Next week at York: record prize money, top horses and sensational fashion

York Racecourse: “This year looks set to be a landmark event,” says chief executive William Derby. Photo: York Racecourse

The Yorkshire Ebor Festival will offer record prize money approaching £5 million and is set to attract some of the top-rated Thoroughbreds in the world to the Knavesmire for York’s flagship meeting, over four days of racing action from next Wednesday (August 22-25).

The stellar racing action forms the centrepiece 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 (a six percent rise) is largely focused this year on Sky Bet Ebor Saturday, where the feature contest for 4-year olds and upwards becomes the joint richest flat handicap in Europe with prize money of £500,000. A 75 percent 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 four races on August 25 have increased in value, the Sky Bet Melrose offering 3-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 G3 Tattersalls Acomb on August 22 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 G1 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 30th 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 Thursday (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 King's Stand at Royal Ascot. This pair and most likely 18 others compete 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 G2s for juvenile fillies and colts, respectively.

The seven-furlong Sky Bet City of York Stakes, which will now offer £180,000, switched to Saturday. It continues to be Britain’s richest G3 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. 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, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and the Qatar Goodwood Cup.

On all four days, standside racegoers will be able to watch and participate in the Ebor Fashion Lawn. 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. 

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 25 races.  In 2017, Jim Crowley took top honours with four winners.  

Among the trainers, Malton-based Richard Fahey is already enjoying an incredible season on the Knavesmire, with a remarkable 15 winners so far, as well as eight seconds, seeing him sit proud at the top of the Charles Clinkard-backed leaderboard and on course for a ninth York seasonal title.

The global nature of the top-quality competition is reflected with the three G1s 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.  

All runners will carry speed-sensing equipment from Coursetrack, which is working in partnership with Racecourse Media Group 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.

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.”

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