Guide to York Racecourse

York Racecourse – Home of the York Ebor – has a long and fascinating history. Starting in Roman times, via Dick Turpin to Vatican and Royal connections.

York Races News from Eclipse

About York Racecourse

Flat

Emperor Severeus

Horses raced at York during the days of the Emperor Severeus during the Roman occupation of Britain over 2,000 years ago. Records from York Corporation showed that racing first took place in the City in 1530 and in 1607 horses competed across a frozen River Ouse.

Dick Turpin

In 1731 York Racecourse re-located to the Knavesmire, where gallows were first erected in 1379. This area was the site of public hangings until 1801 when they were deemed bad for the city’s image and the gallows were moved to a slightly more discreet location near the castle. Their most famous customer was Dick Turpin, who met his end in Knavesmire on 7th April 1739. 

World’s First Grandstand

In 1757 York opened racing’s first grandstand (in the world), designed by local architect, John Carr. 

York Racecourse Committee

The course was made circular in 1844 after the formation of the York Racecourse Committee in 1842, which still runs the venue to this day.

Voltigeur & The Flying Dutchman – 150,000 watched

In May 1851 York Racecourse hosted the most famous match in British horseracing history: between Voltigeur and The Flying Dutchman, run over 2 miles for 1,000 guineas a side. The Flying Dutchman, a 5-year-old, had won the Epsom Derby and Doncaster St Leger at Doncaster in 1849, while 4-year-old Voltigeur had achieved the same in 1850. Two days after his St Leger victory, Voltigeur beat The Flying Dutchman in the Doncaster Cup, and a rematch was set for the following spring at York Races. Admiral Rous assigned the weights to allow for the age difference between the horses. His weight-for-age calculations are still broadly followed today. He decided The Flying Dutchman, the older horse, should concede 8½ pounds to his rival (The Flying Dutchman carried 8 stone 8½ pounds and Voltigeur 8 stone). The match attracted a crowd of 150,000 – and they were well rewarded: Voltigeur set the pace, but The Flying Dutchman kept close, and in the final furlong passed Voltigeur to win by a length. 

Jump vs Flat

Jump racing took place at York Racecourse between 1867 and 1885 but Flat racing was always at the heart of the venue. 

Royal Ascot at York

Because of the quality of its course York was chosen to host Royal Ascot when Ascot was undergoing redevelopment in 2005 the St Leger in 2006 when Doncaster was being refurbished.

Ebor Down the Drain

In 2008 the the first four-day Ebor Festival of modern times had to be abandoned due to record rainfall. Subsequently a £2.5 million drainage project installed 24 miles of drainage pipes, 308 sprinkler heads and 452 lateral drains to ensure the course would (hopefully) never be under water again.

Dignitaries

York’s many distinguished visitors include Pope John Paul II, who said open-air mass for over 200,000 pilgrims during his visit to Britain in 1982; and Her Majesty The Queen who attended all five days of Royal Ascot at York in 2005. Princess Anne also rode a winner in the Queen Mother’s Cup aboard Insular on 11th June 1988.

Important Races/Festivals

Directions

  • Road: The course is just outside the city of York with good motorway links on the M1 and A1.
  • Rail: The course is 1 mile from York station.
  • Website: www.yorkracecourse.co.uk
  • Telephone: 01904 620911

The York Racecourse Directory - Local Services

Travelling to York Races? Want to know where to stay, where to eat, where to get your hair and nails done? How about where the best pubs are and the name of a reliable taxi? We can help. Check back frequently – this section is updated on a regular basis. 

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