York Ebor Festival Betting Tips – 21st, 22nd, 23rd & 24th August 2019

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.

Weather

Regulars at York are used to some pretty wet and wild weather during the Ebor Festival, even though it is held at the end of August. Thankfully, the forecast for the coming four days is for pleasant temperatures with lots of sun breaking through the cloud.

York Racecourse Weather Forecast

Forecast via Met Office

Juddmonte International Day: Wednesday 21st August 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:55 Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap 5½f Gunmetal to win at 14/1
2:25 Acomb Stakes 7f Cobra Eye to win at 10/1
3:00 Great Voltigeur Stakes 1m4f Logician to win at 5/2
3:35 Juddmonte International Stakes 1m2½f Crystal Ocean to win at 6/5
4:15 Sky Bet Handicap 2m½f Dubawi Fifty to win
4:50 Sky Bet Nursery Handicap 6f Troubador to win

The Group 1 Juddmonte International is up there with the biggest races of the season. It is such an important race that it lends its name to the whole first day of the Ebor Festival. The Juddmonte is far from the only race worth paying attention to on Wednesday though. There are plenty of opportunities for savvy punters to take from this varied card.

Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap

1:55, Class 2, 5½f

The Ebor Festival begins with a cracking handicap sprint. The Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap is little more than a mad dash for the line over 5½f with £43,575 for connections of the first horse home. Well over twice the maximum field of 20 horses were entered for the Ebor’s opener with the betting headed by Dakota Gold, winner of last weekend’s Great St Wilfrid Handicap.

Even if he was to run, it is worth noting that favourites have a very poor record in this race. Indeed, each of the last 10 winners had a starting price of at least 7/1. Gunmetal is one of those who looks well priced at 14/1. He hasn’t been seen since a decent enough performance at Glorious Goodwood which suggests he has been kept back for this. He has won his fair share of big field handicaps before and can do so again in this one.

Gunmetal to win at 14/1

Acomb Stakes

2:25, Group 3, 7f

The Acomb Stakes is open only to two year olds but previous renewals of this Group 3 have shown that a certain amount of experience is necessary in order to win. The majority of recent winners had already tasted victory over the seven furlong trip whilst 14 of the last 16 winners won their most recent race heading into York.

The betting for the Acomb Stakes suggests we have a very competitive race ahead of us. With some very good value about, the 10/1 you can get on Cobra Eye looks particularly appealing. John Quinn’s charge has only run over six furlongs so far but his performances suggest the extra furlong will pose no extra problem. Frankie Dettori is booked for the ride again and the master could be in line for another Ebor win to add to his collection.

Cobra Eye to win at 10/1

Great Voltigeur Stakes

3:00, Group 2, 1m4f

At this stage of the flat racing season most high profile three year olds have switched to races where they face their elders. There are still some excellent contests purely for the Classic generation though, including the Great Voltigeur Stakes. This Group 2 contest takes place over the same 1m4f trip as many of the very biggest races of the season and connections of the main protagonists will be hopeful of their charges kicking on to win at the highest level next season.

John Gosden certainly has very high hopes for Logician who sits at the top of the betting. Logician only made his racecourse debut in May but has made up for missed time with three straight wins. Punters are falling over themselves to get on the favourite but this is his toughest test by some distance. Constantinople, sunning for Aidan O’Brien, is chief among Logician’s rivals and has to be a tempting bet at 4/1. As tempting at the son of Galileo is, however, we are siding with the favourite here as the John Gosden-trained Logician looks a cut above the rest.

Logician to win at 3/1

Juddmonte International Stakes

3:35, Group 1, 1m2½f

Enable is one of the biggest stars in horse racing at the moment. John Gosden’s filly has conquered all in front of her this season and hopes were high among racing fans that she would face a thrilling renewal of her head to head battled against officially the world’s top rated horse, Crystal Ocean. Those two have been at the top of the ante post betting for the Juddmonte International Stakes following their clash in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes but Enable is set to stick to her own sex at the Ebor Festival and compete in the Yorkshire Oaks later in the week.

That leaves Crystal Ocean as the out and out favourite for this wonderful Group 1 contest. Sir Michael Stoute has done another fantastic job in getting the best out of an older horse. Given the standard of his performances of late, that Crystal Ocean hasn’t won a Group 1 since this year’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is perhaps a little surprising. He could well take on Enable again in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, but whether he’ll have the quality to be victorious that day remains to be seen.

The Crystal Ocean team won’t be looking towards October quite yet. They know their charge has a tough job on his hands on Wednesday. He will have to finish ahead of King Of Comedy (10/3), Japan (9/2) and Elarqam (9/1) to win the Juddemonte International. That is a task that few horses would be able to achieve over 1m2½f but Crystal Ocean is of the highest calibre runners around and is a hardened campaigner capable of digging in when he needs to so a win bet at 6/5 should be a safe enough play.

Crystal Ocean to win at 6/5

Sky Bet Handicap

4:15, Class 2, 2m½f

It is a little inevitable that the quality of racing will tail off after the feature race of the day but those who stick around for the Sky Bet Handicap will be treated to a compelling betting heat. This stayers’ handicap is open to horses aged four and older. The maximum rating of 105 allows scope for some good horses to compete. That is a fair description of Dubawi Fifty who is the top rated horse in the field. Karen McLintock had a tough decision to make whether to go for this or the Ebor Handicap later in the week. She has gone for the race that gives the six year old the best chance of winning and has booked Frankie Dettori to ride. The Dubawi Fifty/Dettori partnership could prove just too much for the competition in our eyes.

Dubawi Fifty to win

Sky Bet Nursery Handicap

4:50, Class 2, 6f

The final action of the first day of the 2019 Ebor Festival is provided by the Sky Bet Nursery Handicap. Although this is a race for two year olds it is not for horses who showed signs of greeness last time out. It takes a steady attitude to run well against 21 opponents. Troubador is one of those in the field with experience against a lot of rivals. The Michael Dods runner has won four of his last five, placing second in the other and has shown an impressive amount of pace when put under pressure. He won at York in July and looks well-placed to repeat the trick in this one.

Troubador to win

Ladies Day: Thursday 22nd August 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:55 Lowther Stakes 6f Liberty Beach to win at 15/8
2:25 Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes 6f Raahy to win at 8/1
3:00 Clipper Logistics Handicap 1m Qaysar each way at 12/1
3:35 Yorkshire Oaks 1m4f Enable to win at 2/7
4:15 Galtres Stakes 1m4f Frankellina to win
4:50 British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap 7f Lyzbeth to win

Ladies Day of the Ebor Festival is quite fittingly headlined by the Yorkshire Oaks. It’s one of the premier races for fillies and mares of the season and is well supported by a string of exciting races on the Thursday card. It is the feature race that will garner the most attention though as Enable bids farewell to British racing.

Lowther Stakes

1:55, Group 2, 6f

Thursday begins with a Group 2 contest for two year old fillies. Some of the main contenders for this year’s Lowther Stakes have made just one or two appearances before but the stats show that this is not a race for those without even a little bit of form. All but one of the last 17 winners of the Lowther Stakes had already won over before, with the majority scoring over this six furlong trip.

No horse in the Lowther field has run more than Liberty Beach. John Quin has been very happy with her work so far which includes four wins from five starts. That has been enough for her to be priced up as the 15/8 favourite even though she is having her first crack at this distance. Liberty Beach certainly has the speed to get her competition beaten and the strength of her finish last time out at Goodwood suggests she will have no problem getting the extra furlong.

Liberty Beach to win at 15/8

Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes

2:25, Class2, 6f

There is another chance for juveniles to shine by the Knavesmire next up with the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes. A full strength field of 22 horses will head to post in this six furlong contest which has produced its fair share of winners at double figure odds.

Like the Lowther Stakes, the trends suggest that horses with fewer than two races under their belts will struggle whilst those with low draws are also swimming against the statistical tide. Show Me Show Me and Mums Tipple are being well backed but will find it tough to overcome their draw and lack of experience respectively. That should give Raahy a chance to land his second win at odds of 8/1. He wasn’t good enough to make up for a poor start last time out in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes but has every chance of doing better at York.

Raahy to win at 8/1

Clipper Logistics Handicap

3:00, Class 2, 1m

Favourite backers should go and walk the dog during the Clipper Logistics Handicap. No favourites have obliged in the last decade of this one mile handicap which is bad news for connections of Kynren who is available at 6/1. Kynren could also be too old at five as three and four year olds have won 13 of the last 16 renewals including each of the last four.

Qaysar is one of those primed to a take step up and win if Kynren cannot end the favourites’ miserable run. He arrives at York looking for a hat-trick so is clearly in good shape. The handicapper has had a say given Qaysar’s recent strong form but he’s still off a mark that should allow him to be competitive especially as he’s returning to a mile after a win over seven furlongs last time out. The competitive nature of the race means it’s tough to be overly confident but an each way bet on Qaysar at 12/1 seems a sensible way of approaching this one.

Qaysar each way at 12/1

Yorkshire Oaks

3:35, Group 1, 1m4f

The Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks is the standout race on the Ladies Day card. It is the sort of race that always produces a winner of the highest class and nothing will change in that regard even though this year’s renewal features just four horses.

Those hoping for a ding dong battle may be disappointed. Magical is a quality performer with big wins under her belt but she is set to face Enable for the fourth time and there’s no reason to believe this will be the race that she finally gets the better of John Gosden’s superstar. In fact, Enable’s stiffest challenge could well come from her stablemate, Lah Ti Dar. The four year old is yet to show she’s capable of beating Enable but she still has room for improvement so there’s a small chance of a shock win at 14/1.

With all that said it is very difficult to make a compelling case for any of Enable’s rivals on her final appearance in Britain. Her wonderful career will come to an end in October when she heads to France to try and become the first three time winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. That’s the sort of achievement that tells you everything you need to know about Enable’s quality. Yes, she’s short at 2/7 but she’s short for very good reason and should sign off from British racing with yet another win.

Enable to win at 2/7

Galtres Stakes

4:15, Listed, 1m4f

The Galtres Stakes is a race that punters have struggled to get a handle on in recent years. The last six renewals have produced three winning favourites interspersed with 12/1, 8/1 and 20/1 winners. Much like the race itself, punters have struggled to predict Frankellia so far in her career. She has shown glimpses of being a very good horse since finishing sixth in the Epsom Oaks but has yet to really take her chances when presented to her. It is easy to forget that Frankellina is still lightly raced for a three year old though and it won’t take too much improving for her to claim the Galtres Stakes.

Frankellina to win

British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap

4:50, Class 2, 7f

The British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap brings ladies day to an end. The field is largely made up of promising three year olds who are yet to really mature. That is a fair description of Lyzbeth who was anything but disgraced by a modest finish in the Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes last time out. That run Goodwood was only the third of her career so she’s entitled to come on quite considerably, perhaps even to the extent that she wins this one.

Lyzbeth to win

Day 3: Friday 22nd August 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:55 Sky Bet Handicap 1m4f Jazeel to win at 11/1
2:25 Lonsdale Cup 2m½f Stradivarius to win at 4/9
3:00 Gimcrack Stakes 6f Threat to win at 2/1
3:35 Nunthorpe Stakes 5f Battaash to win at 9/4
4:15 Convivial Maiden Stakes 7f Celtic Art to win
4:50 Nationwide Accident Handicap 1m Nahaarr to win

Friday at the Ebor Festival always includes a strong card and this year is no different. The main storylines surround whether Stradivarius can win the Stayers’ Million again and who will come out on top in the battle between Ten Sovereigns and Battaash in the feature race of the day, the Nunthorpe Stakes.

Sky Bet Handicap

1:55, Group 2, 1m4f

We have a typically competitive and open handicap to get things underway on Friday at York. The Sky Bet Handicap is open to horses aged three and older who have a maximum official rating of 105. It’s interesting to note that 10 of the last 16 winners had never won over this 1m4f trip before. The trends further suggest that punters should look for a younger horse drawn in stall eight or higher who is carrying a maximum of 9st5lb.

Jazeel fits the profile of a potential winner of this race very well indeed. He’s had a relatively busy campaign so far but you can’t blame connections for making the most of the extended run of good form that he’s in. The four-year-old was last seen finishing second over 1m2f in a handicap at Goodwood. He could have easily turned that into a win had he had the luck of the winner that day. A nice draw and stepping up in trip could bring the best out of Jazeel who is well priced at 11/1 and is our tip for day three’s opening contest.

Jazeel to win at 11/1

Lonsdale Cup

2:25, Group 2, 2m½f

Stradivarius is one of a handful of horses competing at the Ebor Festival who will draw fans to York on his own. He is the king of the staying division on the flat having secured the Stayers’ Million last year for winning the biggest long distance races around. Defending his crown and winning the £1 million bonus again was always going to be tougher and a really huge ask but so far Stradivarius has managed to dig deep when challenged and he heads to York with an eight race winning streak and a shot at landing another huge bonus for his connections.

There were times during the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup when it looked as though Stradivarius was going to be collared by one of his rivals. However, he was expertly guided home by Frankie Dettori who can say nothing but great things about this horse. As with his last two appearances, Dee Ex Bee is the main challenger to Stradivarius. You’d have to say it would be a shock were we to see anything other than another win for the favourite who is available at 4/9 and even at short odds-on offers cracking value in our opinion.

Stradivarius to win at 4/9

Gimcrack Stakes

3:00, Group 2, 6f

There’s a serious change of pace next up with the Gimcrack Stakes. We go from seasoned campaigners over longer trips to a contest for two-year-olds which is run over a mere 6f. At this stage, those in the field for the Gimcrack have many different potential paths for their careers. However, recent renewals have been won by horses who went on to have success in high level sprints such as Blue Point and Sands Of Mali, winners in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The market clearly believes that Threat is the most likely of those in the field to go on and have a career of top level sprinting. Richard Hannon’s colt has already run in two Group 2s. He was beaten by less than a length on both occasions which was disappointing but he isn’t facing either of the horses to have got the better of him and should find things panning out better for him this time around. That makes Threat a worthy favourite at 2/1.

Threat to win at 2/1

Nunthorpe Stakes

3:35, Group 1, 5f

After a frustrating first half of the season, Ten Sovereigns finally hit the levels expected of him last time out in the July Cup at Newmarket. Aidan O’Brien has firmly come down on the view that Ten Sovereigns will be kept to the sprinting trips. He’s been backed into favouritism for another Group 1 win in the Nunthorpe Stakes, the big race of the third day of the Ebor and one that offers £200,000 to the winner.

There is no doubting Ten Sovereigns’ potential or class but the trends suggest this is not the race for him. Favourites have won just four of the last 17 renewals whilst no three-year-old has won since Margot Did, in 2011. The other big concern for Ten Sovereigns’ connections is the presence of the speedball Battaash in the betting at 9/4.

Battaash failed badly in the last two renewals of the Nunthorpe Stakes but has looked a little less headstrong this season which has helped to secure some positive results. We don’t buy into the theory that he doesn’t like the course and believe instead that they were just two bad performances. The five-year-old was as good as ever when winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood and should have too much experience and class for the favourite over 5f at a decent price that offers better value than the 6/4 on Ten Sovereigns.

Battaash to win at 9/4

Convivial Maiden Stakes

4:15, Class 2, 7f

The Convivial Maiden Stakes is a chance for two-year-olds who are yet to land their first win to claim a decent prize. Many of those in the field are making their debut which could hand the advantage to Celtic Art. He’s already run twice, improving significantly from his first to second race. His runner up finish at Goodwood suggests that he could be a decent stayer and also that 7f is the perfect trip for him currently, so a win bet is in order in the penultimate contest of the day.

Celtic Art to win

Nationwide Accident Repair Services Handicap

4:50, Class 2, 1m

The Nationwide Accident Repair Services Handicap has a decent prize for the final race of the day so we have a strong field to bring the curtain down on Friday’s action. The race has provided winners from between 3/1 and 33/1 in the six editions so punters will be scratching their heads and heeding the market on the day isn’t the worst idea.

Market movers aside, we believe that Nahaarr is a good place to turn for now. He missed his two-year-old season but won on debut at Doncaster in May and has won three times since. Nahaarr never really showed his best last time out after a small break but could be back to his peak form on Friday.

Nahaarr to win

Day 4: Saturday 24th August 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:50 Strensall Stakes 1m1f Bangkok to win at 6/1
2:25 Melrose Handicap 1m6f Land Of Oz each way at 10/1
3:00 City Of York Stakes 7f Laurens to win at 9/4
3:40 Ebor Handicap 1m6f Raheen House to win at 8/1
4:10 Julia Graves Roses Stakes 5f Mrs Bouquet to win
4:45 Sky Bet Handicap 1m2½f Rise Hall to win
5:20 Sky Bet Apprentice Handicap 5f Pass The Vino to win

The Ebor Festival draws to a close with a high class day of racing. The £1 million Ebor Handicap is the undoubted highlight but each race provides some genuine opportunity for punters. We’ve picked out a mixture of favourites and those from further down the betting for our betting tips for Day 4 of the Ebor Festival.

Strensall Stakes

1:50, Group 3, 1m1f

The 2019 Strensall Stakes features just six horses but we still have a highly competitive race ahead of us. All six have a chance of landing a big win in this Group 3 which takes place over 1m1f but the bookies’ odds suggest it’s going to come down to the top two: Wissahickon and Zaaki.

John Gosden’s Wissahickon is the narrow favourite at 15/8 and for good reason given his consistently high level of performances over the last two seasons. The four year old is used to winning but it could just pay to take him on with Bangkok available at 6/1. Andrew Balding’s three year old was well beaten in the Derby and hasn’t challenged in two outings since but the drop down in trip could suit him well. He won’t have the sort of traffic problems he encountered last time out at York and may just be back to his best.

Bangkok to win at 6/1

Melrose Handicap

2:25, Class 2, 1m6f

A decent field of 13 three year olds will compete in the Melrose Handicap. It is by no means the biggest handicap of the day but carries a handsome winning prize of £78,000 and the betting market suggests the winner will need to turn in a very good performance. Only one of the last five winners went off at single figures and it may well pay to get on board with a double figure chance this time around.

Land Of Oz is particularly appealing at odds of 10/1. He’s been drawn in stall one which is a bonus given the propensity for winners out of stall eight and lower. Land Of Oz has been working his way up the rankings with four wins in a row but he still looks to be well treated by the handicapper. Winning will require a big effort but an each way bet looks to be very much in order.

Land Of Oz each way at 10/1

City Of York Stakes

3:00, Group 2, 7f

The Ebor Festival is a special jewel in the crown of British racing. It’s an annual event for thousands of fans and those making the trip for all four days this year fortunate enough to see some of the most popular horses in racing. Laurens can be counted in that number. She’s captured the hearts of racing fans both for the calibre of races she’s won and for how much she means to trainer Karl Burke and owner John Dance.

Laurens was unable to make an impact at Royal Ascot but added another Group 1 to her CV next time out when winning the Prix Rothschild at Deauville. Some thought that the four year old would go back in trip to give herself the best chance of further victories but Burke and Dance have gone the other way. She certainly has what it takes to win a big race like the City Of York Stakes over 7f. She should have too much for her leading contenders such as Le Brivido (5/1), Cape Byron (6/1) and Shine So Bright (7/1) to justify her billing as the 9/4 favourite.

Laurens to win at 9/4

Ebor Handicap

3:40, Class 2, 1m6f

The Ebor Handicap is one of the most historic races of the flat racing season. It was first run way back in 1843 and has always been an incredibly challenging race. It takes real heart on behalf of trainers and jockeys to come out on top of this 1m6f handicap with a big field of 22. Last year saw the biggest change in the Ebor for a very long time with an increase in prize money to £1 million. The £600,000 first prize has increased the quality of horses entered for the Ebor with last year’s winner, Muntahaa, coming into the race via Group level races and therefore had to carry a big weight penalty.

Plenty more top quality horses more used to running in Pattern company than in handicaps are towards both the top of the betting and the weights for Saturday’s big race. Raheen House is one of that number and punters have not been put off the fact that he’s carrying 9st 8lb. In fact, he may well go off as the favourite come 3:40 on Saturday.

Raheen House has been targeted at the Ebor ever since being switched to William Haggas’s yard. Haggas is yet to saddle a winner in this huge match but surely has a great chance of ending that run. The five year old has the right blend of experience, quality and grit to get the job done at 8/1.

Raheen House to win at 8/1

Julia Graves Roses Stakes

4:10, Listed, 5f

A Listed race for two year olds follows the big race of the day. Previous winners of this race have gone on to run well in other big races so this is a race to keep a close eye on. Although we’ve seen some surprise winners in recent years (Shadow Hunter won at 33/1) it’s rare for the winner to be completely missed by the bookies. Mrs Bouquet certainly hasn’t been missed given that she heads to York on the back of a hat-trick. She’s still improving and has more experience than most juveniles so can win another race over 5f.

Mrs Bouquet to win

Sky Bet Handicap

4:45, Class 2, 1m2½f

The last 10 renewals of the Sky Bet Handicap has seen winners go in at anything from 5/2 to 20/1 and carrying between 8st 4lb to 10st. It’s clearly a tough contest for punters to predict but Rise Hall looks a tempting option. Just one horse is carrying more weight than Martyn Meade’s four year old but he is well suited to this trip, is good from and has run well at York before so could take some stopping.

Rise Hall to win

Sky Bet Apprentice Handicap

5:20, Class 2, 5f

The Sky Bet Apprentice Handicap is the final race of the Ebor Festival. It’s a race that’s all about potential with some of the 20 three year old horses in the field capable of kicking on to compete at a higher level whilst the apprentice jockeys are all incredibly ambitious. Cieren Fallon has as much experience as any of the jockeys lining up for this one and he partners the top weighted horse, Recon Mission. She could go on to win some pretty big handicaps but 9st 7lb looks a little steep. Pass The Vino could be a better option for Darragh Keenan and Paul D’Arcy. He’s finished second in his last two starts over 6f and could go one better dropped back to 5f.

Pass The Vino 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.

History

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.