York Ebor Festival Races, Format & History

York Racecourse

Photo © David Hebb (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The Ebor Festival is one of the premier events on York’s social calendar and a real end-of-season highlight of the Flat racing calendar. Thousands from Yorkshire and further afield make the journey to York Racecourse for four days of fashion, food, drink and of course top, top class racing.

The racing at York is as varied as it is entertaining. The four days include Group 1 contests like the Yorkshire Oaks and Nunthorpe Stakes and lucrative handicaps like the Ebor Handicap from which the festival gets its name. It goes without saying that this provides plenty of opportunity for punters so let’s get stuck in to see if we can find some winners.

Juddmonte International Day: Wednesday

Time Race Grade Distance
1:45 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap Class 2 5½f
2:15 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes Group 3 7f
2:45 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes Group 2 1m4f
3:15 Juddmonte International Stakes Group 1 1m2½f
3:45 Sky Bet Handicap Class 2 2m½f
4:20 Sky Bet Fillies’ Sprint Handicap Class 2 5f
4:50 Sky Bet Nursery Handicap Class 2 6f

The first day of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival is always a very important one for everybody involved at York Racecourse. Sadly, it is a little different this year as no fans will be in attendance but there is still plenty of quality racing to enjoy from a safe distance including the feature race of the day, the Juddmonte International Stakes. We’ve got tips for all the races on the card and hopefully enough winners to make you forget about the fact you can’t attend!

1:45 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap

York, Class 2, 5½f

The Yorkshire Ebor Festival beings with an exciting looking handicap in which a full field of 22 are set to sprint to the line over the 5½f trip. Last year’s renewal is the only time in the last 10 years that the favourite was successful with other winners going in at anywhere between 7/1 to 20/1. Therefore, this is a race where it could be wise to have more than one string to your bow and an each way bet could well be wise.

Those looking for an option from the top of the market should consider 10/1 shot Mountain Peak. Ed Walker’s highly reliable five-year-old has been in very good form this season and showed when finishing strongly to win last time out at Haydock that the slight step up in trip could bring out even more from him even off a career high mark of 103. The horse to consider from lower down the betting is Benny And The Jets who is not as reliable but has as much raw pace as any of his rivals so he can be a player at 20/1 if things fall well for him.

Benny And The Jets each way at 20/1

2:15 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes

York, Group 3, 7f

The Acomb Stakes is an important race for two-year-olds and a suitably strong crop is set to contest this year’s edition at York. The betting is headed by Fev Rover for Richard Fahey. He is very much the one to beat based on the official ratings. Having made improvements for every run so far, most markedly last time out when his first attempt over 7f really suited, there could well be more to come.

Cloudbridge is another getting support in the betting, the Godolphin-trained colt getting the better of some experienced rivals in a taking debut win. The value angle to our eyes, however, looks to be Rhythm Master at 5/1.

This son of Dark Angel showed that he has inherited much of his sire’s pace with a striking debut win. He had to recover from a poor start and getting crowded out for much of that race at Haydock, pulling away decisively when switched into the middle of the track. That win came on good to soft so the more the rain falls, the better for Rhythm Master who could be one to watch in the future – or even right now!

Rhythm Master to win at 5/1

2:45 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes

York, Group 2, 1m4f

The field for the Great Voltigeur Stakes usually includes some of the also-rans from the Derby. That is no different this year but that does not mean that the leading contenders for this Group 2 are in any way substandard. This has been a uniquely testing campaign for three-year-olds so the majority of these should have their best days ahead of them.

Mogul is a prime example having already bounced back from his Derby disappointment with victory in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood. The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt had shown lots of potential as a two-year-old but was unable to live up to his billing in his first two races as a three-year-old. He is a big, powerful animal and quite often it can take a few races for such horses to work their way up to full fitness.

Now that he is where O’Brien wants him from a fitness perspective, Mogul is expected to make steady progress throughout the remainder of the season. Right here and now, he may well prove too good for his rivals in the Voltiguer and at odds of 3/1 looks solid value.

Mogul to win at 3/1

3:15 Juddmonte International Stakes

York, Group 1, 1m2½f

The Juddmonte International Stakes could well be the best race of the entire Ebor Festival. This Group 1 contest is always hotly contested but there are four horses in the running for this year’s renewal who have claims to be the favourite, let alone to win against the odds.

Ghayyiath is the jolly as things stand at 11/8 and in terms of that price is a warm favourite. The five-year-old finally looks to have matured into a horse who is capable of putting together a string of top class races and, if seen to best effect, he should win. However, there are still concerns about his temperament whilst the weather and forecast rain will rob him of the really firm ground that he craves.

Andrew Balding and all connected to Kameko (4/1) have believed for some time that a mile and a quarter would bring the best out of the 2,000 Guineas winner. This is the stage for that belief to be tested and for that of Oisin Murphy who claimed Kameko would have won the Sussex Stakes were it not for some serious issues in running.

Lord North (9/2) is the horse who could best take advantage from a battle between Ghayyaith and Kameko at the head of affairs as he is capable of coming off a strong pace but all things considered marginal preference goes to Magical at 4/1.

Aidan O’Brien’s mare warmed up for her trip to York with the easiest pair of Group 1 wins imaginable at the Curragh. She is ready to give her absolute best and the four-year-old can see off the challenge of the younger horses and use her allowance to get Ghayyiath beaten.

Magical to win at 4/1

3:45 Sky Bet Handicap

York, Class 2, 2m½f

The feature race of the day at York is followed by the Sky Bet Handicap, a 17-runner contest over the staying trip of 2m½f. A full complement of horses are set to head to post (pending any late withdrawals due to a change in conditions) so there are clearly a lot of options for punters to choose between. This is a tough puzzle to crack and another where we feel an each way bet may be the best approach.

One of the most appealing at the odds is Just Hubert who finally rediscovered his mojo last time out. William Muir has always been a real fan of this four-year-old so had no issue persevering with him despite a run of three failed attempts to live up to his three-year-old form this season. Stepping up to the monster trip of 2m4f½f did the job at Goodwood. He remains well treated and will relish another true test of stamina so expect him to be right in the thick of the action and to give each way bets at 12/1 a run for their money.

Just Hubert each way at 12/1

4:20 Sky Bet Fillies' Sprint Handicap

York, Class 2, 5f

The card at York goes from a staying handicap to a sprint handicap next up. Another fairly large field should turn out for this 5f contest in which there are two horses battling for favouritism at the time of writing. The first is Dancin Inthestreet who is appealing on her return to the handicap ranks after failing in a Group 3 last time out. However, she has never really given her best over 5f and this could well prove to be too sharp once again even if the ground softens considerably.

That opens the door to Keep Busy. John Quinn’s filly has not been missed by either the bookies or the handicapper but has the class required to see off the challenge facing her on Wednesday. She has proven herself to be versatile in terms of the going and is one who absolutely loves racing over the minimum trip. She’ll need to get more consistent if she is to challenge at a higher level than this but for now is ready to earn another win at 7/2.

Keep Busy to win at 7/2

4:50 Sky Bet Nursery Handicap

York, Class 2, 6f

The first day at the Yorkshire Ebor Festival draws to a close with the Sky Bet Nursery Handicap. Some decent two-year-olds make up this field even if each of them is some way from the finished article. That’s a description that certainly applies to Solider Lions who has been beaten into second on both of his starts to date.

There were excuses for his failure to win both races though and he did plenty right in them both. Don’t be surprised if he is right in contention come the final furlong and returns on an each way bet at a likely decent price.

Solider Lions each way at 9/1

Ladies' Day: Thursday

Time Race Grade Distance
1:45 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes Group 2 6f
2:15 Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes Class 2 6f
2:45 Clipper Logistics Handicap Class 2 1m
3:15 Darley Yorkshire Oaks Group 1 1m4f
3:45 Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes Listed 1m4f
4:20 Sky Bet EBF Stallions Nursey Handicap Class 2 7f
4:50 British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap Class 2 7f

There is one standout star on the second day of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Love is a heavy odds-on favourite to win the Yorkshire Oaks and it’s a real shame that none of the York regulars will get a chance to watch the brilliant 1,000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks winner in action. The racing will at least be broadcast live alongside a quality supporting card which provides plenty of chances for punters to prosper. Here are our tips for day two of the Ebor!

1:45 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes

York, Group 2, 6f

Thursday at York gets off to a very strong start with the popular and historic Lowther Stakes. This Group 2 contest for fillies continues to be used by some very good trainers to get some Black Type with their promising youngsters. The top three in the betting all have the chance to go on and become regulars at this level but you can pick holes in the form of each of Sacred, Santosha and Hala Hala Hala given their prices.

Miss Amulet (10/1) is an interesting prospect but the best bet comes from even further down the betting with She’s So Nice available at the whopping odds of 25/1. After finding Hala Hala Hala too good on her debut, She’s So Nice got off the mark at the next time of asking in a maiden at Newmarket.

The bookies were expecting another win next time out in her first run in a nursery handicap and although she could only finish third there was little really wrong with her performance. Unlike many of her leading rivals in this one, She’s So Nice has already proven that she can cope with some cut in the ground and that could be pivotal on Thursday where she looks a great each way bet.

She's So Nice each way at 25/1

2:15 Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes

York, Class 2, 6f

The favourite for the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes, Devious Company, is a potentially very smart horse indeed. He has already run four times for the trainer/jockey partnership of Tom Dascombe and Richard Kingscote, emerging with credit from each of those performances. He could well go on to be the best of the two-year-old colts in the field here but he has always given the impression that he would be seen to best effect over 1m so the drop down to 6f may prove to be too stiff for him.

The one primed to take advantage is Cairn Gorm for Mick Channon. This impressive colt has steadily built on each performance winning a Group 3 at Deauville last time out. That win was all the better given that the original plan was to track a horse who didn’t make it out of the stalls. His class got him through as Tom Marquand worked through Plan B and that raw ability should prove to be the difference again here at York where he is nicely priced at best odds of 11/4.

Cairn Gorm to win at 11/4

2:45 Clipper Logistics Handicap

York, Class 2 Heritage Handicap, 1m

The last five winners of the Clipper Logisitcs Handicap went in at 12/1, 20/1, 10/1, 8/1 and 20/1. That shows you that it is far from an easy race to predict but that horses from the top half of the market have had much the better time of it. Sir Busker is very much inside the top half of the betting, in fact at 7/1 he is the second favourite from Top Rank but that price still looks a fair one about the chances of this highly progressive four-year-old.

Oisin Murphy has had some very good days on board Sir Busker recently but their most recent partnership ended in frustration. Murphy kept looking for a gap in the Golden Mile Handicap at Goodwood but none was forthcoming so he crossed the line with Sir Busker still on the bridle. Had a gap opened up then he was travelling well enough to suggest that his usual late burst for the line would have at least challenged the winner and that is despite running off a career high mark of 107. The handicapper has dropped him 3lb after that result which is very good news for connections and all who back Sir Busker at York.

Sir Busker each wat at 7/1

3:15 Darley Yorkshire Oaks

York, Group 1, 1m4f

The Yorkshire Oaks is a chance for a superstar filly to show just how good she is once again with Love the 1/3 favourite to add yet another big win to her highly impressive CV. Aidan O’Brien’s filly has raced just two times this season, first in the 1,000 Guineas and then in the Oaks at Epsom. Not only did she win both in tremendous style but the way she got stronger as each race progressed was absolutely magnificent.

O’Brien now has a host of options available to him in terms of Love’s future but the immediate plan is all about winning the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. With all due respect to the other horses in the field, none of them come anywhere close to Love’s level and she is a near certainty to make it three from three Group 1s this season.

Love will only face five opponents in the Yorkshire Oaks but if 1/3 is just too short and you are looking for one to take her on with, or would prefer to try and opt for an each way bet, then Lancashire Oaks winner, Manuela De Vega fits the bill at odds of 8/1. She has certainly improved this season and is well worth her shot at the Group 1 level. It would take something extraordinary for her to trouble Love but she may well prove to be the best of the rest.

Love to win at 1/3, Manuela De Vega each way at 8/1

3:45 British EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes

York, Listed, 1m4f

The Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes is a Listed race for fillies and mares aged three and older. It’s been used by a number of horses of various ages who still have plenty of improvement ahead as an important stepping stone and that could be just what it proves to be for Gold Wand.

Roger Varian’s three-year-old started the season with a comfortable win and was then entered into the Oaks in something of a shot to nothing. The second fillies’ Classic of the season was far too much for her but she remains one to keep an eye on. She was much better in a Listed race at York at the end of July and is entitled to make further progression as she returns to 1m4f. The price of 11/2 currently available could look generous come the end of the race.

Gold Wand each way at 11/2

4:20 Sky Bet EBF Stallions Nursery Handicap

York, Class 2, 5f

Two-year-olds can be progressive in a number of different ways. Many steadily work their way up the distances as they get more used to racing but Basilicata has taken a different route. Mark Johnston’s filly started life over 7f which is a distance that her classy sire, Ifraaj, excelled at. She was never outside of the top two in her three starts over 7f but her best performance came when dropped down to the sprinting trip of 6f last time out in her handicap debut.

So impressed were connections with that run that they are going even further and have entered Basilicata for this 5f nursery handicap. She showed last time at Ascot that she has plenty of speed to go alongside an excellent attitude. Basilicata is sure to battle away on Thursday and can secure another impressive win.

Basilicata each way at 10/1

4:50 British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies' Handicap

York, Class 2, 7f

The second day of York ends with a fillies’ handicap which includes a number of horses who have to rediscover their best form. Anna Nerium is one such mare. Her two appearances this season saw her outclassed in the Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes and then just fail to finish strongly enough to make the most of a good position in a conditions race last time out. She should be better and fitter with those two races under her belt and can get back to winning ways in this contest.

Anna Nerium each way at 10/1

Day Three: Friday

Time Race Grade Distance
1:45 Sky Bet Handicap Class 2 1m4f
2:15 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes Group 2 2m½f
2:45 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes Group 2 6f
3:15 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes Group 1 5f
3:45 British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Maiden Stakes Class 2 7f
4:15 British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap Class 2 1m2½f
4:50 Sky Bet Mile Stakes Class 2 1m

Each day of the Ebor Festival so far has had at least one superstar in attendance. That run continues on Friday with the highest rated sprinter on the planet, Battaash, contesting the Nunthorpe Stakes. In recent years Stradivarius has also graced York on this day but his absence in the Lonsdale Cup gives the chance for potential future stars of the staying ranks to set down a marker. This is a really great day of racing with something for everyone and here are our tips for each contest.

1:45 Sky Bet Handicap

York, Class 2, 1m4f

Friday at the Ebor Festival begins with a competitive looking handicap run over 1m4f. That trip on ground which could well be eased from its official starting point of good will prove to be too much for some of these but it could be just perfect for Zabeel Champion.

Mark Johnston’s three-year-old is a very progressive type who was beaten into second last time out when seeking a hat-trick of wins. There was nothing wrong with his performance at Goodwood though, where the ground was probably just a little too dry for him to utilise his stamina and battling ability. He will likely be raced prominently at York and could be able to tough it out for another win at solid looking odds of 7/1.

Zabeel Champion each way at 7/1

2:15 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes

York, Group 2, 2m½f

Stradivarius, winner of the last two renewals of the Lonsdale Cup, is not making the trip to York this year. That is a shame but in his absence we are left with an open looking edition. The betting is headed by Enbihaar and Nayef Road with preference just about going to the latter, the horse who was second to Stradivarius in both the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup. Throw the improving Dashing Willoughby into the mix and the top part of the betting has a very competitive look to it.

The truth is that it is hard to make a strong case for any of the market leaders over the others. Many racing fans will be content to sit back and just enjoy the sport as those three battle it out towards the line but there is another way to approach this race - backing Get Shirty each way at 14/1.

The French raider is another who has made some eye catching progress in his four-year-old season. Christophe Ferland has been talking very positively about his charge’s extra maturity and strength whilst he has run well in two races since a recent gelding operation. At the odds, he looks very well priced should one of the principles not quite produce their best.

Get Shirty each way at 14/1

2:45 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes

York, Group 2, 6f

Most of the build up for the Gimcrack Stakes focussed on Supremacy’s attempts to land a hat-trick. The hugely promising sprinter has unfortunately been declared a non runner for the race though. That should open the door for Mohawk King who is now available at 10/3.

The most pleasing element of Mohawk King’s debut success at Ascot was the very likeable attitude he showed that day as he came from last to first. He stuck to his task admirably when under pressure in the closing stages and made it through a tight gap, during which he inadvertently caused a bit of interference. That should not take anything away from the quality of this win though and Mohawk King is set to build on that at York at a decent looking price.

Mohawk King to win at 10/3

3:15 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes

York, Group 1, 5f

In the absence of Stradivarius it’s Battaash who is cast in the role of the star turn at York on Friday. Officially the best sprinter in training, Charles Hills’ six-year-old speedball has two wins to his name already since June and is available at a best price of 8/11 to complete the hat-trick for the season.

It would be a brave punter to back against Battaash but his strength at the head of the market and the fact that he will take on seven rivals means there is some each way value around on some of the challengers.

Art Power is the one leading the challenge to the favourite here. Tim Easterby is a very big fan of this three-year-old who has done enough this season to earn his crack at the top level of sprinting. Although he is much more slight than a typical sprinter he has bags of travelling pace and a very taking turn of foot so is the one to watch at 5/2 if you opt to oppose the jolly.

Battaash to win at 8/11

3:45 British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Maiden Stakes

York, Class 2, 7f

This year’s renewal of the Convival Maiden Stakes is shaping up to be particularly strong. The top three in the betting - Naval Crown, Maximal and Tawleed - all have some good recent experience under their belts and are proving difficult to separate in the betting.

Preference just about goes to Tawleed at 4/1. His first run came in a maiden at Goodwood which tends to be contested by some good juveniles. And so it proved to be with once again, Alkumait utilising his experience to win. Tawleed caught the eye trying to get the better of his stablemate that day though and should be better this time around.

Tawleed to win at 4/1

4:15 British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap

York, Class 2, 1m2½f

Asiaaf wasn’t seen at all on track as a two-year-old but Marcus Tregoning kept faith that she would make up for lost time as a three-year-old. She certainly looked to be a smart prospect when finishing fourth on her debut at the massive price of 33/1 and she’s subsequently won her novice before placing second in a pair of handicaps.

Asiaaf is still very much learning her trade but she has a good attitude and is able to pick up quickly when asked for her best effort. She just looked a little short of strength in the closing stages last time out over 1m4f so the drop back down in trip for this handicap should serve her very well indeed.

Asiaaf each ay at 11/2

4:50 Sky Bet Mile Stakes

York, Class 2, 1m

The Sky Bet Mile Stakes is the final race on the card and a fascinating contest. This 1m handicap is open only to three-year-olds with a maximum rating of 105. That is some way above the official rating of Cold Front who runs off 91, having got off the mark at the fourth time of asking last time out. There was a general feeling that he was unlucky to bump into some smart opponents before his trip to Haydock where he justified heavy market support to make all. It’s clear Cold Front is progressive and he looks to have enough in hand from the handicapper to help us end the day with a winner.

Cold Front each way at 8/1

Day Four: Saturday

Time Race Grade Distance
1:50 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes Group 3 1m1f
2:25 Sky Bet Melrose Handicap Class 2 1m6f
3:00 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes Group 2 7f
3:40 Sky Bet Ebor Handicap Class 2 1m6f
4:10 Julia Graves Roses Stakes Listed 5f
4:40 Sky Bet Handicap Class 2 1m2½f
5:10 Sky Bet Apprentice Handicap Class 2 5f

Saturday at the Ebor Festival may not have the classiest races of the week but is home to the contest after which the meeting is named. The Ebor Handicap always carries one of the biggest prize purses of the year and is oversubscribed as connections are desperate for their horses to get a run. The Ebor is not the only hugely popular race on the card though and nor is it the only competitive handicap for racing fans to enjoy on the final day of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Here are our tips for all of day’s contests as we look to end the meeting on a high.

1:50 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Strensall Stakes

York, Group 3, 1m1f

The final day of the Ebor Festival begins with a quality Group 3 contest run over just longer than a mile. Most of the best fancied horses in the field have already been tried and tested against Group level company and in the case of Lord Glitters, the very top level. The seven-year-old won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2019 and won’t be easily shaken off today but this race should go the way of a progressive type.

Highest Ground is the one the bookies believe is most likely to get the win. His trainer, Sir Michael Stoute has a very good record in this race including winning two of the last three renewals but it is another three-year-old, My Oberon, who makes most appeal at a price of 11/2. This beautifully bred colt has taken some very big steps forward as a three-year-old and looks to have enough class to claim a first Group 3 win.

My Oberon each way at 11/2

2:25 Sky Bet Melrose Handicap

York, Class 2, 1m6f

The Melrose Handicap has thrown up a combination of upsets and shorter priced winners over the years and this looks to be a typically open and unpredictable renewal of the 1m6f contest for three-year-olds. At the top of the market, Favorite Moon (4/1) will hope that they go at a good gallop as he has plenty of stamina in his breeding and has already shown an admirable ability to battle away.

The main danger to the favourite is Kipps at 7/1. He hasn’t won this season but has had excuses on each occasion so don’t be surprised if he finally gets over the line first if things pan out well for him. Punters looking for an outsider who can win at a big price should consider backing Dancing Approach at huge odds of 25/1.

This daughter of Camelot had a bit of a nightmare race at Goodwood when chasing a hat-trick. Back on a more straightforward course, she should be able to take another step forward and should at least give each way backers a run for their money.

Dancing Approach each way at 25/1

3:00 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes

York, Group 2, 7f

The Group 2 City Of York Stakes is another race which has a typically strong feel to it. There are any number of exciting options in the betting including the only three-year-old with an entry, Threat. Richard Hannon’s colt showed some real pace in his two-year-old campaign but has yet to really kick on. He has been tried out in two Group 1s though, the first of which came without a warm up race so can be excused for not winning so far in his three-year-old season. He looks sure to be a major contender at 10/1.

Threat gets a 5lb allowance from the older horses but that advantage may not be enough to cope with his lack of experience. When it comes to experience, the seven-year-old Safe Voyage sets the standard but this is his first run at York. Connections may find that Safe Voyage loves it on the Knavesmire as he is sure to go whatever the going. He’s in some of the form of his career too and therefore to our eyes is the one the others all have to beat at 11/2.

Safe Voyage each way at 11/2

3:40 Sky Bet Ebor Handicap

York, Class 2 Heritage Handicap, 1m6f

The Ebor Handicap is the feature race of the entire meeting and is one of the most valuable handicaps of the Flat racing season. As ever, the entry list for the Ebor was oversubscribed so connections of all 22 who made the cut are very excited about landing a big prize come the end of this 1m6f contest.

Many racing fans excitedly awaited the final declarations for the Ebor before making their pick but others were confident enough about Fujaira Prince taking up his option that they got involved early in the ante post betting, most likely at a tidy price.

Roger Varian’s six-year-old has been there or thereabouts at the top of the betting for some time and is currently available at a best price of 7/1. Winning this sort of handicap is a big ask but it is exactly what Fujaira Prince managed at Royal Ascot when he blew the field away in the Copper Horse Handicap and he’s the right favourite this time around.

For an each way bet to complement one on the favourite, consider the experienced Verdana Blue at 14/1. Nicky Henderson’s versatile eight-year-old has produced some very good performances on the Flat, including last time out when he found just one too good in the Ascot Stakes. He’ll plug on forever and should be right in the mix come the business end of the race.

Fujaira Prince each way at 7/1, Verdana Blue each way at 14/1

4:10 Julia Graves Roses Stakes

York, Listed, 5f

Next up is a Listed sprint for the two-year-olds. There are horses with potentially strong careers ahead of them everywhere you look in this race which has been won by the odd outsider over the years, including Shadow Hunter at 33/1.

At that same rather huge price, Mamba Wamba may be worth support for small stakes. This big filly was disappointing last time out on her first attempt at 6f at Thirsk but could utilise her stamina reserves relative to the competition if the ground comes up much softer to grab a place. That said, the great weather on Thursday and forecast windy conditions may mean it ends up just a shade firmer than she might like.

Mamba Wamba still looks a very good each way bet but if it’s a straight win bet that you’re after then Ben Macdui is the one to support at 5/2. Kevin Ryan’s colt won well in a fairly modest event at Hamilton and came on very well for that run when finishing second in a Group 3 at Goodwood. Even only a small bit of extra improvement should account for his rivals on Saturday.

Ben Macdui to win at 5/2, Mamba Wamba each way at 33/1

4:40 Sky Bet Handicap

York, Class 2, 1m2½f

The penultimate race of the 2020 Yorkshire Ebor Festival is another competitive looking handicap. Cape Cavalli is the standout option in the field after suffering through something of a hard luck story at Goodwood. As well as having a tough draw out wide the race did not pan out at all well for him so you can draw a line through his ninth place finish. The handicapper has basically ignored that result too, and Cape Cavalli will run off the same mark of 91 but we feel that should still give him scope to win.

Cape Cavalli to win

5:10 Sky Bet Apprentice Handicap

York, Class 2, 5f

And so the Ebor draws to a close for another 12 months with this minimum distance dash. Sunday Sovereign had a very good two-year-old campaign, so much so that he was snapped up by King Power Racing. They decided to send him to Roger Varian but he lasted just one race with that yard and is now making another debut for a new trainer, this time Tim Easterby. There is no doubt that Sunday Sovereign has a lot to prove after his recent disappointment but there could still be a good horse in there somewhere. If Easterby coaxes it out on his handicap debut then things may just start looking up.

Sunday Sovereign to win

About the Meeting

All racing fans love a good summer flat festival, and thankfully for UK equine enthusiasts the British racing calendar has plenty to offer in this regard. The southern meetings of Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood annually grab their share of the headlines – and rightly so – but they do know how to put on a top-class racing festival up north too, and nowhere is it done better than at York.

One of the top racecourses anywhere in the country in terms of facilities and atmosphere, the jewel in York racecourse’s crown is this four-day betting bonanza held each year in August. Whether its top-class Group action or handicaps, stayers or sprinters, that tickle your fancy, there’s something for everyone on the Knavesmire. Here we run through a few of the star attractions.

Ebor Handicap

Where else to start than with the contest which lends its name to this entire meeting. Held on the closing Saturday and run over just shy of 1m6f, this Class 2 Handicap is one of the top events of its type run anywhere in the world, and having been with us since way back in 1843, truly warrants its Heritage status. With prize money having been boosted to £1 million for the 2019 renewal, it is no wonder that this is one of the top targets for connections of the most talented staying handicappers in the game.

Given the premium placed on stamina here it is not unusual to see not only the top flat trainers, but also those more often sighted in the jumping game lay one out for a tilt at this. The great duo of Sea Pigeon and Brown Jack are perhaps more associated with their success in the National Hunt sphere, but both also feature prominently on the list of previous winners for this contest, and remarkably Sea Pigeon triumphed when aged nine.

The hugely popular Further Flight and Sergeant Cecil are other notable victors from more recent years. As of 2018 though the only horse to ever win this twice is Flint Jack who landed back to back editions way back in 1922 and 1923.

Other Key Races

Yorkshire Oaks

Topping the bill on Day 2 of the meeting is this contest for the classiest fillies and mares in the game. In common with its Epsom namesake, this event is held over a distance of close to 1m4f. Unlike the Classic contest though, the race is open to all fillies and mares aged three years and older and as such annually throws up a mouth-watering clash of the generations. Offering a total of £350,000 (2018) in prize money, this contest invariably attracts a field which more than lives up to its Group 1 status.

Having first been run in 189, its no surprise to see that we now have an impressive list of magnificent mares and flying fillies featuring on the roll of honour here. Oaks winners Ramruma and Alexandrova feature prominently, but perhaps the greatest of them all was the brilliant dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine, Enable, who took this in 2017.

International Stakes

The Ebor Festival certainly flies out of the starting stalls, with the feature event on the opening day being not only the classiest contest of the week here on the Knavesmire, but one of the very best mile and a quarter contests held anywhere in the world. Another £1 million+ affair when it comes to the total prize money, this is a Group 1 event of the very highest order and regularly ranks in the upper reaches of the top 10 global races in terms of quality.

It is of course the class of the participants in previous years which has played the biggest part in establishing this contest towards the very top of the tree, and a quick run through the list of previous winners quickly demonstrates the kind of talent we are talking about. The greatest racehorse ever to have laid a hoof on the turf, Frankel, took this in fine style in 2009, with the brilliant globetrotting filly, Dahlia, and star Godolphin performer, Halling, both dual winners of the race. Sakhee, Sulamani, Authorized and Sea The Stars are just a few of the other stellar names on the list.

Great Voltigeur Stakes

Immediately preceding the International Stakes on what really is a spectacular opening day, is this 1m4f event for the three year old colts and geldings. Named after the locally trained dual classic winner Voltigeur, this contest was first run in 1950 and soon established itself as a firm fixture on the middle-distance calendar for the three year olds.

Seen as something of a Derby-lite by some, with this being a Group 2 as opposed to the Group 1 of the Epsom Classic, there may be some truth in that, but there’s certainly nothing light about some the heavyweight names to have stormed to victory in this race over the years. St Leger winner Bustino, Arc heroes, Alleged and Rainbow Quest, Derby king Reference Point, and brilliant two-time Champion Stakes winner Cracksman all boast wins in this race on their CV.

Nunthorpe Stakes

Raw speed is the name of the game in the pedal-to-the-metal 5f Nunthorpe Stakes which lights up the Day 3 card at this meeting. Initially run as a selling race back in 1903, the fastest race on the Knavesmire has come some way since that time. A top tier Group 1 contest since 1922, prize money had bulged to £350,000 by 2018. Unusually for a Group 1 sprint contest, this event allows the two year olds to tackle their elders. It has proven a tall order for the youngsters though with only two coming home in front as of 2018.

Tag End and Sharpo both proved too quick for the rest on three separate occasions in this, but possibly the greatest achievement was that of Sole Power. First successful in 2010, he brought the house down when rolling back the years in 2014 to come home in front once again. Flying filly Lochsong and the ever popular Borderlescott are other names of note in the history of this super sprint.

Best Of The Rest

Lowther Stakes

One of the real features of this meeting is the quality of the juvenile action on offer. The best of such events for the fillies is this race on Day 2. A Group 2 6f contest with £225,000 up for grabs, this regularly attracts a field of the most promising fillies in the game.

The list of previous winners here features a mix of precocious sorts who don’t go on to achieve much of note, and those who certainly do. Subsequent 2000 Guineas winner Russian Rhythm falling very much into the latter camp.

Lonsdale Cup

The classy stayers aren’t left out at York with this Group 2 contest over 2m acting as a counterpoint to the Nunthorpe on Day 3. Along with the Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup, this event makes up the “Stayers Million”. Win all three, together with a recognised trial, and connections will find their bank balance boosted to the tune of £1 million. John Gosden’s Stradivarius became the first horse to achieve this feat in 2018.

Gimcrack Stakes

Where the fillies have the Lowther Stakes, the juvenile colts have this Group 2 to aim for at the Ebor meeting. Held on Day 3, this is also run over the 6f trip, and offers £225,000 (2018) in prize money. First run way back in 1846, the race has been landed by the likes of Champion Sprinter Muhaarar and the brilliant Rock Of Gibraltar over the years.

Strensall Stakes

One of the feature races on the undercard on the fourth and final day is this Group 3 1m1f contest for runners aged three and older. Offering £100,000 (2018) in total prize money the event is regularly contested by those runners looking to make the breakthrough to the top level; a feat achieved most notably by Muhtarram who went on to land the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes in both 1994 and 1995.

Acomb Stakes

Taking place on the opening day of the meeting, this Group 3 contest for the juveniles is held over a trip of 7f and offers £100,000 (2018) in total prize money. A distance of 7f can be a pretty stamina sapping trip for a two year old, and this race has at times pointed the way to future success at the highest level over further. 1999 champ, King’s Best, went up to 1m to take the 2000 Guineas, whilst 2003 winner, Rule Of Law, moved all the way up to 1m6f to take the subsequent season’s St Leger.


York racecourse is one of the most truly historic of racing venues in Britain, with records of competitive racing at the track harking all the way back to the 1730’s.

Inaugurated way back in 1843, this meeting has steadily built around the signature handicap. The Ebor, of the meeting’s – and feature race’s – title, stems from an abbreviated version of the word Eboracum, which is how our old friends the Romans used to refer to the City of York.

Looking back through the history of the meeting, the name of the great Lester Piggott stands out amongst the great riders to have graced the track. Piggott compiled a stellar record over the years, including seven triumphs in the Nunthorpe Stakes. The “Long Fellow” undoubtedly fared much better than a certain Dick Turpin who was hanged on the Knavesmire way back in 1739.

The Ebor itself is both the oldest race run at the track and has regularly been the richest handicap contest to take place anywhere in Europe. The meeting as a whole has grown significantly in prestige over the years, with the International Stakes in particular having now developed into a true heavyweight of the global racing calendar, whilst the speedfest of the Nunthorpe has begun to attract an international cast, a sure sign of the increasing appeal of this festival.

With the already significant prize money having been boosted still further for the 2019 edition, this meeting, so steeped in history, continues to keep pace with modern times. That prize money combined with the high-profile nature of the festival should ensure that racegoers and the most talented horse in the game continue to flock to the Knavesmire for years to come.

A Complete History of the Ebor Festival

Give yourself a pat on the back if you know where the name Ebor comes from. If you don’t, it is the shortened form of Eboracum, the name the Romans gave to York when settling in AD 71. The history of the Ebor Festival doesn’t stretch back this far of course but it’s the best part of two centuries old now. Plenty has happened throughout this time and you can read more about the meeting’s fascinating history below.

1731 – Racing commences at York

York hosts horse racing for the very first time at its present Knavesmire site. By the end of the decade its August meeting, now the Ebor Festival, had become the city’s top ranking social highlight of the year.

1843 – Ebor Handicap begins

Although August racing at York precedes this date, the Ebor Festival as we know it was only born following the introduction of the Ebor Handicap this year. Then known as the Great Ebor Handicap, it owes its creation to the work of John Orton who had recently been appointed Clerk of the Course. Initially the race was contested over two miles and only later was it cut to its present distance of 1m 5f and 118y.

1846 – Gimcrack Stakes born

The small yet hugely successful 18th century horse Gimcrack was honoured in the form of this new race at York. Initially open to horses of both genders, in 1987 it became a colt and gelding only affair. Traditionally the owner of the winning Gimcrack Stakes horse delivers a speech at the annual Gimcrack dinner, of which there have been almost 250. No pressure!

1849 – Yorkshire Oaks created

Following shortly after the creation of the Ebor Handicap and Gimcrack Stakes was the Yorkshire Oaks. A filly named Ellen Middleton won the opening renewal and 12 years later the middle distance contest was, for the first time, won by the reigning Epsom Oaks champion. Legendary jockey Fred Archer enjoyed much success during the Oaks’ earlier decades, securing eight victories between 1875 and 1886.

1923 – Double Jack Please

The Ebor Handicap may be an old race but throughout its history only one horse has won it on more than one occasion. This incredible double came courtesy of Flint Jack who returned after finishing runner-up in the 1921 edition to win the handicap in both of the following two years. Clearly with a keen eye for this race, the gelding returned again in 1926 where he managed a highly respectable third place finish.

1932 – Another dead heat

Just two years after seeing a dead heat in the Ebor Handicap, spectators at York Racecourse witnessed another, this time in the Yorkshire Oaks. Officials were unable to see any daylight between Nash Light and Will o’ the Wisp as they crossed the line, forcing them to award the race to both horses. For over sixty years this was the last dead heat seen during a major Ebor Festival race.

1940 – Wartime disruption

The transition away from peacetime had its impact on the Ebor Festival schedule. The Yorkshire Oaks was the first race to fall, returning only in 1946. The Nunthorpe Stakes held on longer but from 1942-44 had to be relocated to Newmarket. York tried it’s hardest to cling onto the Ebor Handicap but in 1943 and 1944 it proved impossible with Pontefract given the honour of hosting the historic race.

1946 – Lowther Stakes reborn

A race by the name of the Lowther Stakes had previously existed at Newmarket but it’s not the same as the race run at York. The Knavesmire version is run over a shorter distance of six furlongs and is only open to two-year-old fillies. It has featured at York ever since its creation with the exception of the 2008 renewal which took place at Newmarket.

1950 – Great Voltigeur Stakes introduced

Exactly 100 years after Voltigeur won the Derby and St Leger, York introduced a name in his honour. Originally simply called the Voltigeur Stakes, ‘Great’ was added to the title seven years later. Almost immediately it served as a trial race for the St. Leger with Premonition becoming the first to win both races in 1953.

1953 – Youth prevails

The Nunthorpe Stakes is quite unique in that it allows juvenile horses to compete against their elders. It took some time for a two-year-old to make their mark on this race but High Treason became the first when winning the 1953 edition of the sprint. Juvenile success has continued to be a rarity but there was a somewhat recent example in 2007 courtesy of Kingsgate Native.

1969 – Intermezzo denied

As of 2019, 13 horses had won both the Great Voltigeur Stakes and the St. Leger, a figure that would be one higher had it not been for a stewards’ call in 1969. Intermezzo found himself penned in by the rail during the Great Voltigeur and with no place to manoeuvre, rider Ron Hutchinson forced his way through a small gap before eventually winning. The Australian’s aggression (aggression from an Australian, surely not?) gave the stewards little choice but to disqualify him in what was not a particularly controversial decision.

1972 – International Stakes created

Former Clerk of the Course at York, Major Leslie Petch, devised a plan for a new middle distance event at the course. Ill health forced him to resign his post before the inaugural running but it was his groundwork that made it possible. The first edition of the then called Benson and Hedges Gold Cup was a truly memorable one. Derby winner Roberto struck gold at the expense of Brigadier Gerard in what ended up being the only defeat of the iconic horse’s career.

1982 – Sharpo completes treble

After Tag End managed the Nunthorpe Stakes hat-trick between 1928 and 1930, there was a long wait for another three-time champion. Decades passed but eventually Sharpo became the second horse to manage the feat with his third consecutive triumph coming in 1982.

1986 – Acomb Stakes introduced

York adds a new race in the form of the Acomb Stakes, a seven furlong test open to two-year-olds. A horse by the name of Bellotto won its first running with Pat Eddery taking the mount. The race is named after Acomb, an area in the western side of city close to the racecourse and in 2006 it enjoyed promotion to Group 3 level.

1988 – Persian Heights denied title

Approaching the final furlong there were five horse almost neck and neck in this year’s renewal of the International Stakes. On the outside of the quintet was Persian Heights who put on the burners as he made his way inside before passing the post first. Jockey of Indian Skimmer, Steve Cauthen, who finished third, launched an objection however stating that Persian Heights caused interference that prevented him from finishing second. Under the rules of racing at that time, the stewards relegated the colt to third, handing the win to Shady Heights.

1991 – Oaks relaxes entry criteria

Ever since its inception, the Yorkshire Oaks had been strictly a race for three-year-old fillies but this changed in 1991. The Group 1 contest now allowed all older fillies and mares to compete, albeit with additional weight. The first non-three year old winner came just two years later courtesy of Only Royale who also won again as a five-year-old, becoming the first ever two-time Yorkshire Oaks champion.

1994 – Channon enjoys first Group 1 success

Former England footballer Mick Channon struck gold for the first time in a Group 1 race but only after an anxious wait. His entry, Piccolo, lost out to Blue Siren in the Nunthorpe but replays showed that the eventual winner bumped Piccolo on his way past. Jockey John Reid immediately launched an objection and subsequently the stewards’ inquiry resulted in Blue Siren and Piccolo swapping places.

1997 – Shared Nunthorpe glory

Large fields competing over the minimum distance mean that the Nunthorpe Stakes is often determined by the finest of margins. In 1997 it proved to be too fine to call as Coastal Bluff and Ya Malak crossed the line at the very same time, producing the race’s first ever dead heat.

2004 – Stoute enters Oaks record books

For over a century, Matthew Dawson’s record of saddling nine winners in the Yorkshire Oaks proved too great of a feat to match. That was until Sir Michael Stoute came along. The Barbados-born trainer got off the mark in 1978 before a flurry of wins at the start of the next century saw his total increase to nine. Quiff’s victory in 2004 helped him match Dawson’s record but will he be able to go one better? Given he continues to turn out such classy horses, win number 10 seems likely to come at some stage.

2004 – Lonsdale Cup promoted

For six years the Lonsdale Stakes had run as a Group 3 event but this changed in 2004 when it was reclassified as a Group 2 status. The same year the race also changed its name to the Lonsdale Cup which it retains today.

2006 – Twice Over become oldest champion

Never before in the history of the usually prestigious Juddmonte International had a horse over five-years-old got themselves first past the post. Twice Over put an end to this though when winning what was a notoriously poor renewal of the Group 1 race. Only five names competed for the £397k first place prize and the six-year-old Twice Over took full advantage.

2007 – Dettori draws level with Piggott

Four years after Lester Piggott secured his fifth, and last, win in the International Stakes, Frankie Dettori scored his first. More success came the Italians’ way and in 2007 he joined Piggott as the race’s all-time leading jockey when guiding Authorized to a one length win.

2008 – Weather forces abandonment

Cancellation of a race meeting due to heavy rain is nothing new but it’s not something you expect to see in August. Torrential downpours led to extensive waterlogging on the Knavesmire, forcing devastated organisers to cancel the entire card. The timing of the unseasonably wet weather was especially cruel too as this was the year the Ebor Festival planned on rolling out its additional day.

Tourism bosses estimated that the cancellation cost the local economy in the region of £5m. Most scheduled races failed to feature but highlight contests, such as the three Group 1 events, did run at Newmarket the very same week. The Great Voltigeur Stakes moved to Goodwood while the Ebor Handicap also managed to get itself relocated, running under the guise of the Newburgh Handicap at Newbury just days after initially scheduled.

2009 – Extra day introduced

At the second time of asking York did manage to add a fourth day of racing to the Ebor Festival, extending the fun and betting opportunities for all. Previously the meeting featured seven races each day but the inclusion of Friday racing saw organisers reduce the number of races each day by one. Still three contests short, a trio of new events made their Ebor Festival debut. The most notable of these was the Group 3 Strensall Stakes which had previously featured at York in September.

2011 – Nunthorpe added to Breeders’ Cup

The Nunthorpe Stakes becomes the latest addition to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series. As a result the winner of the five furlong contest receives automatic entry to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint later in the year. It wasn’t until 2017 when a horse accepted the invitation though. In her final ever race, Marsha travelled to Del Mar for the high profile sprint but could only manage a sixth place finish.

2014 – Juddmonte International crowned world’s best

Based on three-year-averages, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities declared that the Juddmonte International Stakes was the best horse race on the planet. With an average rating of 124.17, the Group 1 contest took the title for the very first time, edging out the hugely prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The following year it lost its place on top spot but still retained the title as being the top rated event in Great Britain, a huge honour for the Yorkshire course.

2017 – Juddmonte International hits £1m

An additional £100k added to the purse of the Juddmonte International sees it hit the £1m mark for the very first time. By doing so the 1m 2f contest became the joint fourth richest race in Britain. The news came just months after York increased the total purse of the entire Ebor Festival by £260,000 with no race offering less than £60,000.

2018 – Stradivarius wins big

A new initiative introduced by Weatherbys Hamilton offered a £1m bonus to connections of any horse who won one of four recognised prep races and then went on to the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. The prize fund took no time in being snapped up as Stradivarius completed the WH Stayers’ Million during its inaugural year. The Lonsdale Cup at York stood as the final hurdle but John Gosden’s popular horse managed to hold off Count Octave in the two mile test.

2019 – Ebor Handicap enjoys massive cash boost

The Juddmonte International may be York’s richest race the Ebor Handicap is now breathing down its neck. The contest has long been the most valuable flat handicap on the continent but its purse received a huge boost following a new sponsorship deal with Sky Bet. In 2017 it offered a handsome £285k pot but the following year this was upped substantially to £500,000 and in 2019 it continued its meteoric rise by offering an incredible £1m.