RECORD prize money at York will top £6m this summer with one of the Ebor festival’s celebrated races renamed in memory of Sir Henry Cecil.
Other highlights include the prize fund for the Juddmonte International, won previously by equine giants like Sea The Stars and Cecil’s record-breaking Frankel, going up by £50,000 to £800,000 – and the three-day Dante festival, May’s early-season meeting, being worth £1m for the first time.
This record investment – a £200,000 increase on 2013 race values – represents a 20 per cent increase in prize money as the York executive look to attract the world’s best horses to Knavesmire.
It is in addition to the £10m programme of improvements already underway to improve facilities for horses and spectators at a venue that attracted in excess of 330,000 racegoers last year.
Course chairman Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to Frankel’s owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, said: “I am delighted York is able to continue to invest in prize money and develop the race programme on the Knavesmire.
“The aim is to continue to attract the very best horses to York and to stage competitive, compelling racing action.
“As with all of these investments, they are only possible because of the unstinting support of the owners, sponsors, partners, racegoers, punters and our commercial operations.
“I believe this investment, coupled with continuing improvements in facilities at York, means that we can look forward to the season ahead with great enthusiasm.”
As well as the significant boost to the Juddmonte International that is now one of Europe’s premier 10-furlong races and which was won by Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War in 2013, this year’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival – from August 20-23 – will be worth a record £3.36m to connections, another significant increase of £150,000.
The historic Betfred Ebor, Europe’s richest handicap, will be worth £265,000 while the seven-furlong City of York Stakes has seen its prize money double to £100,000; typically, York officials hope the Listed race can become a more prestigious Group contest in recognition of its roll of honur that includes Gordon Lord Byron and the locally-trained Quito.
This race will also switch to the Friday of the meeting in place of the Group Three Strensall Stakes which moves to Ebor Saturday.
The most poignant change is the creation of The EBF and Sir Henry Cecil Memorial Galtres Stakes that celebrates the continued backing of the European Breeders’ Fund and the training legend’s lifelong affection for York, scene of so many great triumphs through the decades.
This one-and-a-half mile race for fillies, now worth £60,000, was previously won by Cecil with Eva Luna, Upend and Startino during a legendary career that was cut short by cancer in June last year.
York are also planning further tributes in conjunction with Cecil’s widow Lady Jane who trained Tiger Cliff to win an emotion-charged Ebor last summer.
“We are close to Warren Place in various different ways and the family requested a tribute at York, and at the Ebor meeting,” said head of marketing James Brennan. “With Sir Henry’s well-known success training fillies, it feels the right type of race to do justice to his memory and legacy.
“It was a race suggested by the family and there will be other tributes as the year unfolds.”
In all, there will be 115 different races at York this summer – and the small matter of the course hosting the start of the second stage of cycling’s Tour de France on July 6.
Aside from the self-funding evening fixture on July 25 that culminates with a pop concert, every raceday will have a prize fund of at least £100,000 and no contest will be worth less than £10,000.
The fact that York has put up £32m of prize money between 2009 and this summer is helped by the fact that the racecourse is an independent company. It has increased its contribution to the prize pot from 43 per cent six years ago to 48 per cent in 2014 – with the balance coming via Levy funding and owners’ entries.
“It’s what we do. We don’t have conflicting priorities in terms of shareholders wanting a direct return or large amounts of back debts that need servicing,” added Brennan. “It follows strong years in 2013 and previous years, and we hope that our optimism – and green shoots of economic recovery – are rewarded with another memorable year.”