York Racecourse concluded its 2021 season today after a busy, unprecedented and, in many ways, positive year which witnessed some of the best horses in the world competing in 122 races over 18 racedays of world-class racing action. The 2021 season which started at the Dante Festival in May behind closed doors, was limited to just 4,000 racegoers in June and early July, and then a return to more normal conditions for the nine racedays since the Music Showcase Weekend on 23 July.
A final day crowd of 22,326 is a record for the last raceday of the season and demonstrates the appetite for the combination of top-class sport in world-class facilities, presented by a welcoming team. The Friday of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival posted another individual day attendance record, as the feature festival drew a crowd in excess of 2019. In total, over 192,000 people atteneded racing on the Knavesmire this season under various protocols in operations through the year.
This most unusual of season has brought its own delights, both on and off the track - the theme since May has been of a delight to return to the Knavesmire. The performances of Hurricane Lane and Snowfall in winning at the Dante Festival have since been franked in the very best of company winning both Group 1s and Classics. Mishriff, in winning the Juddmonte International and so being rated among the best horses on the planet, will live long in the memory. The golden hour on the Friday of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival combined Stradivarius in a titanic battle to claim his fifth victory at York, the return of the recently retired Battaash to a rapturous reception from the packed grandstands, and the blistering success of local heroine, Winter Power, flying down the track to head the fastest horses in the world, will take some beating. People were kind enough to describe the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival as having a tremendous “joie de vivre” - an atmosphere that continued through four autumn racedays which were blessed with glorious weather.
In other positive news this year, Macmillan Charity Raceday in June, alongside the Ernest Cooper Ride of Their Lives - which was switched to September - and the Hopes and Dreams Macmillan Ball at the Racecourse, raised a fantastic sum of over £285,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and other local and racing charities. It is a tremendous tribute to everyone involved, given the challenges of the year and a remarkable amount raised, confirming it as the biggest charity raceday in Britain, having now raised over £9m during the last 51 years.
Showing the variety of its customer offer, York again played host to the biggest racing+music concerts in the sport, with Rick Astley and McFLY delivering tremendous performances as they both returned to the stage after an 18-month hiatus.
Tim Easterby was crowned as the Charles Clinkard York Top Trainer; his hugely impressive 12winners giving him a second title, having first won it back in 1999. The wonderful perpetual Skeaping bronze will be heading to the mantelpiece at Habton Grange. The conclusion of the season long contest to be top jockey at York saw the hugely popular Tom Marquand win the Living North-sponsored contest, for the first time, after 9 victories. Tom spoke with Mike Vince after collecting the award, listen here
William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course at York Racecourse said “The 2021 season has been characterised by both the tremendous performances we have witnessed on the track and the unstinting support of racegoers, connections and the wider team in seeing us transit from behind closed doors racing in May through the gradual return of crowds to the record breaking racedays during August and the autumn. After the challenges of 2020, the York Race Committee and I are hugely grateful and appreciative of the wonderful and joyous resumption of more normal racedays at York, and the enthusiasm and support everyone has shown to York since we were allowed to return.
“We were delighted that since the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, we have been able to return prize money to near pre-pandemic record levels and to continue to invest in facilities and the experience for racegoers, connections and racing staff.
“I would particularly like to pay tribute to the wider raceday team of some 2,000 colleagues at York who have shown tremendous agility, loyalty and positivity to adapt to the changing protocols in operation during the season with smiles and a wonderful welcome for our returning customers.
“We very much look forward to racing returning to York on 11 May 2022 and hopefully a more settled and “normal” race season.”
Catch replays of any race from the York 2021 season on Racing TV