Cut-price bubbly adds fizz to Ebor

Punters get behind their horse during the third race at York
Punters get behind their horse during the third race at York
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ONE of the exhibitors at this week’s four-day York Ebor Festival had been told the streets of York and Harrogate were “paved with gold.”

It is the main reason he is here.

But you need not be among Yorkshire’s richest to savour a champagne occasion where value and mass popularity is the name of the game.

The opening day of yesterday’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival featured a swelling crowd intent on letting their hair down.

In warm yet comfortable conditions, racegoers from the well-heeled to the sharp-suited swarmed around the Festival’s vast array of attractions from fashion shows and art stalls to restaurants and bars.

Once again, the event had something of a Royal Ascot feel – only this time those savouring a summer glass of bubbly were doing so at around half the price.

York racecourse often plays host to the rich and famous with Harry Redknapp expected to be present tomorrow to see a horse he part owns – Moviesta – strut his stuff in the Nunthorpe Stakes.

Yet clerk of the course and chief executive William Derby also fully understands a Yorkshire racegoer’s thirst for value – literally – with Derby admitting champagne prices are around half that of Royal Ascot’s very much by design.

“Hopefully one of the main things we provide is value for money and the price of champagne is something we work very hard at,” Derby told the Yorkshire Post.

“We work very closely with champagne houses to try and offer a really great champagne at great value prices so that people enjoy their day and we worked out that we sell the most champagne bottles per thousand racegoers than any other track in the country so it certainly works! It’s our thing. A bottle of Mercier is £30.50 and we are selling house champagne at £29.50 so it’s about half the price of some other venues.

“Hopefully at the heart of what we offer is high, great, quality horse racing but added on to that there is the fashion aspect, the social aspect and hopefully the good value for money.

“You can park here for free and if you come to the county stand we will give you a racecard with your admission.

“It’s about great entertainment, great sport and a great day out.”

Landing a winner makes it even sweeter and a horse part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – 5-4 favourite Telescope – proved yesterday’s main crowd-pleaser.

But the crisp notes in the bookmakers’ satchels are not the only prizes on offer this week thanks to the ‘Fashion At The Ebor’ tent and its best-dressed lady competitions. They offer daily prizes such as holidays and hotel stays plus hats, jewellery, handbags and champagne.

As designer and director of headwear purveyor Yvette Jelfs, puts it: “Each day there are prizes so if you come racing and don’t win on the horses you can win something here.”

On the flip side there are countless opportunities to spend hard-earned cash with John Thorley’s Equestrian Art one of many fine art exhibitors.

Thorley had travelled all the way up from Canterbury for his first exhibition at York and said: “I was told the streets were paved with gold in York and Harrogate so we thought coming here would be perfect.” Perfect indeed – especially when champagne is only £30 a bottle.

Expert offers long odds on weather

AT least 80,000 racegoers are expected over this week’s four-day Ebor Festival - with chief executive William Derby preparing for a Saturday sun dance.

One year on from an almighty deluge of rain on Ladies’ Day, Derby said: “It was a real mixed picture last year as we had three great days’ weather and that one cloudburst. This week it’s set fair – largely dry but the chance of a shower they say, though on Saturday they are low in confidence in what the forecast is. I phoned the Met Office and the fellow I spoke to said he had have never been less confident about a forecast in his professional career. What that means I’m not too sure!”