As the year and the decade turn, reflections on the 2019 season at York Racecourse exemplify the preceding ten years.
Once again the Champion Racehorse of the Year, in this case the John Gosden trained Enable, ran on the Knavesmire. The “Queen of the turf” became the sixth Horse of the Year over the decade to grace the track, including Frankel in the same silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah, Golden Horn and Roaring Lion.
In 2019, the star horses competed for record prize money of £8.8million, a pot that has grown an astonishing 78% in the past ten years.
In August of this year, the Sky Bet Ebor, already the richest flat handicap in Europe became the second race staged at York to offer a £1,000,000 purse; joining the Juddmonte International which reached that landmark sum in the 2017 season and making York the first course in Great Britain to have two contests offering this reward.
The 49th staging of Macmillan Charity Raceday in June saw the generous support of racegoers and supporters help the racecourse add a record of over £650,000 to the cumulative total raised for good causes. In the most recent ten renewals, some £4.1 million has been added to the cumulative total from what is Britain’s biggest charity raceday.
Over the decade the racecourse team have been honoured to receive multiple awards; the 2019 ROA Large Racecourse of the Year and Racing Post Readers Favourite Track Award being the latest in the cabinet. The Racegoers Club voted the course as their number one in each of the 2016,2017 and 2018 seasons (the 2019 verdict is yet to come in); with the hard working Groundsteam repeating their success of 2015 when taking the RCA Groundstaff Accolade for 2019. Add in recognition for the entire team as Racecourse Association Showcase Champion 2015 and the success of specific areas of the course such as the Parade Ring Restaurant in their relevant awards and it has been considered a successful ten years by several independent judges.
At the heart of the action is the race programme and it is testament to the horses that compete at York, that this continues to win international recognition. The Juddmonte International of 2014 was ranked as the best race in the world and its 2019 renewal sits fifth on the global stage. The Coolmore Nunthorpe has regularly been ranked as the best five furlong sprint on the planet, with the Darley Yorkshire Oaks confirmed as the third race of the York programme to sit in the top ten of all races, for the season just ended.
The Sky Bet City of York held at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival was upgraded to Group Two status this August, part of a long list of improvements to the calendar earnt by the investment in prize money and the horses that attracts. It follows a pattern that has seen races such as the John Smith’s Silver Cup, Sir Henry Cecil and EBF Galtres Stakes, Ganton, Garrowby and Westow Stakes all elevated over the past ten runnings.
Most recent on the list of physical changes at the racecourse has been the opening of the Premier Racing Lounge for 2019; already a firm hit with racegoers. It continues the investment in facilities, with the start of the last decade heralding the creation of the Melrose Club Lounge. Award winning improvements came on 2014 and 2015 as the various phases of the Northern End development were opened creating a new Pre Parade Ring, Weighing Room, Parade Ring Restaurant, Moet Pavilion and champagne lawns, as well as a welcome building for owners. Significant changes to the facilities also came as part of the redevelopment of the Clocktower Enclosure in 2018.
The Northern End development is also home to a statue of the great racehorse, Frankel; in 2019 the legendary jockey, Lester Piggott had a statue in his honour unveiled.
Reflecting wider changes over the decade; the latest of seven permanent giant screens were commissioned in 2019, alongside the adoption of flat screen televisions, all supported by high definition technology. Ongoing investment in the second half of the decade has seen the creation of a free Wi-Fi network over all the enclosures.
All of the above has been made possible by the support of racing professionals, connections, racegoers and a bank of sponsors, some twenty six of whom have been partners through the past decade and longer.