York Racecourse

The Racecourse, York, YO23 1EX - Map & Directions
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Meeting at York Racecourse
Meeting at York Racecourse (Scott Cormie / geograph.org.uk)

Located in North Yorkshire, York is the third most lucrative racecourse in the UK in terms of prize money available. Around 350,000 people visit York each year to watch racing and it stages three of the UK’s 31 group one races. Racing first took place on the current site, also known as the Knavesmire in 1731, so it is also one of the oldest courses still in use in Britain. There used to be just two meetings per year in the 19th century but the course has undergone remarkable improvements and modernisations and is now seen as one of the best racecourses in the world. There are four stands at York – the initial five-tier grandstand, along with the Melrose Stand, the Knavesmire Stand and the Ebor Stand, opened in 2003. The course now has a capacity of over 60,000 and was the location for the start of the second day of the 2014 Tour de France as part of Yorkshire’s successful Grand Depart.

York racecourse is located less than a mile from the A64, and customers are encouraged to take exit 44 of the A1(M) and follow the signs to York racecourse. For those travelling by train, York railway station is just 1.5 miles from the course and is easily within walking distance. Alternatively, a bus service from the station is in operation, whilst a taxi rank is also positioned outside. York station is one of the busiest in the country and is served by direct services from London King’s Cross, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.

Ticket Prices

There are a number of different ticketing options at York, with access to the county stand starting from just £25, whilst entry to the Melrose club lounge is a bit pricier at £79. Access to the grandstand and paddock stand starts from £12 whilst the course enclosure is the cheapest section available, with tickets priced at as little as £5, meaning there are options to suit all budgets.

These prices are the cheapest available for their respective areas and will vary in price depending on the popularity of the race meeting. There are also early bird options available on the website which are even cheaper than the prices listed. Customers under the age of 18 are allowed access to most areas free of charge if they are accompanied by an, although age verification/ID may be required.

The Course

York Flat Racecourse Map

The course at York is listed as grade 1, meaning it is up there with the very best in the country and flat races are run left-handed over a 1m7f oval. The back straight features a dogleg measuring 7f, whilst the home straight is slightly shorter at just 5f. The bends are sweeping in nature featuring no ridges and these combined with the flat, wide straights at York make it an excellent destination for gallopers and a fitting home to some top notchy races.

Three chutes protrude from the oval circuit, often used as the starting point for races of varying distances with one of them allowing for straight sprints up to 6f in length. Stamina is not a key attribute here normally but it’s a different story when the going gets soft. Things can become so testing on the Knavesmire in the wetter months that it takes a huge effort just to make it to the line.

Draw Bias Differs by Distance

It’s always easiest for us to say that certain draws are always favoured at a racecourse but that’s simply not the case of York. Low drawn horses take the initiative, posting an impact value (IV) of 1.23 in 5f & 5½f races that featured at least 10+ runners between October 2009 and September 2019.

However, high drawn runners also fared well enough, with an impact value of 1.02, leaving those mid-drawn to be the ones that struggled. An IV of 0.76% plus a return of investment (ROI) of -35% means that mid-drawn runners should be approached with caution, although only when the going is good or better.

Moving up to six furlongs, the bias has switched from being in favour of high drawn horses to actually suiting those on the opposite side. In the first five years of the past decade, low drawn horses had an IV of just 0.75 and -43% ROI but in the last five years, they’ve improved massively, now posting a 1.29 IV and +5% ROI. We’re not sure what the ground staff at York have done but unless this change is a statistical anomaly, it’s had a massive impact on the state of draw bias over six furlongs.

Mid-drawn horses fared worse in short sprints but over seven furlongs they boast the best IV (1.27) and winning percentage by a fairly comfortable margin too. Due to the positioning of the chute, those that start centrally can virtually race in a straight line until they reach the home straight, without risk of being crowded out inside the rail.

Completing a most complicated draw bias picture is the conclusion from eight furlong contests, which shows that low drawn horses won 62.5% more often than high drawn. Much like with 7f starts, the advantage the preferred stalls have grows more when looking at races that took place on good or better going. Crystal clear!

Front Runners Fall Short

When looking at five furlong handicaps, York is the one of the worst places in the country for front runners. Although they don’t post a strike rate quite as bad as the 6.7% recorded at Doncaster in South Yorkshire, 13.2% is still very low for a course that has a reputation for suiting prominently ridden horses.

You’ll often find here that the horse leading with one furlong to go ends up getting picked off as they close towards the finishing line. It’s certainly not impossible to make all here but jockeys are better off dropping a little deeper before turning on the burners in the final 200 or so yards. That’s something well worth thinking about if you like a dabble with in-play bets on the horses.

Major Meetings at York

York Racecourse Melrose Stand
York Racecourse Melrose Stand (David Hebb / geograph.org.uk)

The major festival held each year at York is the Ebor Festival, which takes place each August. The feature race at the festival is undoubtedly the Ebor Handicap, a race that was established in 1843 and is run over 1m6f. The race – and festival - was named after Eboracum, which is the Roman translation of York and it is regarded as the most valuable flat handicap in Europe, with a total purse of over £265,000.

Another popular race at York is the Juddmonte International Stakes, which is also run at the Ebor Festival, with the 2012 race being won by the unbeaten Frankel. In 2005 York Hosted Royal Ascot due to redevelopments taking place at Ascot, meaning they were unable to host their yearly festival. Other important races at York include the Yorkshire Oaks, Lonsdale Cup and Summer Stakes.

Dining and Hospitality

A Race Taking Place at York
A Race Taking Place at York (John Armitstead / geograph.org.uk)

Private hospitality suites at York are available in three of the four stands. Boxes in the Knavesmire Stand and Melrose Stand start from £1400 + VAT, whilst suites in the Ebor stand only offer prices upon application. All suites vary in menu and capacity and more information is available by contacting the racecourse directly. There are also a good range of dining and drinking facilities at the course.


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