Go Racing in Yorkshire
Living North seeks an insight from Yorkshire’s horse racing gurus, Go Racing in Yorkshire
Why is Yorkshire such a special place to go racing?
Where the racecourses are concerned, Yorkshire has a bit of everything! There’s beautiful countryside, stunning scenery and nearly 80 racehorse trainers based in the county, meaning there is great competitive racing at every meeting. However, it is the knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic Yorkshire crowd that really makes the county a special place to go racing.
What are the courses to visit?
There are nine racecourses in the county to visit. They are all different and unique in their own way but fiercely proud to be Yorkshire, united by the area.
Beverley is East Yorkshire’s only racecourse and sits on the famous Westwood. It has a strong uphill finish with the elevation giving stunning views towards the town. Catterick is situated beside the A1 giving very easy access. It has recently gone through a large-scale refurbishment with a new state of the art weighing room and owners and trainers facility. Catterick has a packed programme of racing all year round with both flat and jump fixtures. Doncaster is home to the oldest classic the St Leger, one of only five such races held throughout the racing calendar. Another course to hold both jump and flat racing, they also have a summer programme of evening concerts.
Pontefract is the longest continuous flat course in the country with a two-mile round circuit. Rooted in the town’s mining history, the first race times are still scheduled to fit in with the end of the first shift, which would allow those working in the pit to get to the races for the afternoon! Redcar is known as the seaside racecourse and racing originally started on the beach. The course celebrates its 150th anniversary this summer and has invested nearly £1 million in improvements.
Ripon is known as the garden racecourse and it is easy to see why. Stunning florals adorn the racecourse throughout the season adding a pop of colour all the way around. The town is famous for its hornblower who can be heard at 9pm every evening and a race is run in honour of this tradition. Thirsk Racecourse is located right in the heart of Herriot country surrounded by the scenic Howardian Hills. In a bygone era, James Herriot was occasionally assigned to veterinary duties on a raceday and while it is still steeped in tradition, the new owners and trainers facility and manicured lawns offer a welcoming invite to all racegoers. Wetherby was traditionally a jump course, hosting some key races in the racing calendar and latterly it has started to hold flat meetings which have proven very popular with flat racing participants and racegoers. York’s racing history can be traced back to Roman times and today it plays host to some of the best racing in the world. It attracts a global audience to its flagship Ebor meeting in August, a highlight in the summer social calendar.
When does the flat season start?
The flat turf season traditionally starts and ends at Doncaster. It kicks off at the end of March with the Lincoln meeting, and the November Handicap is the big race that closes the season. The jump season runs from October to March at three courses: Catterick, Doncaster and Wetherby.
What are the highlights of the season in Yorkshire?
On the racing front there are so many exciting days ahead. All the flat courses tend to start their season in April, apart from York which waits until May for the first festival of the season. New for this year sees the launch of the Yorkshire Wonder Horse, sponsored by leading equestrian suppliers Wm McIvor & Son. There will be a £100,000 bonus for the first horse to win at all nine Yorkshire courses between the start of the flat season until 31st December 2023. This initiative will prove quite a challenge but has sparked great interest from owners and trainers alike and we will be following the horses progress very closely! July sees the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival, sponsored by Sky Bet, where racing takes place over a nine day period at all the Yorkshire courses apart from Wetherby. There’s a real festival atmosphere and racegoers can look forward to food and drink specials, a daily jockey’s sporting competition and a leading trainer, jockey and best turned out yard competition continuing through the week, as well as some competitive racing.
What feature meetings can we look forward to?
Racing entertains a huge variety of customers. Whether you are a hardcore racing fan, enjoy a special day out or want to get out with the family, there is a raceday for you. A whole programme of family days are scheduled starting with Easter themed days in April. The bank holidays, including the Platinum Jubilee, are well catered for and over the Summer holidays there’s at least one family day every week! The Ladies Days are back, starting in June at Wetherby and running through until September at Doncaster. We will then be hosting an online final for the best dressed winners at each racecourse with some amazing prizes! There’s an eclectic mix of music across the racecourses with Shed Seven, Kaiser Chiefs, Paloma Faith, Nile Rodgers & Chic and McFly performing after racing during the summer at Doncaster, while Madness and The Sugababes will be taking to the stage at York in July. Pontefract host Sister Sledge at their evening meeting in May and it’s Tribute Bands day on the final day of the Summer Festival in July. Beverley gets into Disco Fever with their Bus Stop 70’s night at the beginning of July. Of course the top class racing takes centre stage at York’s Ebor meeting and at the St Leger meeting at Doncaster. Popular with diehard racing fans, those who enjoy dressing up and having a social day out, these are key dates for all racing fans. Over the sticks we have some real highlights in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October and the Sky Bet Chase meeting at Doncaster in January. North Yorkshire also has its own Grand National which takes place at Catterick in early January. With the versatility of Yorkshire’s racecourses, there are 187 days of wonderful racing throughout the year, so you will always find a meeting to attend.
Can children go racing for free?
Accompanied under 18s are free across the courses, so racing is a great opportunity to get the family outside, enjoying some fun together. Costs vary for adults, depending on the course and enclosure, but regular racegoers can purchase a racecourse’s annual badge or even a Go Racing In Yorkshire season ticket which gives admission to all meetings at the nine racecourses over the course of a year.
What are the unique features of a day’s racing?
Racedays are so versatile, depending on the day, time and season, but whenever you go it is great value for a full day’s entertainment. Racedays are also unique in the way they bring people together, a once-a-year racegoer who likes to dress up and go for the social occasion can be there with a Go Racing In Yorkshire season ticket holder who attends nearly every meeting across the year and they will both go home having had a great day out. There are different enclosures with a variety of facilities and at different price points, making a day at the races accessible for everyone. Hospitality continues to be popular, whether it’s a business organisation taking a box to entertain clients or a group of friends taking a table in one of the restaurants to celebrate an occasion or simply enjoy a day out together, the options available will make for a really special day out. Alternatively pack up a picnic and head to the family enclosure or take advantage of the catering outlets onsite.
How popular are evening and Sunday fixtures?
Evening and Sunday fixtures are very popular. Sundays tend to have a more relaxed feel about them and are great family days with lots of entertainment for the children. It is often a great opportunity to learn about the day’s sport with information and engaging activities to help the youngsters (and the older ones) understand what is happening on the racing front. Evening fixtures give you the chance to relax and unwind after a day at work or get an early start into the weekend!
What other elements of racing can be found in Yorkshire?
Yorkshire has everything when it comes to racing, there are nearly 80 licensed trainers with more than 2,400 horses between them, and with nine racecourses there are plenty to go around! Many of the yards open their doors to visitors, the Middleham yards on Good Friday in April and the Malton yards on Sunday 11th September. Yorkshire is home to some top-class veterinary practices which care for the equine athletes and Jack Berry House in Malton, which is the rehabilitation centre for jockeys and stable staff. The National Horseracing College is located in Doncaster providing training for staff entering the industry as well as continuous professional development for those already working in it. Doncaster is also home to the horse sales complex Goffs UK and there are multiple studs in the county which stand stallions and also look after foaling mares. In total, the horse racing industry is worth £300.2 million to the Yorkshire economy, with more than 6,300 full time equivalent roles in the region and the ripple effect of the sport filtering into the accommodation and hospitality industry of the county.