York Racecourse is situated on a large, previously marshy, undeveloped area of land, known as the Knavesmire, southwest of the city centre. The first meeting took place on the Knavesmire in 1731, but the first grandstand wasn't built until 1754. The York Racecourse Committee, which is still in existence, was formed in 1842 and has overseen subsequent improvements throughout the 19th and 20th centuries right up to the present day. York Racecourse played host to Royal Ascot at York during the redevelopment of Ascot in 2005 and the St. Leger Festival during the redevelopment of Doncaster in 2006.
Admission prices at York Racecourse range from £28 in the County Stand to £6 on the Course. Concessions are available for juniors and senior citizens and admission is free for children under 16 years of age. For corporate events, such as conferences, exhibitions, meetings and training classes, York Racecourse offers a main suite capable of accommodating 1,000 people, plus a selection of rooms and suites suitable for audiences between 5 and 500 people.
In fact, two modern grandstands offer everything you might expect from a modern conference centre. All rooms and suites are equipped with air conditioning, audiovisual capabilities and Wi-Fi and many of them offer views across the parkland in which York Racecourse is situated.
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What's unique about the course at York?
The round course at York is left-handed, galloping and approximately two miles in length, with a sweeping turn into the long, five furlong straight. Seven furlong races start from a spur, which joins the round course after a quarter of a mile and five and six furlong races are run on a separate straight course.
The round course and the straight course are both perfectly flat and very wide, making York one of the fairest tests for a thoroughbred in the country.
Notable Races and Events
The most valuable race of the year at York is the Group 1 International Stakes, run over 1 mile 2 furlongs 88 yards on the opening day of the Ebor Festival in August each year. The International Stakes, currently sponsored by Juddmonte Farms, was first run in 1972 as the Benson Hedges Gold Cup. On that occasion, Derby winner Roberto inflicted the only defeat suffered by Brigadier Gerard in his 18-race career. Forty years to the day, Frankel ran in the International Stakes in 2012 – his first attempt beyond a mile – and won by 7 lengths at odds of 1/10. Unsurprisingly, in doing so, he became the shortest priced winner ever of the International Stakes; the longest priced winner was Relkino in 1977, who started at 33/1.
The Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes, run over 5 furlongs on the third day of the Ebor Festival, is one of the few opportunities that 2-year-olds have to race against their elders. However, since the inaugural running of the race in its present form in 1922, just a few juveniles have won, the latest being Kingsgate Native in 2007. In 2010, Edward Lynam's 3-year-old Sole Power created the biggest upset in the history of the Nunthorpe Stakes, beating 6/4 favourite Starspangledbanner by 1¼ lengths at odds of 100/1. In so doing, he became the first horse since Hittite Glory in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster in 1975 and only the second horse ever, to win a Group 1 race in Britain at 100/1.
Although slightly less prestigious than the Group 1 contests, the Group 2 Great Voltigeur, run over a mile and a half, is nevertheless a prestigious race in its own right and a recognised trial for the St. Leger the following month. The longest priced winner of the Great Voltigeur was Monitor Closely at 28/1 in 2009, while the shortest was Acropolis at 2/7 in 1955.
York Racecourse is also home to the John Smith's Cup, formerly the John Smith's Magnet Cup, which is one of the most prestigious middle-distance handicaps in Europe and is run over the same distance as the International Stakes in July each year. The longest priced winners in the history of the John Smith's Cup, which dates back to 1960, were Space King in 1964 and Achilles in 1999, who both started at 25/1. The shortest priced winner was Straight Man, who was sent off 2/1 favourite in 1984. Straight Man was one of six winners for the late Dick Hern, who was the most successful trainer in the John Smith's Cup while, of the current trainers, Sir Mark Prescott has won the race twice, with Pasternak in 1997 and Foreign Affairs in 2001.
Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers
Paul Hanagan, who replaced the retiring Richard Hills as retained rider for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum last season, is the leading jockey at York during the last five seasons with 38 winners from 278 rides. Sheikh Hamdan, himself, is only second in the owners' table for the same period with 18 winners from 101 runners, behind Godolphin with 23 winners from 142 runners.
North Yorkshire trainer Richard Fahey, for whom Paul Hanagan was previously stable jockey and still rides when possible, is by far the leading trainer with 48 winners from 489 runners during the last five seasons.
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