Ready for the glitz and glamour of this most historic racing week

IT is certainly the glitiziest week in Yorkshire’s racing calendar – and the most glamorous.

With TV presenter Jeff Banks staging the first UK running of Fashion on the Field which will culminate with the best-dressed racegoer of the week winning a trip to St Vincent, the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival is a great celebration of sartorial elegance.

It’s also a showcase for Yorkshire produce – 2,100kg of locally-produced beef, matured at York Racecourse for the past 30 days, head an exquisite menu that is a sublime advertisement for the region’s food producers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There is also the small matter of the 35,000 bottles of Champagne, 7,500 jugs of Pimms and 150,000 pints of beer that will be purchased from a catering team that will top 1,000 staff.

And that’s just at the racecourse. Ebor week – Europe’s richest handicap which can be traced back to 1843 – also generates millions of pounds for the city’s economy.

However, this would not be possible without four days of top quality horse racing, with the four-day festival culminating with the Betfred Ebor being run on a Saturday for the first time.

Already, advance ticket sales for all four days are up on last year’s festival which attracted 80,643 racegoers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And, while York chief executive William Derby expects Saturday’s Ebor crowd to fall short of the 40,000-plus racegoers who descend onto Knavesmire for the John Smith’s Cup every June, he is confident that this will be a landmark week to remember.

While Thursday’s card, Ladies Day and the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, continues to be the biggest draw crowd-wise, Ebor Saturday is already seeing a surge in ticket sales.

“As with all new fixtures, it takes time to settle and embed. Judgements won’t be made after year one,” Derby told the Yorkshire Post. “Royal Ascot Saturday was not an instant success, but is now the most attended day of the week. As is the Saturday of Glorious Goodwood.

“On balance, we thought it was the best thing to do for the sport and for York.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It certainly won’t be like John Smith’s Cup Saturday which has 52 years of history and a very strong identity, but the pros outweighs the cons.”

However, the Ebor week does not come together overnight. It takes a year of planning, with York introducing a number of concepts this week that Derby saw at the Melbourne Cup – the race that stops Australia.

Rather than the starting stalls draw for the Betfred Ebor being done by computer at the offices of racing administrators Weatherbys, the numbers will be drawn out of a hat – FA Cup-style – in the paddock prior to racing on Thursday.

Likewise, the hosting of the Banks-inspired Fashion on the Field, complete with a catwalk and beauty rooms, is another idea that Derby brought home from Australia – a country that will enjoy live coverage of Ebor week for the first time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Derby also spends time courting top trainers like Aidan O’Brien, visiting the Ballydoyle stables of the Irish genius, to ensure that York always meets their expectations – and that the Grade One races do justice to the inaugural Qipco British Champions Series.

And while Sir Henry Cecil’s unbeaten wonderhorse Frankel bypasses Wednesday’s Juddmonte International, Derby is unperturbed.

“It would have been lovely to see Frankel, but it has opened the race up. I think we would have had three or four runners, while now we will have a much bigger field,” he added. “Probably the race I’m most looking forward to is Friday’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes where Europe’s very best sprinters will be taking on the likes of Hoof It for Mick Easterby and Bapak Chinta from Kevin Ryan’s yard.

“Wouldn’t be great if there was a Yorkshire winner?”