The richest ever running of the famous John Smith’s Cup raceday will see £385,000 on offer for the 59th staging of a day that contains the famous handicap itself, Saturday 14 July. The £200,000 prize money of the feature contest makes the John Smith’s Cup the richest middle distance handicap in Britain.
Named after Britain’s best-selling ale, it is the centrepiece of a seven-race programme that now includes the newly upgraded John Smith’s Silver Cup as a Group Three contest worth £65,000 and the Listed John Smith’s City Walls sprint. In each of the last two years the prize money has risen by nearly £20,000 each season.
The headline contest is the longest continuous commercial sponsorship of a flat race in the country, an arrangement that will now reach at least the Diamond Jubilee of the contest - as the racecourse previously announced a further extension of the deal with Heineken.
With the prospect of hotly contested races matched by the forecast, the decision has been taken to relax the dress code in the County Stand Enclosure for both days. Gentlemen can leave their jackets at home, though a collared shirt and tie is still required.
The opening day on the Friday features the Group Three William Hill Summer Stakes, offering a black type opportunity to the fastest filly down the six furlong course.
One of Europe’s most prestigious and competitive middle-distance heritage handicap contests, Saturday’s renewal of The John Smith’s Cup is contested over the extended one mile and a quarter. The winning owner can look forward to receiving the specially-commissioned Wedgwood challenge trophy.
Fougalle was the first winner of this famous race back in 1960, and since then there have been many dramatic moments, with the race becoming a major betting heat of the summer. In 2017, Ballet Concerto provided trainer Sir Michael Stoute his second success in the race, coming nearly thirty years after Icona landed the spoils in 1989. Jockey, James Doyle, enjoyed a debut win.
One of only two contests to receive such an upgrade, the Group Three John Smith’s Silver Cup continues to be a proving ground for stayers, last year, Rare Rhythm, showed his potential for Charlie Appleby in the Godolphin colours before winning at an even higher level in Dubai.
The sprinters have their say in the Listed John Smith’s City Walls over five furlongs and the 2016 winner, Marsha, went on to multiple success at Group One level, including the Coolmore Nunthorpe, before going into the record books when she was sold to become a broodmare.
Always one of the big days of the year, this event has become a showcase for ‘Yorkshire’s Finest’, and sees John Smith’s treasuring its Yorkshire roots with a full Yorkshire menu of locally-sourced and home-made food. In addition, there will be a number of cask ales available at the racecourse, thanks to collaboration with fellow Yorkshire brewers, Theakston’s.
Wider Yorkshire sporting and physical prowess will be on show as the crew and craft of team Row4Victory will be by the Frankel statue; these four fearless friends will be rowing 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic, in what is described as the ‘World’s toughest endurance race’.
The highlight on Friday, The William Hill Summer Stakes, is a Group Three sprint contest over six furlongs for fillies and mares, has seen its purse increase to £65,000. Last year’s race was won by Mystic Dawn for Newmarket trainer, David Simcock.
Friday sees a number of other long-standing supporters of the Knavesmire return with both Jigsaw Sports Branding and Acturis back in attendance; alongside the accountancy firm responsible for audit matters at the track, Garbutt + Elliott. Once again, it is an “ITM Friday” as the Irish organisation responsible for promoting bloodstock sales from the emerald isle back a five furlong handicap. The final race of Friday gives apprentice riders their chance and welcomes a new supporter in Gough & Kelly, a Yorkshire firm specialising in security products and services for schools or hospitals amongst other sites.
The two days of racing get underway with an interesting novice contest over the unusual distance of five and a half furlongs. It is among the twenty-one contests backed by the European Breeders’ Fund.
Catering for broad musical tastes, both days offer the summer vibe of a steel band or Murphy’s Marbles brand of foot-stomping Irish tunes. Saturday also hosts Paradise Lane performing their melodic set of popular covers on the bandstand as the last race crosses the line.
The newly installed Giant Screen overlooking the Roberto Lawn will continue to offer uninterrupted coverage of the FIFA World Cup; providing a home to Wimbledon coverage on Friday and earlier on Saturday.
A number of other giant screens will enable racegoers to enjoy even more of the action on both days, along with racing from Newmarket’s July Meeting and Ascot. The popular punters’ panel held prior to racing on the winners’ podium will preview the card on both days.