One of the most beautiful racecourses to visit is Ripon, known affectionately as Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse.
Racing has been taking place here for 300 years, with its scenery complimenting what is always competitive and well-received racing action throughout the warmer months on the Flat.
Ripon itself is one of the oldest towns in England making it, as well as the racecourse, a fascinating place to go to.
The top races here each year are the Great St Wilfrid and the Champion Two Year Old Trophy, while Ripon is also part of the popular Go Racing in Yorkshire initiative along with Beverley, Catterick, Doncaster, Pontefract, Redcar, Thirsk, Wetherby and York.
- Address – The Racecourse, Boroughbridge Road, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 1UG.
- Owner – Ripon Race Company Ltd.
- TV Station – Sky Sports Racing.
- Type – Flat.
- Surface – Turf.
Ripon’s popular track is a right-handed oval of about thirteen furlongs. Longer than many initially think, Ripon’s straight is five furlongs meaning plenty of time for horses to sort themselves out after the final bend.
Races from seven furlongs and upwards are on the round course, with then straight course being six furlongs in length.
Despite the length of the course, Ripon is still seen as being quite sharp as the bends aren’t the simplest to manage. There are also undulations, meaning some stop-start occasionally. Look out for those with a good turn of foot and those using speed ratings should use them wisely here.
Jockeys to have ridden at Ripon have offered better insight. When the ground is quick enough, Ripon can suit those running on the front end as the course’s make-up allows riders to kick away from the field. A little stamina and/or some patience is required more when the rain comes and the ground gets softer.
On the six-furlong sprint course, the stands rail is where jockeys tend to want to be drawn, in other words higher numbers. That has mostly worked out in recent runnings of the Great St Wilfrid, however it is not a deal breaker so don’t rule out those in the lower stalls.
Visiting Ripon Racecourse
The Garden Racecourse is such a great place to go. Racegoers can choose from the Club Stand, Paddock Enclosure or the Course Enclosure. The biggest meetings to attend are Ladies Day in June and Great St Wilfrid Day in August.
How to Get to Ripon
The racecourse sits just off the A61, less than two miles and a ten-minute drive from the centre of Ripon.
From the north including Newcastle, Durham and Darlington, head down the A1(M) until reaching the sign for the A61 and Ripon Racecourse.
From the south including Leeds, take the A1(M) as far as the A6055, then the A168 and B6265 signposted for the racecourse. From York, take the A59 out of the city to the A168 then B6265 as before.
There is a shuttle bus option too. The Ripon Races Express provides visitors to the track a service which runs for 90 minutes before the first scheduled race, while returns run for 30 minutes after the final race.
The shuttle collects from the coach park opposite to Ripon Bus Station, delivering racegoers directly to the course. Extra buses are in service during feature race days, especially Ladies Day and the Great St Wilfrid Day.
Where to Stay
There are limited rooms in Ripon itself, a very beautiful market town, though the track is also with 12 miles of Harrogate, 25 miles of York, 30 of Leeds, and 68 of Newcastle if you want to stay elsewhere and travel in.
Best Races at Ripon
Most of Ripon’s race days are well supported, but the key meetings take place from June to August, these individual events being the best throughout the year:
|Ladies Day Handicap||4yo+, Handicap, Class 2||6f||June|
|Hornblower Stakes||2yo Only, Conditions Stakes, Class 2||5f||August|
|Great St Wilfrid Handicap||3yo+, Handicap, Class 2||6f||August|
|Ripon Champion Two Year Old Trophy||2yo Only, Listed Race||6f||August|
Ripon Racecourse’s History
There is a very rich history indeed of racing in this area. The first known races in the Ripon area took place as far back as 1664 in fact, at Bondgate Green.
Over the course of more than 230 years, Ripon hosted horse racing at a number of other venues. None of those venues as it turns out were truly suitable for racing at Ripon in the longer term, until in 1900 when a site was found on Boroughbridge Road where the track has been ever since.
August 6, 1900 was the date for the first official meeting on the modern Ripon Racecourse and since then the track has become one of the longest established and best loved in the country.
Ripon’s Modern History
Ripon’s recent history too is impressive. The Racegoers Club voted Ripon as the ‘Best Small Racecourse in the North’ in 2011, 2014 and 2015. The track remains very popular indeed with owners and trainers too, meaning it is well supported especially on its bigger days.
Nowadays, the Garden Racecourse runs up to 17 fixtures during the season. The scenery which has been cultivated at this track means it is a visitor attraction in itself, over and above being a sports venue.
Prize money has surpassed £1 million for the racing season now, with August being the standout month on the calendar during which time the Great St Wilfrid is run on a Saturday, while the Champion Two Year Old Trophy is staged on August bank holiday Monday.
Both of these races attract runners from some of the top stables in the country, whether based in Middleham, Lambourn, Newmarket or further afield.
The Two Year Old Trophy is staged at Listed level, making it a Class 1 race, while the Great St Wilfrid is one of the biggest betting handicaps of the summer. Both races are run on the straight six-furlong course and both attract major crowds to the course every year.