The York Ebor Festival provides racing fans with four days of top-quality action and dates back to 1843, though racing of some kind has taken place here since Roman times. The name “Ebor” comes from Eboracum, the Roman name for the city. There are only three Group One races (the highest level of flat racing) in the UK in August, and all of them are at York during the Ebor Festival.
For those lucky enough to attend the Ebor Festival in person, York didn’t win Racecourse of the Year eight times for nothing, and with plenty of food and drink outlets, space to walk around and soak up the atmosphere, and on-course bookmakers, a good time will be had by all. As for the racing itself, the Ebor Handicap on the Saturday afternoon is one of the most popular races of the year and always a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve. Purists will get equal delight from the Group One Juddmonte International, Yorkshire Oaks, and Nunthorpe Stakes, backed up by other high-class events such as the Great Voltigeur Stakes (a renowned St Leger trial), the Lowther stakes for two-year-old fillies and the Lonsdale Cup for stayers.
There is something for everyone to enjoy at the Ebor Festival from Wednesday all the way through to Saturday. With the best horses and jockeys in action on a daily basis, mixed with a host of celebrities and sports stars in attendance, welcome to the wonder of the Ebor Races!
Favourite backers at the Ebor Festival have managed to squeeze out a small profit of 8 points over the last ten years. The trainer to follow has been Michael Dods if you want the best strike rate (seven winners from 35 runners), or David Elsworth if you want the most profit (two winners from 20 runners and a profit of 48 points). Popular jockey Frankie Dettori comes alive at these bigger meetings and has ridden 23 winners here, eight more than William Buick – though neither provide punters with a profit. That mantle falls to Paul Hanagan who is close to 47 points in the black.
People aside, it’s really all about the horses, and the York Ebor Festival has always attracted the very best. We’ve seen course record holder Sea The Stars in 2009, the legendary Frankel in 2012 for the Juddmonte International, Enable taking the Yorkshire Oaks in both 2017 and 2019, and the mighty Battaash breaking Dayjur’s course record in the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2019 before following up with victory again last season.
Unsurprisingly, trends aren’t as clear-cut in the handicaps where favourite backers have come unstuck with just 21 winners from 132 races, though for reasons unknown horses wearing a hood have a close to 10% strike rate and would have made you a profit of nearly 40 points over the last decade. The biggest and most popular betting race is always the Ebor handicap on the Saturday afternoon, and looking for pointers we soon see that five and six-year-olds do exceptionally well with eight of the last 10 winners. Be warned though, you are best off avoiding the market leader as we haven’t seen a winning favourite in 13 years now (unlucky for some) with odds of up to 33/1 landing the spoils.
Although the Aidan O’Brien-trained SNOWFALL has a list of races she could go for this summer, connections are keen for the daughter of Deep Impact to run here. If she can repeat her better form, she will take some stopping in the Yorkshire Oaks. In June she took the Epsom Oaks over this trip by a record 16 lengths at the line under Frankie Dettori, quickening clear in the style of a classy filly. She then went on to win the Irish Oaks with another dominant display. And if she can win on Thursday, she will become only the second horse in the last five years to seal the English, Irish and Darley Yorkshire Oaks treble. Ryan Moore seems more likely to ride her here, but the result should be the same and she may well go on to become a huge player in the Arc later in the year.
With stable companion St Marks Basilica ruled out with a minor infection and Bolshoi Ballet now likely to head to the Irish Champion Stakes after his short campaign in America, Aiden O’Brien will rely on Love in his attempt to win a fourth Juddmonte International Stakes in the last nine years. She is a class act with seven wins form 12 starts, but her unbeaten run of four came to an end last time out when she was third to Adayar and Mishriff at Ascot in the King George, and you do have to wonder if her participation here is more of an afterthought.
Mishriff was ahead of her that day and is a worthy favourite back at a mile and a quarter, which may well be his best trip, while Mohaafeth will try to bounce back from a disappointing third here last time out (that ended his unbeaten record), but it might be worth taking a chance on the unknown stamina of Alcohol Free.
Andrew Balding’s filly is only a three-year-old, but she gets weight from the rest of the field and has been in stunning form all season. Five starts have seen her win three times at Newbury, Royal Ascot (in the Coronation Stakes), and most recently in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood when she took on the colts for the first time and put them in their place and become the first filly to take this contest since 2004.
Runner-up Poetic Flare gives a solid look to the form having won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot as well as only going under by a neck to Palace Pier last weekend in France. If she stays the mile and a quarter (and she wasn’t stopping at Goodwood), then she must have a solid each way chance.
Those looking for a fun bet at a ludicrous price could do a lot worse than the Adrian Paul Keatley trained seven-year-old DASH OF SPICE. His win record in recent years is poor, but having left David Elsworth’s yard over the winter, his new trainer is entitled to need time to work him out. Adrian is as good as anyone at rekindling past glories. The son of Teofilo has won off a handicap mark of 98 and is beginning to look well weighted. He could be a great value bet for those fancying an each way punt on the big race this weekend.
DO enjoy the racing and savour every single moment.
DO take a note of our Ebor Racing Tips.
DO keep your eyes open and your ears closed – not everyone knows more than you do.
DO make the most of bookmaker offers – boosts, extra places and so on.
DO put a stop on your account, take a time-out, or seek professional help if you feel your betting is out of control or unaffordable.
DON’T feel you have to bet more than you can afford or in every race.
DON’T ever bet more than you can afford to lose or risk any adverse impact on your day-to-day life.
DON’T just take the first price on offer – shop around for the better value.
Everything in moderation may be an old-fashioned phrase but it certainly applies to making the most of the York Ebor Festival – after all, we want to enjoy all four days and not just the first one. You don’t have to bet in every race, and you can bet in pennies, not pounds, if that is your budget. The temptation to chase losses is easily removed if you allocate a daily betting bank and stick to it rigidly, see it as money spent on your enjoyment for the day, be that at the races or sat in your armchair, and once it is gone, so be it – that way any returns are an added bonus.
If you find yourself being tempted to bet beyond your limits there are plenty of organisations around to give you help and practical advice. We encourage you to always take advantage of the assistance on offer to make sure you are gambling responsibly at all times. If you are ever worried about your levels of gambling, contact organisations such as GamCare that can help you.
When is the Ebor meeting at York?
The Ebor Festival 2021 covers the four days from Wednesday 18th August to Saturday 21st August, with the first race at approximately 1.45pm each day and the last at about 5.00pm (exact times to be confirmed nearer to the time).
When is the Juddmonte International?
The Juddmonte International takes place on Wednesday, August 18th at 3.35pm. The Group One contest, part of the British Champions Series, sponsored by Juddmonte (the breeding operation of the late Prince Khalid Abdullah) is run over a mile and a quarter. It is seen as one of the premier races of the British summer.
Where is York Racecourse?
By car you need to head to Knavesmire Road, YO23 1EX (via the A64) where you will find plenty of free parking, or by train, head to York Station where there will be taxis and shuttle buses waiting – or it is a brisk walk from the station if you should fancy a breath of fresh air on the way.
What to wear to the York races?
The County Stand requires gentlemen to wear a jacket as well as a collar and tie, and those are the only steadfast rules. However, the Ebor Festival is known as the Royal Ascot of the North for a reason, and many will arrive dressed up in their finery, so expect a fashion show and dress accordingly (hats are popular with the ladies) if you fancy it.
Can you take alcohol into York races?
Yes. The Clocktower Enclosure and the Car Parks all welcome picnics where you can bring your own food and drink, though glass is banned in the enclosure, and you will need to take that in to account. Elsewhere it’s a no-no (just like pubs, restaurants and so on), but there are plenty of outlets catering for every taste and budget, from sandwiches all the way through to sit-down meals, though do remember to book well in advance if you want a table.
What time is the Ebor race?
The last few years have seen the Ebor handicap run at 3.40pm on the Saturday afternoon but York racecourse will decide the exact race time nearer to the day though we confidently expect a very similar time for the stalls to open.