The Clipper Logistics-sponsored Duke of York Stakes is a prestigious six-furlong sprint contested on the opening day of the Dante Festival – with last year’s renewal won by Starman who went on to be crowned champion sprinter.
First staged in 1895, the Group Two contest does, in fact, derive its name from Prince George, Duke of York, who went on to become King George V.
Now officials at York are to revisit the name of the race, and attempt to make its history clearer, in order to avoid any connection with the now disgraced Prince Andrew as the city’s residents press MPs to pass an Act of Parliament to formally withdraw his dukedom – a wedding day present from the Queen in 1986.
The Queen’s second son was also patron of York Racecourse, and a regular attendee at flagship fixtures like the Ebor Festival, until he relinquished the role in 2019 when he effectively withdrew from public life in the wake of his association with disgraced paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell who has now been found guilty of sex trafficking offences.
Prince Andrew is currently being sued in America by Virginia Giuffre for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager. She claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with the duke when she was 17 and a minor under US law. He maintains his innocence and intends to fight the civil sex case as a private citizen.
York head of marketing and sponsorship, James Brennan, stressed that the Duke of York Stakes has been staged since 1895 “in different shapes and guises”. “It was named in honour of Prince George who went on to become King George V,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “It has never been directly about Prince Andrew.
“With that in mind, however, we are going to explore how we can make the name a lot clearer about its history – and that the name refers to an entirely different Duke of York.”
He confirmed that York was acutely aware of the negative connotations of any connection with the 61-year-old prince who was last week stripped of his military patronages by the Queen and forbidden from using his HRH title. “We are aware of the question and will take an appropriate step,” said Brennan.
However, any change will have to be carried out in conjunction with the European Pattern Committee which oversees the status and naming Group races because of their importance to the development of thoroughbreds. “It is not entirely in our gift,” added Brennan.
The Duke of York Stakes has enjoyed many high-profile Yorkshire-trained winners in recent years, including Tim Easterby’s Bollin Joanne and Pipalong in 1998 and 2001 respectively. Another dual winner is Hambleton-based Kevin Ryan courtesy of Amadeus Wolf (2007) and Tiddliwinks (2012).
Venture Capitalist prevailed for the late Dandy Nicholls in 1996 while Monsiuer Bond won for Bryan Smart in 2004 before Utmost Respect took the 2009 renewal for Malton trainer Richard Fahey and jockey Paul Hanagan.
More recently, 2018 champion sprinter Harry Angel won the 2019 renewal. The race’s status was further boosted last year by the win of David Ward’s Starman under champion jockey Oisin Murphy – the Ed Walker-trained horse went on to land Newmarket’s July Cup in the hands of Tom Marquand before being named 2021 champion sprinter. Starman has since been retired to stud to take up stallion duties.