York Racecourse concluded its 2019 season today after another hugely busy and successful year which has seen some of the best horses in the world compete in 122 races over 18 fabulous days of racing action. A record number of 1,488 horses competed for a record of more than £8.8m in prize money, delivering an impressive average field size, which looks set to retain its position as the largest in British flat racing.
Nine of the racedays saw a year on year increase in attendance, including six of the seven Festival occasions in May and August. Some of the other days were unlucky with the weather, especially over Music Showcase Weekend in July.
In other excitements this year, Macmillan Charity Raceday in June raised a record sum of £645,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and other charities, making it the biggest charity raceday in British racing and Macmillan’s largest single fundraising event, having now raised over £8.5m during the last 49 years.
A series of special events marked the longest running commercial sponsorship in flat racing in the world, the Diamond Jubilee of the John Smith’s Cup, including a time capsule, giant flag and some fun photo opportunities for racegoers with sixties themed props.
Showing the variety of its customer offer, York again played host to popular racing+music events, as Busted, Tears For Fears and James Arthur all took to the big stage after racing.
Once again, the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival saw the cream of global equine talent, as each of the then, highest rated horse in the world (Crystal Ocean), highest rated mare in the world (Enable), highest rated filly (Magical), highest rated stayer in the world (Stradivarius) and highest rated sprinter in Europe (Battaash) all went to post in the feature races.
This year the Festival witnessed two races offering £1million in prize money. It was a case of Irish eyes were smiling, as Japan landed the Group 1 Juddmonte International for Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien; whilst Mustajeer gave Ger Lyons victory in the richest flat handicap in Europe, the £1m Sky Bet Ebor.
The balance of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival saw an outstanding four days of racing action with Stradivarius once again taking the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup as the final leg in earning the £1m WH Stayers Bonus, supported by the same sponsors. Enable, the super mare known as “The Queen of the Turf” took the Darley Yorkshire Oaks as the tenth Group One of her sparkling career. One of the most memorable performances came from Battaash, as the Charlie Hills sprinter became the fastest horse of the season in breaking the track record in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe.
The final day saw approaching 19,000 racegoers enjoy a respite from the miserable autumn weather to watch Jason Hart partner Gulliver to success in the Coral Sprint Trophy, for local trainer David O’Meara.
John Gosden was crowned as the Charles Clinkard York Top Trainer; his nine winners included one on each of the first and last days of the season. So the wonderful Skeaping Bronze will be heading to Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket. The conclusion of the season long contest to be top jockey at York saw Thirsk-based Danny Tudhope win the Living North-sponsored contest, for the second time, after nine victories.
All of the action on the track benefitted from the hard work of the York Groundstaff who have been award “Team of the Year” for a flat track, as part of the Racecourse Association Showcase Awards.
Away from the turf spectacle, a new departure in June saw 30,000 Rod Stewart fans enjoy a sell-out open air concert, using a specially constructed venue on the Knavesmire itself.
The 2019 season saw the opening of the Premier Racing Lounge, a brand new concept to racing. Racegoers were able to reserve a specific seat and enjoy the premium feel of an area, with views towards both the finish and winner’s enclosure. Sold Out on sixteen of eighteen days, it seems to have already found favour with racegoers.
William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course at York Racecourse said “What a memorable season 2019 has been. The continued investment in prize money, the track and facilities has been rewarded with tremendous sporting action. Thanks must go to all the horseman and connections of the stars for bringing them to the Knavesmire. York racegoers are rightly lauded for their love of the sport and they have been treated to some of the very best horses ridden by the very best jockeys once again this year.
“It is only proper to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the permanent York Racecourse and York Racecourse Hospitality teams based at the racecourse, it is their efforts that have delivered such a memorable and successful season. The award winning experience for visitors to the Knavesmire is added to by the raceday team and our partners and suppliers who help provide the welcome. 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 2019 and will all 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 Busted will provide 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 each of 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 2020 season starting on Wednesday 13 May”