York Racecourse counts among Europe’s premier tracks, having recently won the prestigious Flat Racecourse of the Year Award. It has also been ranked above all other British racecourses in a survey conducted by The Times newspaper.
With a rich history tracing back to the Roman era, York has supported racing since the days of the Emperor Severus. Little is known of those early days, but city records show formal meetings held from 1530 onwards. The earliest improved track was at Clifton Ings, but because it was prone to flooding, a new horseshoe-shaped circuit was established in 1730 at Knavesmire, the site of the current York Racecourse.
The York Racecourse Committee, which is now part of York Knavesmire LLP, has managed racing at York since 1842. The group introduced the Gimcrack Stakes, one of York’s most enduring races, as well as the York Ebor Festival, which dates back to 1843, when the title race was run over one-mile eight-furlongs and originally known as the Great Ebor Handicap.
Race Days at York
Today, the annual York Ebor meeting is staged over four days in mid-August on the famed Knavesmire racecourse, right in the very heart of the city of York. It promises pure quality all the way, offering world-class horse racing action for connoisseurs of the sport along with an outstanding array of betting opportunities for punters worldwide.
In 2011, the Festival launches on a Wednesday with the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, an event much-anticipated by the betting public with thousands on the gate. Opening day also includes the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, which is considered to be a key trial for the ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster in September.
Day Two is always crowded, as it sees the running of the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, a Group 1 race that receives heavy attention from handicappers. On Friday, Day Three, another Group 1 race is the focus—the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes. It has become one of the top sprint events in Europe. And then on the final day, Saturday, the fixture commanding the spotlight is the Totesport Ebor Handicap, rated among the biggest betting races of the Flat season.
The best venues for viewing the action are the five-tier grandstand erected in 1965, the Melrose Stand built in 1989, and the award-winning Knavesmire Stand, which has conference facilities and opened in 1996. The ultra-modern Ebor Stand, constructed in 2003, features the best seats of all in its Nunthorpe Suite, but they are not available to the general public during the Festival. Instead, they are reserved for the exclusive use of Annual Badgeholders.
Betting at York
Bookmakers claim that the York Ebor Festival is one of the busiest betting events of the summer. The concentration of Group 1 races attracting top performers, along with an undercard aimed at aspiring stars from the juvenile division, produces fast and furious betting. And the crowning event, the Ebor itself, can today boast of being Europe’s richest handicap race.
Punters and bookmakers both begin monitoring the York Ebor odds market weeks before the actual race. Ante-post wagering is heavy. Then, any sign of odds tumbling on race day will bring on an avalanche of betting.
Given its long history, it comes as no surprise that the Ebor Handicap has produced a good share of celebrities, including Italian thoroughbred trainer Luca Cumani, among others. His steeds won the race three times in the decade just past and any horse of his can be expected to attract big money.
Those who wait till race day to make their wagers trackside have plenty of options. Bets start at just £2 and can be placed in several ways: with the Tote, at any of three betting rings, or by using a Totesport betting point. There are more than 300 of the latter located around the course, so one is always nearby.