The Ebor Festival at York Racecourse takes place over four days each August and is the pinnacle of the season on the Knavesmire. Previously held over three days, it was expanded to a four-day festival for the first time in 2009 and in 2011 the final day was held on a Saturday for the first time in the history of the Ebor Festival.
Dating back to 1843, the Ebor Festival was put together around the prestigious Ebor Handicap and has involved into the spectacle that it is now with top-class horse racing action including three Group 1 races – the Juddmonte International, the Yorkshire Oaks and the Nunthorpe Stakes – which act as the feature races on the opening three days before the Ebor Handicap takes centre stage on the final day of the Ebor Festival. The name Ebor, of course, comes for the roman name for York Eboracum.
The Juddmonte International is York’s richest race and pits the best of the classic generation against older rivals over one mile and two and a half furlongs. It is a real jewel in the crown having been won by the biggest names including recently with Twice Over, Rip Van Winkle, Sea The Stars and Authorized and further back in time by Roberto and Troy. It is joined on the opening day of the Ebor Festival by two other Group races, the prestigious Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes is limited to the best three-year-old stayers and is a key trial for the St Leger at Doncaster in September, won in the past by Lucarno and Rule of Law amongst others, and the Group 2 Acomb Stakes is a two-year-old race over seven furlongs and another contest on the list of Rule of Law’s victories.
Day two of the Ebor Festival is Ladies Day which aptly coincides with the running of the two big races for fillies and mares. The big one is the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, which like the Juddmonte International pits three-year-olds against their older rivals over one mile and four furlongs, and has been won by some real stars down the years including Sun Princess, Islington, Alexandrova and Midday. The Group 2 Lowther Stakes over six furlongs is the other key race of the day as two-year-old fillies do battle over six furlongs to join the likes of Al Bahathri and Flashy Wings on the roll of honour. The listed Galtres Stakes is another pattern type race on the card.
Two-year-olds star on day three with three of the six races limited to juveniles, including the six furlong Gimcrack Stakes which was won in the past by Rock of Gibraltar and Amadeus Wolf. The feature of the day is over in the blink of an eye as the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes is held over five furlongs and is over and done with in less than a minute. There is the chance for two-year-olds to take on the older brigade for the first time and it always promises to be interesting. The Group 3 Strensall Stakes, meanwhile, makes it a stellar afternoon of racing.
The headline act of the final day – which is the only one of the four days to have a seven-race card – is the Ebor, an heritage handicap over one mile six furlongs and usually a pointer to the Melbourne Cup in November. The great Sea Pigeon and Sergeant Cecil are among those to have won the prestigious staying race during their careers , and the later also triumphed in another of the day’s feature race the Lonsdale Cup, contested over two miles and which forms part of the staying championship for the season.
Given the huge capacity of York Racecourse – in excess of 33,000, tickets tend to be available for all four days although are slightly more expensive that for standard fixtures.