York Racecourse concluded its 2017 season today after a hugely busy year which has seen a strong attendance, as 350,000 racegoers witnessed 122 races over 18 fabulous days of racing action. More thoroughbreds than ever (a total of 1,468) competed for a record of more than £7.7m prize money delivering an impressive average field size of 12 which looks set to retain its position as the largest in British racing.
In other excitements this year, Macmillan Charity Raceday in June raised a record sum of over £500,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and other charities, making it the biggest charity raceday in British racing, having raised over £7.5m during the last 47 years.
For the first time in the modern era, York sold out in all enclosures, on Summer Music Saturday (1st July), when seven races including the innovative “jump jockeys Nunthorpe” plus a concert by Olly Murs, drew in the crowds.
The opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival saw the first ever million pound race on the Knavesmire, the Group 1 Juddmonte International, which currently holds the position as Britain’s highest rated race. Royal Patron of York, HRH The Duke of York, was able to present the trophy to the winning connections of Ulysses as trainer Sir Michel Stoute and jockey, Jim Crowley, delivered another big prize for the Niarchos family.
The balance of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival saw an outstanding four days of racing action with Enable, the highest rated horse in Europe this season, taking the Darley Yorkshire Oaks as part of her five Group One victories in a row. Arguably the most dramatic finish of the season unfolded in the Coolmore Nunthorpe as Lady Aurelia, trained in the USA by Wesley Ward, was pipped in a photo-finish by Marsha, resulting in jubilant scenes from her Elite Racing Club owners and despondency for the vanquished Frankie Dettori.
Indeed, a remarkable six of the top ten rated horses that have raced in Europe this season, Enable, Ulysses, Battaash, Churchill, Barney Roy and Lady Aurelia have all graced the Knavesmire.
The total attendance for the year of 349,532 an increase of 2,350 from 2016, reflects the highs of Summer Music Saturday and the disappointing weather of the summer months which meant significant rain fell on eight racedays. The final day saw 20.676 racegoers watch Teruntum Star land the Coral Sprint Trophy, part of a double for Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan in the hands of Kevin Stott.
The fiercely contested Charles Clinkard Top Trainer at York Trophy was won for the first time by William Haggas. Skipton-born, though Newmarket based, Haggas had led the way for the majority of the season and posted an impressive thirteen winners; surviving a late season surge by Malton’s Tim Easterby, that got the Great Habton yard to within three of the eventual champion.
A new name also appears on the Living North Champion Jockey Trophy, as locally based Danny Tudhope posted six winners and ten second places to land his first title, shading a clutch of top riders that included Jim Crowley, James Doyle and David Allan. As an indication of the strength of the field, twelve different riders achieved a double on a York raceday 2017.
The 2017 season saw the creation of a new dining experience, known simply as Eat Between Our Races, fusing the best in locally produced tasty food with the latest high street EPOS technology, which posted an impressive 40% increase in transactions and rapidly established it as a place to sample good Yorkshire food and then get on with enjoying the raceday.
Work has already commenced on the next major capital project at York, a wholescale upgrading of facilities for Course Enclosure racegoers in the centre of the Course. The £4m project will see enhanced catering, betting and toilet facilities for racegoers in the picnic enclosure while retaining the family atmosphere and outstanding value as a place to enjoy racing from. It is planned that Phase One of this project will be in use for the 2018 season.
William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course at York Racecourse said “What a memorable season 2017 has been. The quality of racing action at York has been tremendous and we are delighted that our continued investment in the track, facilities and record prize money has delivered such compelling and competitive racing action. We are grateful for the ongoing support of owners and horsemen for bringing their fabulous charges to York. Racegoers have seen some of the best horses and jockeys in the world compete on the Knavesmire and we have been delighted with their reaction to the improved facilities and innovations across the site and season. We are proud to be part of a Yorkshire racing community which goes from strength to strength and in the success of Yorkshire-based handlers and jockeys, both here at York and further afield, and it is a tremendous reflection of the health of flat racing in the County.”
“I must pay tribute to the team at York who have delivered such a memorable and successful season, from the permanent York Racecourse and York Racecourse Hospitality teams based at the racecourse, who work so hard throughout the year to continue to innovate and improve the experience for visitors to the Knavesmire; to the raceday team who help provide the award-winning service and welcome to our racegoers. Some 2,000 people have given their time, talent and energy to make every York raceday so special.
“We remain hugely appreciative of the support of racegoers, boxholders, hospitality guests and sponsors, so very much hope they have enjoyed their own racedays at York in 2017 and will both look back on many happy memories, as well as look forward to many more!”
Head of Sponsorship and Marketing at York Racecourse, James Brennan, noted “The turn-out this year is a remarkable achievement. Competition for leisure spending is intense and we continue to strive to offer quality racing, value for money and a great day out. I am pleased our programme of entertainment, investment and innovation has been so well received. The performance of Olly Murs as well as those by All Saints and Jess Glynne, the latter on a truly soaking evening, will provide memories into the winter nights. Another record number of participants enjoying the Ebor Fashion Lawn, a Family Sunday with a visit from Paddington, and the Countryside Raceday in October, were all exciting aspects which combined with top-class racing, service and facilities to provide great entertainment. The 2017 attendance and ongoing commitment of the course to buying fresh, local produce further support the independent economic study that concluded the racecourse was worth over £60 million to the York economy per annum.”
Summarising the year, Lord Grimthorpe, Chairman of York Racecourse, concluded “It has been an honour and privilege to be involved with such an exciting, enjoyable and successful season and I would like to thank everyone connected to York for their attendance, enthusiasm and support. Work will continue during the winter on both the race programme, facilities and innovations across the site to help us continue to attract horses and racegoers back to York for what already looks set to be an exciting 2018 season starting on Wednesday 16 May 2018”
Looking back on the 2017 season, listen to racecourse Head of Marketing, James Brennan, chatting to Mike Vince.
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