A wonderful week of racing at York once again delivered heroes and heroines as Ulysses claimed the first £1m Juddmonte International with flying fillies Enable and Marsha landing the Darley Yorkshire Oaks and Coolmore Nunthorpe respectively.
With record prize money of £4.4million attracting over 340 runners, including star Thoroughbreds from the USA, plus six trainers from the home county (Paul Midgley, Tim Easterby, Kevin Ryan, David O’Meara, Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey) amongs the winners, it was truly a great week of sporting action.
The final day of the Festival saw Nakeeta come down from Dumfries to land Iain 'Scobie' Jardine the richest flat handicap in Europe, the Betfred Ebor, in front of the biggest crowd of the week as approaching 27,500 racegoers finally got a chance to enjoy some sunshine.
Over the four days, the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2017 attracted over 80,000 racegoers. Hardly surprising after the deluge of rain on Wednesday that this is a modest decline from last year’s meeting, which was staged earlier in August, so also avoiding a clash with Bank Holiday short breaks and other major local attractions.
On the opening day, the highest-rated race in Britain, £1,000,000 Juddmonte International fully justified its prize money as Ulysses provided Sir Michael Stoute with a sixth win in York’s richest contest and a first such triumph for champion jockey Jim Crowley. The much anticipated clash with the winner of the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas (Churchill) and St James’s Palace hero (Barney Roy) delivered a thrilling final furlong as the trio come to the fore.
Appropriately for Ladies Day, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks confirmed Enable as the star European middle-distance filly of the season with the dual English and Irish Oaks winner adding the Yorkshire variety to her glittering CV, in the silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Friday saw Pattern races over the longest and shortest distances of the week, yet both were only decided after a photo finish. Success for Montaly in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup and Marsha in the Coolmore Nunthorpe meant dramatic disappointment for The Queen as well as for Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori after Dartmouth and Lady Aurelia fell the wrong side of the judge’s rule.
Drama continued to part of the action right up to the very last contest, when the richest apprentice race in Britain ended in a dead heat between Holmeswood and Intense Romance. A rare occurrence in itself, what made it all the more remarkable was that both horses were trained by Michael Dods and that one of the young riders, Callum Rodriquez, had won the Betfred Ebor itself, just 90 minutes earlier.
Always a key part of the European racing calendar, the Festival includes four races that are part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
That no jockey managed more than four winners from 25 contests shows just how competitive the racing was over the four days. That total of four proved sufficient for Jim Crowley to secure the Ray Gilpin Award, backed by Sky Bet.
For the first time in the modern era, ITV Racing was the host broadcaster and strong viewing figures over the week are a tribute to the knowledge, enthusiasm and sense of fun that the presentation team, led by Ed Chamberlain and Francesca Cumani, brought to the Knavesmire. New features such as the 'towercam', the 'batcam' and the 'wash down cam' all added insight for viewers. Many commented on the feature with Richard Fahey or the close-ups of farrier Scott Mackie, working fast at the start of a race to reshoe a runner.
Fashion is always an integral part of the occasion and a record number of racegoers went down the Ebor Fashion Lawn catwalk. The feature prize of a trip to go racing in Dubai - courtesy of Marriott Hotels - was claimed by Rachel and Stuart Walsworth from Leeds.
The experience of the recent refurbishment of the Edwardian Weighing Room and the wider £10m redevelopment of the Northern End of the racecourse continued to be a benefit to racegoers, serving a range of locally sourced food and drinks.
The Duke of York, Patron of York Racecourse since 2015, visited the Knavesmire on Wednesday and presented the Juddmonte International trophy to member of the Niarchos family.
On the opening and closing day, parachute display teams, the RAF Falcons and Silver Stars of the Royal Logistics Corps, dropped in to the cheers of the crowd.
Reflecting on another memorable week, Lord Grimthorpe, Chairman of York Racecourse as well as racing manager to Juddmonte, said, “There was a great atmosphere at the course all week. I’m delighted that the decision to increase the prize money attracted such strong fields, reflecting an increased number of runners that in turn produced thrilling racing. Add in the sense of occasion that the Ebor Fashion Lawn created and spontaneous fun generated by the live music and it all adds up to a great four days. Racegoers have enjoyed the Yorkshire food, which celebrates our use of local ingredients.”
Commenting on the meeting, William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, said, “Ebor 2017 will undoubtedly be remembered for the wonderful equine performances and the human stories linked to them. The racecourse team of over 2,000 staff and partners has put in a huge amount of work and I am grateful to them, the horsemen, our sponsors and racegoers for their tremendous support of the meeting.”
As the festival becomes a fond memory and before it returns on Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, the sporting crowds can look forward to the next raceday on Sunday, 10 September, when both the Pony Race Series and Paddington come to the Knavesmire.