Kiplingcotes Derby: World's oldest horse race returns to Yorkshire countryside
And Thursday’s Kiplingcotes Derby - the world’s oldest horse race - saw 20 jockeys once again competing in the four mile ‘steeplechase’ from Etton to Londesborough Wold, surrounded by crowds who braved the March cold.
Taking first place this year was Jason Carver on Start Me Up - believed to be the first time he has tackled the gruelling course.
The race has been run since 1519, with jockeys not knowing who else is competing until they turn up.
And while horse races the world over can see their winning jockeys land huge pots of money for winning, the Kiplingcotes Derby is run for love alone with a prize of just less than £100 for Mr Carver - the interest on an endowment provided by “five noblemen, 19 baronets and 25 gentlemen” on the race’s founding.
The second place rider arguably is the luckier as they take home the proceeds from entry fees. This year the honour went to John Thirsk on Harry, who has ridden the course many times - including as a single rider during the pandemic to ensure that the tradition of Kiplingcotes was kept up.
The course is varied terrain of grass verges, tarmac road, disused railway bridge and ploughed field - and any rider can choose to enter regardless of professional status.
And in its 500 year history, it has only been cancelled on four occasions - all of which are in living memory.
In 1947, huge snowdrifts in the area caused its cancellation, and then in 2001 the foot and mouth crisis put paid to the race.
2018 saw severe damage to the course, and 2020’s race was cancelled due to the onset of the covid pandemic.
Speaking after the race, trustee Philip Guest explained its appeal.
“It’s a little bit of old England - it was established 504 years ago in the reign of Henry VIII and somehow it’s survived,” he said.
Mr Guest, whose family own local jewellery shops in Beverley and Pocklington and who lives at Everingham Hall, continued: “We have had health and safety brigade saying ‘you should put this in a field, it shouldn’t be run on its traditional course.’
"I always stress to people it’s extremely rough, it’s not for the fainthearted, you have to hack four miles.”
“It’s a linear course, not run on a circular track, you’ve got to get there and then come back - that’s over eight miles and it’s quite gruelling. It was heavy going this year due to the weather.”
Mr Guest said the course forms the origin of one of racing’s mainstays.
He said: “Kiplingcotes was the origin of Point to Pointing, run from a point to another point, from church steeple to church steeple, hence ‘steeplechasing’."