Action for the 2022 season at York Racecourse gets underway with the three-day Dante Festival starting on Wednesday 11 May. With a record investment across the season of £10m in prize money (up c£1.2m on previous high in 2019), as well as the continuing improvements to the facilities for racegoers, connections and horses, not to mention a full programme of entertainment with bonus features across an 18-day season.
Prize money over the three days of the Dante Festival is £1.35m, meaning a six-figure increase on 2019, with every worth £20,000 or more. All eight of the Pattern grade contests see a significant increase on their 2019 values. It should mean a feast of top-quality action welcomes back racegoers after a two-year absence from a fixture that is a firm favourite with racing fans.
Wednesday’s now £125,000 Tattersalls Musidora is one of thirty-one races across the York season to offer at least a six-figure sum to connections. A feature race for three-year-old fillies, the Musidora has proved to be a leading form indicator for the Cazoo Oaks, with seven champion fillies that have gone on to achieve Classic glory, including Snowfall who added a hattrick of Oaks (English, Irish and Yorkshire) to her victory in 2021. Trained by Aidan O’Brien she went on to be crowned Three-Year-Old Filly of the Year for her owners, Coolmore. Typically, fillies from the Musidora return as older horses to contest the £140,000 Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes on the Thursday of the Festival.
The subsequent champion sprinter of the season is regularly seen in the fastest contest of the week, the Group Two 1895 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, staged over six furlongs, so expect to see the winner in the mix for all the summer’s big sprints. This year’s renewal could include Romantic Proposal, a Group One Winner who carries the colours of race sponsor, Steve Parkin.
The Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante, the race that gives the Festival its name by honouring the last Yorkshire trained winner of the Derby back in 1945, is staged on Thursday. This Group Two contest, offering a record prize fund of £175,000 is likely to attract colts capable of becoming the eleventh thoroughbred to achieve the Knavesmire/Epsom double, with the most recent being Golden Horn.
The British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes for three-year-old sprinters is one of three Listed contests during the Festival with eye catching prize money of £65,000.
Friday’s principal race, The Yorkshire Cup, boasts a new sponsor in Paddy Power, with the well-known brand also becoming the betting partner to the Dante Festival. The Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup has £175,000 on offer to the leading stayers over one mile and three-quarters, a valuable and highly rated Group Two ‘Cup’ race. Unbeaten at York, two-time winner of this race, Stradivarius will be looking to join Copper Knight as the “winningmost” horse on the Knavesmire if he can secure a sixth triumph. Friday’s renewal is part of the Qipco British Champions Series, the first of five York contests that are part of this special series of the top races in Britain.
A Listed race on the final day showcases the star fillies of tomorrow, backed by both Knights Solicitors and the European Breeders’ Fund, the Marygate has proven a steppingstone to contests such as the Queen Mary and Sky Bet Lowther; the first such contest of the season is recognised with prize money of £65,000.
The new season at York Racecourse, will see the County Stand Champagne Pavilion given a bright new look, complete with huge HD televisions that will keep those sipping a glass of Moet in touch with the action. Elsewhere the return of the County Stand Garden for the duration of the season and the new Roberto Village Bar will both play a significant role in improving speed of service between races. The fresh look continues with the main restaurant in Grandstand and Paddock being given a new name, the 1731 Pie Shop, a clear indication of its homemade signature dishes, as well as being a nod to the founding season on the Knavesmire. The smell of both fresh paint and newly laid carpet (a special White Rose design from Axminster) will be added to the scent of flowers grown in the track’s award-winning nursery, as the team welcome back racegoers.
Facilities for horses have been further enhanced, notably in the Stableside area, where a rolling programme of improvements has seen a further unloading ramp, additional and improved horse showers as well as an improved equine walkway from the stables to the main racecourse. York has a proud history of some of the strongest average field sizes in British racing, these improvements are designed to further improve the experience for the stars of our show and the teams who devote their working lives to their wellbeing.
The opening race sees leading on-line bookmaker, Sky Bet, sponsors of the £500,000 Ebor Handicap in August, continue their support by backing a valuable staying-distance handicap contest over one mile and a half. The second of the Race to the Ebor Series, the winner will be guaranteed a berth in the richest flat handicap of the year (subject to entering, confirming & declaring in the normal manner). Longstanding and valued supporter Churchill Tyres sponsor a valuable handicap race over six furlongs. Conundrum Human Resources return to the venue where they provide professional services, to back a competitive-looking handicap. Novice two-year-olds take their opportunity in a contest under the European Breeders’ Fund banner, one of a record twenty-two contests over the season to receive the generous backing of the EBF. While leading horse consignor Mark Dwyer’s Oaks Farm Stables continue their generous support of a Listed contest for fillies over a mile on the final day.
Two new sponsors to the Festival, Fidomoney and FWP Architects complete the line-up for Thursday, a seven-race card offering £500,000 in prize money.
The three-year-old sprinters progressing through the handicap ranks will have their opportunity as a race for them over five furlongs is run under the banner of Longines Irish Champions Weekend, showcasing the links between York and Horse Racing Ireland in promoting the feature meeting in September at Leopardstown and the Curragh. More locally, the Yorkshire Equine Practice continue to back a valuable handicap.
On Dante Friday, York will be encouraging new owners to embrace the sport, as it stages an event specially to promote syndicate and partnership ownership. More than a dozen syndicate operators will be on hand to talk to racegoers and share the joys of being involved with horses. Before racing on Friday there will be a chance for racegoers to see a parade of horses available for syndicate ownership.
Tim Easterby begins the defence of what was his second leading trainer title at York with competition again set to be fierce for the Charles Clinkard backed Top Trainer Trophy. Tom Marquand bagged his first leading rider title on the Knavesmire last season, demonstrating the competitive nature of the action on the Knavesmire, as riders battle for the Living North Magazine Top Jockey Trophy.
York are pleased to welcome a return of complimentary guided behind the scenes tours before racing and minibus trips to the start for racegoers. These will be taken by former professional jockey and winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Robert Earnshaw, as another example of initiatives to further explain the sport and get racegoers closer to the action.
On Thursday and Friday, racegoers will get their first chance to meet the newly appointed equine ambassador to the Knavesmire, Remy. Now aged thirteen, the retired racehorse will be better known to fans of the sport as Goldream, the dual Group One winning sprinter for Robert Cowell. Set to visit across the season, he will showcase the work of New Beginnings, a local charity that helps horses with new careers once their racing days have drawn to a close.
The appropriate use of technology is a recurring theme at the track voted as Best in Britain by both the Racegoers Club and Racehorse Owners Association when last awarded in 2019, as an example, credit card & contactless payment is available at all the permanent food and drinks outlets. In a fun use of modern methods, a 360-selfie stage, will be in operation offering racegoers a complimentary memory sent to their phones.
The Tote Guarantee scheme will be in operation on all three days, offering a strong reason for racegoers to use the pool-based betting operation that is so closely aligned with the health of UK racing. Punters will get detailed information as well as away racing on the dedicated television channel known as DAR, as it is focused on Data and Away Racing.
York will be supporting Racing Welfare in its Mental Health Awareness week activity, with a particular focus on Thursday.
As well as racegoer enjoyment, their safety remains a priority for everyone at the course. The support of North Yorkshire Police will be evident throughout the season, assisted by their canine colleagues as appropriate.
For further details about the Dante Festival and the season ahead, please visit York’s website on www.yorkracecourse.co.uk