The team at York Racecourse were delighted to welcome back some of the world’s best horses and an increased number of race fans to York for the signature Welcome the Yorkshire Ebor Festival (18 to 21 August), after such a challenging time for the country and the sporting leisure sector.
Enthusiastic race fans turned out in greater numbers than back in 2019 with 84,021 (+1.1%) racegoers being treated to some stunning equine performances and four days of a Yorkshire welcome, hospitality, fashion and joie de vivre.
Summing up the event, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, William Derby said, “It was just tremendous to have the magic of Ebor back – wonderful performances on the track from some of the world’s best horses, fabulous fashion and hospitality and a huge sense of exuberance and enjoyment of finally being back able to enjoy live sporting drama. To slightly increase our attendance on 2019, after such a challenging period for everyone, and to sell out stand side on Sky Bet Ebor Saturday at 30,000 for the first time in the modern era, was quite remarkable. The whole team have reported the sense of excitement and buzz around the Racecourse, created by such an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and pleased-to-be-back crowd. We are hugely appreciative of the support of connections for bringing what was a record number of horses (363) to race at York, and to everyone who made the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2021 such a magical and spine tingling four days.”
The three Group One races each saw performances worthy of the decision to reinstate their valuable prize money at their record 2019 levels. The £1m Juddmonte International – the Longines World’s Best Race – produced a worthy champion for the John and Thady Gosden trained Mishriff, in the colours of Prince Faisal, taking Mishriff’s career winnings beyond £11m. Securing her second win at York this season for Aidan O’Brien, the highest rated three-year-old filly in training, Snowfall, took the Darley Yorkshire in a fashion that confirms her superstar status.
Friday was a simply unforgettable day on the track with local heroine, Winter Power, blitzing the fastest horses in the world to secure the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe for Yorkshire trainer, Tim Easterby, and King Power Racing. Before that, we had welcomed back the recently retired and two-time winner of the race and track record-holder, Battaash, to parade in front of the packed grandstands under Jim Crowley, by kind permission of Sheikha Hissa and Charlie Hills. The most emotional race of the week was a spellbinding duel between Spanish Mission and Stradivarius in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup which saw the latter headed twice but just prevail by the smallest of margins to secure his hattrick of Lonsdale Cup wins. The packed grandstands were also a record for Ebor Friday at 18,953, up 19% on 2019, and created a huge roar as these two wonderful stayers battled it out on York’s home straight.
The Saturday of the meeting saw the largest crowd of the week cheer home Sonnyboyliston to become, jockey turned trainer, Johnny Murtagh’s second winner of Europe’s richest flat handicap, the Sky Bet Ebor. That meant the prize of £5,000 in the inaugural Ebor Community Hero initiative went to John Hendricks and a further £15,000 to his nominated charity. The project, which reflected our times, was to thank, celebrate and reward some of the countless thousands who have served our communities over the challenging pandemic of the last 17 months. Out of the many entries, the shortlisted 22 enjoyed full hospitality on the day, having each been assigned a runner in the Sky Bet Ebor and hence John taking the prize.
On all four days, a huge number of racegoers participated in the York Gin Ebor Fashion Lawn, enjoying a catwalk experience and winning fabulous prizes, courtesy of the headline sponsor, as well as fashion partner, Coast, with the further support of Sky Bet offering a day out to the English Football League and The Potions Cauldron & Hole in Wand, some treats for the younger generation.
It could be said Yorkshire had a good week both on and off the track. Copper Knight took the opening contest so recording his sixth win at York – a record for any modern-day horse – and there was more Yorkshire trained winners courtesy of Mark Johnston, Roger Fell and Karl Burke. Overall, the action on the track justified the £4.7m invested in prize money.
Throw in the brass bands, the selfie walls, the parachute displays and the Yorkshire sourced food – it was a memorable renewal.