Those that visit the wonderfully historic city of York, rarely leave disappointed. The same can be said of those that venture to the Knavesmire on the outskirts of the city, home of the glorious York racecourse.
First the Romans, and then the Vikings, travelled to this northern outpost in search of excitement and adventure. Nowadays, history blends seamlessly with modern culture in this hugely popular tourist trap. Don’t visit the races without sampling the city’s delights for a day or two. The Minster is simply stunning, and then there’s the historic architecture and glorious cobbled streets of The Shambles. Steam train fanatics must head to the National Railway Museum, whilst the Jorvik Centre tells a captivating story of the marauding Vikings. And for those simply looking for peace and relaxation, what could be better than a river cruise along the Ouse.
The city is also a mecca for those that love to eat and drink. There’s pubs galore, both stylish and raw, and numerous eateries to suit the tastes of all. But what of the racing I hear you cry?
Few compare with the wonderful York Racecourse. It’s a stunning place, and much like the city, has managed to blend old and new in a classy and stylish manner. Viewing is terrific, as are facilities in all parts of the racecourse. And like many elite tracks, York are not standing still. This season sees a much-improved infield area, formerly the Course Enclosure, now renamed the Clocktower Enclosure.
New catering and betting facilities, along with those all-important modern toilet blocks have been erected alongside the famous clocktower, which now sports new canopies. Access for both pushchairs and wheelchairs have been upgraded, with all facilities sited on raised ground to avoid flooding. The area retains its main purpose and goal, as an affordable place for families, who wish to enjoy all the thrills of a day at the races, at the fraction of the cost. With picnics to hand, the entrance fees for the Clocktower Enclosure start at just £5 for adults, and there’s free entry for the under 18’s.
Those that visit today for the start of the Dante Festival, will be treated to three days of top-class racing, with the Betfred Dante Stakes the showpiece event. The Group Two is recognised as one of the leading trials for the Epsom Derby. Golden Horn was the most recent colt to land both, during his stunning campaign of 2015. Sir Michael Stoute’s Tartan Bearer came close in 2008, winning here before falling short by half-a-length at Epsom. A year earlier Authorized, ridden by Frankie Dettori, made no mistake, romping home in both.
York is often a fruitful destination for the diminutive Italian, and no less so in recent times, especially since he joined forces with trainer John Gosden. The pair are likely to have another successful week, with the likes of Coronet, Stradivarius and Highgarden all well fancied.
Another jockey that fares well at the Knavesmire is Andrea Atzeni. He was the racecourse ‘leading jockey’ over the season of 2016 and had plenty more winners during last summer. Not every jockey gets the fractions right at York, with the long straight often misjudged. Expect Atzeni to land a few more telling blows over the coming days, especially when partnering those trained by Roger Varian. Zeelander looks particularly interesting in today’s finale.
I’d also give a mention to David O’Meara and Daniel Tudhope. The Northern trainer will have targeted this meeting and looks to have plenty of entries. Keep an eye on those in the handicaps, especially the sprints. Tudhope has started the latest campaign in outstanding form. Not only has he been banging in the winners aboard O’Meara’s runners, but he has also built a healthy relationship with William Haggas and his team. Look out for the combo.
Most of all, enjoy the delights that York has to offer. If you’ve not yet visited the Knavesmire, book a few days off work and hotfoot it up there as soon as. Stay over for a few days. You won’t regret it.