The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival will offer record prize money approaching £5 million, so looks set to attract some of the top rated thoroughbreds in the world to the Knavesmire for York’s flagship meeting, over four spectacular days of racing action from Wednesday 22 to Saturday 25 August.
The stellar racing action forms the centre-piece of a festival brimming with award winning hospitality, high summer fashion and all that contributes to the hoped-for fabulous atmosphere of the flagship meeting at Britain’s Racecourse of the Year.
The increase in prize money of £285,000 (+6%) is largely focused this year on Sky Bet Ebor Saturday, where the feature contest for four year olds and upwards becomes the joint richest flat handicap in Europe with prize money of £500,000; a 75% boost on last year, that comes ahead of a further doubling to £1 million for 2019. York’s new five year partnership with Sky Bet has also meant that some four races on Saturday 25 August have increased in value, the Sky Bet Melrose offering three year olds a fund of £125,000 (+£20k) over the same distance as the Ebor. The day already featured the richest apprentice race in the land, as emerging riders compete for £70,000.
The prize money threshold for all races is £70,000, including the richest Maiden (Friday’s Convivial as backed by the European Breeders’ Fund) as well as the richest nursery handicap, one of a dozen contests to be supported by Sky Bet. The £100,000 Group 3 Tattersalls Acomb on Wednesday 22 August now becomes the twenty-third contest at York in 2018 to offer at least, a six figure purse.
Independently ranked as the joint highest rated ten furlong race in Europe last year, the Group 1 Juddmonte International, is the richest race run at York, with £1 million on offer to the horse seeking to follow such superstars as Frankel or Sea the Stars into the Winner’s Enclosure on the opening day. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Juddmonte Farm’s tremendous support for the marquee contest. All four thoroughbreds trained in Europe that sit in the top ten highest rated horses in the world, remain entered for the York showpiece; Cracksman, Poet’s Word, Thunder Snow and Benbatl.
On Ladies Day, The Darley Yorkshire Oaks, ranked last year as Britain’s highest rated contest for fillies and mares, is the £350,000 feature. The 2018 winners of each of the English (Forever Together), Irish (Sea of Class) and French (Laurens) Oaks will unite in a classic confrontation.
On Friday, the Coolmore Nunthorpe, the joint best sprint in the world last season, looks set to justify that billing again, offering a potential showdown between the world’s highest rated sprinter, Battaash, and Blue Point, the exceptional winner of the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot; this pair and most likely eighteen others, competing for the £350,000 purse.
The Sky Bet Lowther on Thursday is at £225,000 the same level as the Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack, run this year on Friday, retaining them as Britain’s richest Group 2s for juvenile fillies and colts, respectively.
The Sky Bet City of York Stakes which will now offer £180,000 to the field contesting this seven furlong race switched to Saturday 25 August, continues to be Britain’s richest Group 3 contest for older horses.
From sprinters to stayers on Friday, with the richest ever renewal of Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup, offering £225,000 for the best stayer, joining the Group One races as the fourth contest to be part of the Qipco British Champions Series. A celebration of the best races of the season that culminates at the richest day of racing in this country, Qipco British Champions Day, on Saturday 20 October. The support of Qipco is clear on all four days; with the BCS racemakers in attendance to help guide less experienced visitors around the racecourse and share their knowledge. This year’s Lonsdale is the final leg of the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Bonus with Stradivarius coming to the meeting in contention for the £1 million bonus, having won the MansionBet Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Qatar Goodwood Cup.
On all four days, stand-side racegoers will be able to watch and participate in the Ebor Fashion Lawn by simply registering before 2.30pm. The eye-catching, flower-clad catwalk, set in the picturesque surroundings in front of the Edwardian Weighing Room, will offer a touch of “modern vintage”. A panel of judges will cast an expert eye over the preparations and attire before them, ready to decide the winner on each day of the “Best Dressed Racegoer". As well as award prizes like £500 gift vouchers from French Connection, or a personal shopping experience with York based, Cuffs & Co, for “Best Hat, Best Dressed Gent, Best Dressed Child and Best Dressed Couple”. A rising star of the millinery world, Georgina Durdy, will be on hand to help assess the style and match hats to outfits.
Expect to see a host of world-class jockeys competing for top honours at the Ebor Festival. In a fitting tribute to popular racing journalist who passed away in 2015, the “Ray Gilpin Red Armband” will be worn by the leading rider during the week, with a special prize offered by Sky Bet to the most successful jockey over the twenty-five races. In 2017, Jim Crowley took top honours with four winners.
Keen to support the riders, York Racecourse will trial the request of the PJA to install a state of the art, ice bath, known as an Ice Pod, to help speed recovery. Already popular with athletes in the USA, cryotherapy using this special bath complete with its therapy jets, takes the accepted use of ice packs for muscle management, to the next level.
Amongst the trainers, Malton-based, Richard Fahey is already enjoying an incredible season on the Knavesmire, with a remarkable fifteen winners as well as eight second places so far, seeing him sit proud at the top of the Charles Clinkard backed leader-board and on course for a ninth York seasonal title.
The global nature of the top quality competition is reflected with the three Group Ones all being part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, and the Juddmonte International and Darley Yorkshire Oaks attracting huge bonuses for the winner to go to race in Japan. York will welcome representatives of international racing from Japan, Europe, the Middle East and Australia, in a meeting that continues to grow in global profile and reach.
There is horsepower of a different nature on display on the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn with the latest Volvos on show, courtesy of Ray Chapman Motors.
On the opening and closing day of the four day meeting at 1.30pm, parachute display teams are set to drop in on the Knavesmire with the RAF Falcons on Wednesday and the Silver Stars of the Royal Logistics Corps on Ebor Saturday.
The first four races on each of the four days will be broadcast live on ITV1, in addition to every race being covered live on Racing UK and SIS. GBI Racing will be transmitting the event to over 30 countries around the world. Ed Chamberlin and Francesca Cumani will head the BATFA winning ITV coverage which will feature use of the “Batcam” as well as capturing the fun with fashion experts, Mark Heyes and Charlotte Hawkins.
All runners will carry speed sensing equipment from Coursetrack who are working in partnership with Racecourse Media Group (RMG) to trial sectional timings and race data information. The intention is that the results of this trial, once they are processed and validated, will be shared both on course to racegoers via a noticeboard adjacent to the parade ring, as well as via social media @yorkracecourse.
This is the first Ebor Festival for the newly renamed Clocktower Enclosure, the grassed infield area which runs parallel to the final furlong of the track. Retaining its great views back towards the main stands, it benefited from a £5 million improvement scheme over last winter. Main contractor, Lindum York, delivered two large, modern toilet blocks at either end of the grass banking, a row of canopies either side of the famous Clocktower that offer catering and betting facilities as well as some racegoer cover, improved access for pushchairs and wheelchairs plus a refurbishment of the turnstiles. The on the day entrance price for this Enclosure is just £12 with accompanied under 18’s free of charge.
Away from the track, a brigade of some 80 chefs, backed by a wider raceday team of over two thousand staff, will provide the welcome, services and treats that come with a major sporting event. Seafood will be delivered from the Yorkshire coast every morning including 2,000 crabs, joining Dales lamb and 3,000 home-made beef burgers, Hawes cheeses, 6,000 fresh baked fruit scones and locally made dairy ice cream, on the various menus. Extending the White Rose provenance this year will be fresh crustaceans provided by the Yorkshire Lobster Company, from the waters off Scarborough.
Partner Moët et Chandon support the meeting with Mercier champagne priced at £36.50, Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial NV at £53 and selected bars stocking York’s house champagne at £33. Look out for the themed and floral Moët Ice tuk-tuk truck and picture walls.
An additional place to enjoy food and drinks this year is the Garden Pavilion, a pre-booked area that offers exactly what it sounds like, a beautiful garden in the centre of the course to compliment the hospitality and sporting action.
York is proud of its flowers and floral displays growing many of its displays and plants from seed or seedling and last year won a RHS Yorkshire in Bloom Gold Award. Very much a signature of 2018, the Ebor Festival this year will offer a new “selfie flower wall” by the Parade Ring for racegoers to show off their fashion and capture the moment on social media. So it is easier to share these images or also send pictures of the ice sculptures and chocolate fountains in the main restaurants, or simply to capture the feel good factor, racegoers will be able to use the free Wi-Fi service installed at the track by local tech firm, York Data Services.
Over the week, those seeking musical entertainment will have their choice, as Yorkshire based jazz and brass bands perform on the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn, with Murphy’s Marbles playing their own blend of Irish foot stomping, good time tunes. Local bands, The Monotones and Paradise Lane, will play to racegoers after the last race into the early evening on each of the four racedays from the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn.
There will be a record number of eight giant screens relaying the action in HD quality, including a new screen overlooking the Veuve Clicquot Lawn. Live action from the Test Match cricket (Wednesday) and Premier League (Saturday lunchtime) will be shown on the big screen above the Roberto Bar at the heart of Grandstand & Paddock.
William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, concluded “The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival is simply the highlight of our year. With the record investment in prize money, the stellar entries, ongoing investment across the site and all the countless initiatives and innovations, this year looks set to be a landmark event of top quality racing action as well as a tremendous social and fashion event. I very much hope racegoers, punters and viewers will enjoy the feast on offer.”