York Racecourse is one of the top Flat racing venues not only in Britain, but anywhere in the world.
The track, situated on the city’s Knavesmire, has been around since 1730 and hosts not only the most important Derby and Oaks trials but also one of the country’s top summer meetings; the Ebor Festival.
The Ebor meeting includes various Group 1 races, which we have details on below, as well as majorly important juvenile races and the heritage Ebor Handicap.
York is a true jewel in the crown of British racing, combining 300 years of history with some of the best, most modern facilities in the sport.
- Address – York Racecourse, York, YO23 1EX.
- Owner – York Racecourse Knavesmire LLP.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat.
- Surface – Turf.
York is a left-handed turf track which stays basically flat throughout.
Always seen as a galloping track, it suits those with a long stride although talk of it being a frontrunner’s track is a little exaggerated as it is essentially fair for all.
There has been little in the way of draw bias noted here, especially in recent years. Runners on the straight track tend to come right down the middle, though some towards the near side often drift across and lose ground towards the line.
This is due to the fact that the track turns sharply just after the post, something the horses can see meaning they don’t want to go arrow-straight at full tilt towards the rails they can see not too far in the distance.
The main ‘round’ track forms the bulk of the course, though there are starts in three different chutes.
The two-mile start is to the north west, away from the stands at the furthest point from the crowd. From there, there is a perfectly straight run of around 6½ furlongs before runners take a left turn, with the main round course joining that back straight around a mile-and-a-half from home.
The chute for seven furlongs and 2¾-mile starts has a run of around two furlongs before joining the main straight on a slight left turn, while the straight sprint course is six furlongs in length, joining the main course around 4½ furlongs from home.
The home straight is nice and long, giving horses plenty of time to sort themselves out.
York Track Analysis
Despite being known by many in the past as a frontrunner’s course, jockey feedback is that the long, galloping straight sees too many horses go for home too soon. This means those coming from the back actually have an advantage from time to time.
There are no discernible ridges and cantor, wide and sweeping turns and no real draw bias which means it is loved by jockeys and trainers alike as it presents a level playing field.
Like other flat-natured courses around, such as Haydock and Doncaster, it can catch horses and jockeys out when the rain comes. It can actually get very testing here which means a horse will need to see out every yard of the trip.
Visiting York Racecourse
There is so much to like about York Racecourse.
It’s picturesque and has tons of history in the bank, as does the city. The track itself is beautiful, always with a terrific grass covering and it features some of the best racing Britain has to offer on a yearly basis.
York tends to attract a knowledgeable crowd too, making this place a genuine must-see among worldwide racecourses and we don’t say that lightly.
How to Get to York
From the coast around Scarborough or Filey, head west along the A64 past Malton. Further down from Bridlington, head west along the A166 for around 42 miles. The course is well signposted around York.
The track is approximately 40 miles from Hill up the A1079, and 25 miles or under from several prominent Yorkshire towns including Thirsk, Ripon, Harrogate and Wetherby.
You’ll face around a 40-minute journey from Leeds using the M1 and A64, while Newcastle is 86 miles to the north using the A19.
If you’re coming from the south, head up the M1 then follow signs first to York, and then to the racecourse.
Most racegoers tend to use the historic and popular York train station. The station is right in the heart of the city, only around two miles from the track which will be around a 10-minute taxi ride. The station is on the main line and sees direct services from right up and down the east of the country, while connections are plentiful.
Where to Stay
There is a hotel right on the site of York Racecourse and plenty more nearby, though York can get very busy at the best of times.
Most will try to stay within York itself, along with Harrogate, but elsewhere you’ll find lots of places in North Yorkshire are famous for great boutique hotels, B&B’s and rental properties so staying anywhere within commuting distance of the track is fine.
Major Events at York
York is a Flat racing venue that doesn’t quite boast what Newmarket does in terms of quantity, but certainly in terms of quality.
Some of the season’s very top betting handicaps are hosted on the Knavesmire, along with majorly important Group races. The best of York’s action is:
|1895 Duke of York Stakes||3yo+, Group 2||6f||Dante Festival||May|
|Musidora Stakes||3yo Fillies Only, Group 3||1m2½f||Dante Festival||May|
|Middleton Stakes||Fillies & Mares, 4yo+, Group 2||1m2½f||Dante Festival||May|
|Dante Stakes||3yo Only, Group 2||1m2½f||Dante Festival||May|
|Westow Stakes||3yo Only, Listed Race||5f||Dante Festival||May|
|Marygate Stakes||2yo Fillies Only, Listed Race||5f||Dante Festival||May|
|Michael Seely Memorial Stakes||3yo Fillies Only, Listed Race||1m||Dante Festival||May|
|Yorkshire Cup||4yo+, Group 2||1m6f||Dante Festival||May|
|Ganton Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m||June Meeting||June|
|Grand Cup||4yo+, Listed Race||1m6f||June Meeting||June|
|Summer Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 3||6f||John Smith’s Cup Meeting||July|
|Silver Cup||4yo+, Group 3||1m6f||John Smith’s Cup Meeting||July|
|John Smith’s Cup||Handicap, 3yo+, Class 2||1m2½f||John Smith’s Cup Meeting||July|
|City Walls Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||5f||John Smith’s Cup Meeting||July|
|Lyric Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||1m2½f||Music Showcase Weekend||July|
|York Stakes||3yo+, Group 2||1m2½f||Music Showcase Weekend||July|
|Acomb Stakes||2yo Only, Group 3||7f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Great Voltigeur Stakes||3yo Colts & Geldings Only, Group 2||1m4f||Ebor Festival||August|
|International Stakes||3yo+, Group 1||1m2½f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Lowther Stakes||2yo Fillies Only, Group 2||6f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes||Conditions Stakes, 2yo Only, Class 2||6f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Heritage Handicap||Handicap, 3yo+, Class 2||1m||Ebor Festival||August|
|Yorkshire Oaks||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 1||1m4f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Galtres Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||1m4f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Lonsdale Cup||3yo+, Group 2||2m½f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Gimcrack Stakes||2yo Colts & Geldings Only, Group 2||6f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Nunthorpe Stakes||2yo+, Group 1||5f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Strensall Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m1f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Melrose Handicap||Heritage Handicap, 3yo Only, Class 2||1m6f||Ebor Festival||August|
|City of York Stakes||3yo+, Group 2||7f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Ebor Handicap||Heritage Handicap, 4yo+, Class 2||1m6f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Roses Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||5f||Ebor Festival||August|
|Garrowby Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||6f||September Sunday||Sunday|
|Rockingham Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||6f||October Finale||October|
|Coral Sprint Trophy||Heritage Handicap, 3yo+, Class 2||6f||October Finale||October|
While the Group 1 races speak for themselves, plenty of these other events are of major importance.
York’s Group 2’s, such as the 1895 Duke of York, the Middleton, the York Stakes and major staying races the Yorkshire Cup and Lonsdale Cup, actually usually feature top Group 1 types.
There are some we didn’t mention that are major betting handicaps too, such as the Hambleton and the Jorvik. The Dante and Musidora Stakes are seen as the strongest Derby and Oaks trials respectively as well as being fine races in their own right.
Even York’s maidens and novice races at the top meetings, while not having top titles, often attract the stars of the future.
The International is such as important race that in 2020, it ranked as the top thoroughbred race of the year in the world based on ratings.
About York Racecourse
York is truly one of the best racecourses you could wish to visit.
The course features 180 stables which are laid out in four quadrangles. These stables have housed such world superstars as Sea The Stars and the great Frankel.
The facilities for stable staff, owners, trainers, jockeys, diners and casual racegoers are among the best in Britain.
While the atmosphere can be raucous on major Saturdays, such as when the John Smith’s Cup or the Ebor are taking place, in fact the Knavesmire attracts a very knowledgeable bunch, there more for racing than for the ales or the betting.
This was evident never more so than when Frankel received an amazing reception from the crowd when winning the 2012 Juddmonte International.
Another such moment was when Stradivarius took the 2022 Yorkshire Cup. Having won on what was his farewell season, the entire was taken back up the straight by Frankie Dettori to show him off to the crowd who as one applauded what they knew was a proper racing champion.
No bigger compliment was ever paid to York than in 2005 when, owing to Ascot’s major refurbishment, the track played host to the Royal Ascot meeting which was a major success.
A brief history of York Racecourse:
- 1530 – the city corporation is known to have given its support to horse racing.
- 1730 – racing is first held on the Knavesmire having moved from Clifton Ings.
- 1751 – the first structured race programme outside of Newmarket is formulated here.
- 1982 – Pope John Paul II visited the track with upwards of 190,000 in attendance.
- 2005 – Royal Ascot is staged at York due to refurbishments. The Queen is present for all five days.
- 2012 – Frankel wins the Juddmonte International Stakes, his penultimate racecourse appearance.