The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival will offer record prize money of well over £5 million, so looks set to attract the highest rated horse in the world (Crystal Ocean), the highest rated mare in the world (Enable), the highest rated filly in the world (Magical) and the highest rated stayer in the world (Stradivarius) for York’s flagship meeting, over four spectacular days of racing action from Wednesday 21 to Saturday 24 August.
The stellar racing action forms the centre-piece 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 (as voted by the Racegoers Club in each of 2016, 2017 & 2018).
The increase in prize money of more than £600,000 is largely focused this year on Sky Bet Ebor Saturday, where the feature contest for four year olds and upwards becomes the richest flat handicap in Europe with prize money of £1,000,000; double that of last year.
York’s ongoing commitment to the sport and its partnership with Sky Bet has also meant that the Sky Bet City of York on Ebor day, will offer a record purse of £225,000 (+25%) reflecting its upgrade to Group Two status. Darling of Yorkshire racing, Laurens, has been entered by Owner John Dance.
Earlier in the week, both the Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks and Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes will see their prize money rise to £400,000; an increase of £50,000 on 2018. The highest rated mare in the world, Enable, is set to contest the former, with the highest rated sprinters in Europe (Ten Sovereigns & Battaash) contesting the big sprint.
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.
Independently ranked in the top five races in the world last year, the Group 1 Juddmonte International, also has £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. Star of Mark Johnston’s Middleham stable, Elarqam, has been given a supplementary entry and so is set to take on Crystal Ocean, the Sir Michael Stoute- trained thoroughbred who sits atop the world rankings.
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 Group 2s for juvenile fillies and colts, respectively.
From sprinters to stayers on Friday, with the richest ever renewal of Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup, offering £225,000 for the best stayer, joining the Group One races as the fourth contest to be part of the Qipco British Champions Series. A celebration of the best races of the season that culminates at the richest day of racing in this country, Qipco British Champions Day, in October. The support of Qipco is clear on all four days; with the BCS racemakers in attendance to help guide less experienced visitors around the racecourse and share their knowledge. Once again the Lonsdale is the final leg of the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Bonus with Stradivarius in contention for the £1 million bonus, having won the Matchbook Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Qatar Goodwood Cup.
York Racecourse and its home city are the only European destination amongst the 39 communities spread over six countries that will host the 17th annual Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour. The famous three handled Gold Cup, valued at £100,000, will be on secure display to racegoers on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; alongside the Sky Bet Ebor Trophy. As part of the partnership between the two tracks, the Winning Owners in the Sky Bet Ebor will receive a fabulous trip to Melbourne with exclusive invitations and VIP treatment for the Carnival. A lucky ticket in a Sky Bet supported raffle will see two racegoers travel to Melbourne to experience the race that stops a nation; the unlucky ticket-holders will have played their part in supporting New Beginnings, as all proceeds will go to this local “life after racing” charity.
Continuing the support of good causes, this is the first year of the Sky Bet Ebor Community Fund; an initiative that will award a local charity or community group a £5,000 grant; each good cause will be allocated a runner in the Sky Bet Ebor with the winning horse earning its partner, the cash.
On all four days, stand-side racegoers will be able to watch and participate in the Slingsby Ebor Fashion Lawn by simply registering before 12.30pm. The eye-catching, flower-clad catwalk, set in the picturesque surroundings in front of the Edwardian Weighing Room, will offer a touch of “modern vintage”. A panel of judges will cast an expert eye over the preparations and attire before them, ready to decide winners on each day. On Thursday, the best dressed racegoer will win a very special prize, courtesy of Al Basti Equiworld, a short break for two people to Dubai including a trip to Meydan Racecourse. There will also be prizes for “Best Hat, Best Dressed Gent, Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Child and Best Dressed Couple” on each day. A rising star of the millinery world, Georgina Durdy, will be on hand to help assess the style and match hats to outfits.
Expect to see a host of world-class jockeys competing for top honours at the Welcome to Yorkshire 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 twenty-five races.
The global nature of the top quality competition is reflected with the three Group Ones 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. The Juddmonte International is the only contest in Europe to be designated as a “win and you’re in contest” for the Breeders Cup Classic. 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.
There is horsepower of a different nature on display in the foyer of the Knavesmire Stand with the latest Volvos on show, courtesy of Ray Chapman Motors.
On Ladies Day and the closing day of the four day meeting at 1.20pm, parachute display teams are set to drop in on the Knavesmire with the RAF Falcons on Thursday and the Silver Stars of the Royal Logistics Corps on Ebor Saturday.
The first four races on each of the four days will be broadcast live on ITV1, in addition to every race being covered live on Racing TV and SIS. GBI Racing will be transmitting the event to over 30 countries around the world. Ed Chamberlin and Francesca Cumani will head the BATFA winning ITV coverage which will feature use of the “Batcam” as well as capturing the fun with fashion experts, Mark Heyes and Charlotte Hawkins. For the first time, the festival will be broadcast live on NBC in the USA as well as on the national broadcasters of both Canada and Poland.
All runners will carry speed sensing equipment from Coursetrack who are working in partnership with Racecourse Media Group (RMG) to continue the development of sectional timings and race data information. The intention is that the results, 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.
This is only the second ever Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival for the renamed Clocktower Enclosure, the grassed infield area which runs parallel to the final furlong of the track. Retaining its great views back towards the main stands, it benefited from a £5 million improvement scheme in 2018. Main contractor, Lindum York, delivered two large, modern toilet blocks at either end of the grass banking, a row of canopies either side of the famous Clocktower that offer catering and betting facilities as well as some racegoer cover, improved access for pushchairs and wheelchairs plus a refurbishment of the turnstiles. The on the day entrance price for this Enclosure is just £12 with accompanied under 18’s free of charge. It is the first year for the Premier Racing Lounge, a space that offers a special atmosphere and reserved seating on the ground floor of the Melrose Stand, already popular with racegoers, it has sold out for this big week.
Away from the track, a brigade of some 80 chefs, backed by a wider raceday team of over two thousand staff, will provide the welcome, services and treats that come with a major sporting event. Seafood will be delivered from the Yorkshire coast every morning including 2,000 crabs, joining Dales lamb and 3,000 home-made beef burgers, Hawes cheeses, 6,000 fresh baked fruit scones and locally made dairy ice cream, on the various menus. Extending the White Rose provenance this year will be fresh crustaceans provided by the Yorkshire Lobster Company, from the waters off Scarborough.
Partner Moët et Chandon support the meeting with Mercier champagne priced at £38, Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial NV at £56 and selected bars stocking York’s house champagne at even less.
An additional place to enjoy food and drinks this year is the Garden Pavilion, a pre-booked area that offers exactly what it sounds like, a beautiful garden in the centre of the course to compliment the hospitality and sporting action.
York is proud of its flowers and floral displays growing many of its displays and plants from seed or seedling and last year won a RHS Yorkshire in Bloom Gold Award. Very much a signature of 2018, the Ebor Festival this year will offer a new “selfie flower wall” by the Parade Ring for racegoers to show off their fashion and capture the moment on social media. So it is easier to share these images or also send pictures of the ice sculptures and chocolate fountains in the main restaurants, or simply to capture the feel good factor, racegoers will be able to use the free Wi-Fi service installed at the track by local tech firm, York Data Services.
Over the week, those seeking musical entertainment will have their choice, as Yorkshire based jazz and brass bands perform on the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn, with Murphy’s Marbles playing their own blend of Irish foot stomping, good time tunes. Local bands, The Monotones and Paradise Lane, will play to racegoers after the last race into the early evening on each of the four racedays from the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn.
There will be a record number of eight giant screens relaying the action in HD quality, including a screen overlooking the both the Veuve Clicquot & Roberto Lawns. Live action from the Ashes Test Match cricket (Thursday onwards) and Premier League (Saturday lunchtime) will be shown.
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.”