnston and others. Malton also became an important training area.
Wetherby Racecourse opened its doors in 1842 and more professionally run racecourses followed around the county.
These days, five of Britain’s Group 1 races are run in Yorkshire; two at Doncaster and three at York. One of those races, the Juddmonte International at York, is very often rated as one of the top few races in the world yearly.
Famous Courses in Yorkshire to Have Closed Down
Yorkshire, like all parts of the country, has had its share of changes when it comes to racecourse venues. On the whole, most of Yorkshire’s racecourses have been around for a very long time.
These used to be part of the programme however, but are now closed:
|Hambleton Racecourse||1911||The Hambleton Plateau was considered the best natural plateau in the country.|
|Hull Racecourse||1909||Raced from 1751 to 1909. Racing in the area is now held at Beverley.|
Other less formal or organised racecourses also came and went.
The lack of known racecourses to have closed in Yorkshire it testament to how important the sport is in this part of the world, and of course how successful it is.