Ripon Racecourse

Published: 15/08/2013

Situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales of Ripon, North Yorkshire, the Ripon Racecourse is often referred to as the “Garden Racecourse,” owing to the surrounding region’s colourful flowerbeds and well-kept lawns. The course is used exclusively for flat racing and features a right-handed oval track measuring one mile and five furlongs in length, including a five-furlong finishing straight and a six-furlong chute. Some 15~16 race meetings are held per year between April and September, with the most valuable race of the season being a £70,000 heritage handicap called the Great St. Wilfrid.

A History of Great Racing

For more than 300 years, the market town of Ripon has hosted some of the most exciting, prestigious and enjoyable racing in Great Britain. The first races in the area took place on Bondgate Green in 1664, and this was the site of Britain’s first race for female riders in 1723. Ripon was also the first course to install a children’s playground (two exist now) and first to host a Children’s Day meeting, which continues to this day each August.

In the mid-19th century, the local racecourse occupied land on the north side of the Ure River along the road to Thirsk and adjacent to the railway station. Racing was moved to the present site in August of 1900, roughly eleven miles from Harrogate and Thirsk rail stations and 27 mils from York.

Among the many races held at Ripon Racecourse, several reflect the town’s rich local history in their titles, such as the Horn Blower Stakes, the Bell-Ringer Stakes and the Ripon Rowels Stakes. The main feature of the season, inaugurated in 1986, is the Great St. Wilfrid Handicap Stakes, which is named after the patron saint of Ripon and has been sponsored by high street bookmaker William Hill since 1994. Another big race is the Ripon Champion Two-Year-Old Trophy, which award a gold cup that was given to the racecourse by legendary owner/breeder Jim Joel. And there is also the £50,000 DBS St Leger Yearling Stakes, which is run over a distance of six furlongs.

Ripon Racecourse has long bit a hit with racing enthusiasts. It was voted the “Best Small Racecourse in the North” by the Racegoers Club in 2003, a title which Ripon regaining in 2009 and then again in 2011. Among jockeys who have done well on this track are Neil Callan and Paul Hanagan, while Kevin Ryan, who has stables nearby, has been lauded as Ripon’s top trainer of late.

Racing at Ripon Today

Among the many highlights of the annual race season at Ripon Racecourse are Ripon’s “Big Night Out” and Family Day in May, Ladies’ Day in June and the opening day of the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival in July. Others include the three big fixtures in August—Children’s Day, William Hill Great St. Wilfrid Day and the Ripon Champion Two-Year-Old Trophy.

Ripon counts itself as one of the few racecourses in Britain to boast a permanent giant screen, which is located opposite the main stand to provide clear footage of the action and add to the excitement of each race. There are three separate enclosures at the course—the Club Stand, Paddock Enclosure and Course Enclosure in the centre of the track.

The Club Stand offers access to all public areas, including the Paddock and grandstand seats, with prominent finish post viewing. It also has excellent facilities for dining and drinking, including the Club Dining Room with it full waitress served menu, lunch and afternoon tea, the Silks and Saddles Restaurant for a self-service meat & fish buffet, St. Wilfrid Bar for sandwiches and the Champagne Bar featuring seafood specialities. Smart/casual attire is required.

The Paddock Enclosure is home to the new Theakstons Terrace Bar, Fountains Café, the Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop and three fine drinking establishments—Wakeman Bar, Jim Joel Bar and the Champagne Bar. The Course Enclosure also has basic betting and food/bar facilities, plus it is a great location for families and to have a picnic. There is no formal dress code for the Paddock or Course Enclosures.

Admission to the Course Enclosure starts at just £6 on standard racedays. For the Paddock and Club Enclosures, the ticket prices are £13 and £20, respectively. Five different types of packages are available, such as a feature day BBQ Package that provides Paddock admission, a burger or hotdog with greens and jacket potato, a beverage (wine, beer, tea, coffee or hot chocolate), a free racecard voucher and a free £2 bet for just £25.50 per person. The Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum packages offer upgraded seating and meals for £21 to £41.50, depending on the enclosure and raceday selected.

Published on: 15/08/2013

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