York Racecourse is the ‘Ascot Of The North’ and one of the premier European tracks having recently won the Flat Racecourse of the Year Award, for the fourth year, and also topping in The Times survey of all Britain’s racecourses.
Horses raced at York 2000 years ago during the days of Emperor Severus in Roman times.
York Corporation records show that racing was first fully supported racing in 1530 and in 1607, racing is known to have taken place on the frozen river Ouse, between Micklegate Tower and Skeldergate Postern.
The first detailed records date from 1709, when much work was done to improve the course at Clifton Ings which was prone to flooding. Despite this work, the flooding continued and in 1730 racing transferred to Knavesmire, where today’s course remains having opened for its first meeting in 1731.
Noted York architect, John Carr, designed and built the first Grandstand in 1754, financed by 250 people who each paid 5 guineas who were subsequently entitled to use the stand for the period of the site’s lease, and were issued with a brass token bearing their name and an image of the stand. This formed the prototype for the late prestigious County Stand Badge.
The York Racecourse Committee formed in 1842, to turn around a decline in the quality of racing and, in 1846, introduced the Gimcrack Stakes, one of York’s most enduring races.
York’s richest race, the prestigious Group One Juddmonte International is the highlight of the opening day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, the contest was independently ranked as the best race in Great Britain by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities last season.
York Races’ progression has been reflected in the development of the grandstands over the years. New stands were erected in 1890 to incorporate much of the original building and a major improvement scheme, launched in 1962, led to the opening of the five-tier grandstand in 1965. The programme of development rolled on, and in 1989 the Melrose Stand opened, quickly followed by the award-winning Knavesmire Stand, with additional conference facilities in 1996. 2003 saw the opening of the Ebor Stand containing, amongst other features, the Nunthorpe Suite, kept on race days for exclusive use by Annual Badge Holders.
In recent years York Racecourse, as well as hosting many spectacular York Races, has also played host to Royal Ascot at York in 2005 and The Ladbrokes St Leger in 2006.
It is also home to large music events as well as conferencing and banquets.