York chief Derby delighted with four brilliant days on the Knavesmire

York chief executive William Derby reflected on a memorable Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival which saw capacity crowds back to enjoy top-class action on the Knavesmire.

Like every other racecourse, York was hit hard by the pandemic and has been grateful to see the lifting of restrictions.

With attendances building towards the end of the week, Ebor day itself was sold out on the stands’ side of the track, and Derby and his team were able to look back on a job well done – despite the weather taking a turn for the worse on Saturday.

Derby said: “We saw some brilliant action on the track, highlighted by the three Group Ones with world-class performances by the winners – Mishriff, Snowfall and Winter Power.

Mishriff thrilled the crowds at York on Wednesday
Mishriff thrilled the crowds at York on Wednesday (Nigel Ffrench/PA)

“They were special, each in their own right with their own story, plus the magic of Stradivarius on Friday winning an amazing race in the home straight.

“And also Battaash coming to parade (before the Nunthorpe). We were hugely grateful to Sheikha Hissa (Hamdan Al Maktoum). We wrote to her asking and she kindly agreed. Jim Crowley wore a jockey cam and you can see that on our Twitter feed. The packed crowd thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Winter Power for a local yard – she’d won here twice before. She’s a real local favourite taking on the best in the world in terms of Golden Pal and Suesa.

“And for Silvestre de Sousa, who was based at Thirsk, to win for King Power who’ve had such an amazing season and won the John Smith’s Cup with Johnny Drama. It was great.

“We’ve had some fantastic racing, Mark Johnston winning the Tattersalls Acomb was another one for a Yorkshire stable.”

Winter Power was dazzling quick in the Nunthorpe
Winter Power was dazzling quick in the Nunthorpe (Nigel French/AP)

He added: “We’ve been really encouraged by the response of the crowd to racing – the feeling of people being back and relieved to get back to live sporting events.

“This is the first time we’ve reached our capacity on the stands’ side for Ebor day.

“Real World gave us a great start to Saturday winning the Strensall Stakes and Sonnyboyliston winning the Ebor for Johnny Murtagh was fantastic.

“The crowd figures are there or thereabouts to our 2019 level. We had a record for a Friday at the Ebor Festival. Hopefully encouraged by Stradivarius, Battaash and an amazing Coolmore Nunthorpe.”

York welcomes 30,000 crowd back to ‘bit of normality’

York racecourse boss William Derby welcomed the sight of busy grandstands as the track hosted its first unrestricted crowd for 18 months.

The Knavesmire, along with Ascot hosting the first full Saturday attendance since the relaxation of coronavirus measures this week, staged the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes – with live music from Rick Astley and then McFly providing added entertainment after racing over the past two days.

York was almost full to capacity on Saturday, with remaining walk-up tickets available only in the centre of the track.

“We’re really pleased that racegoers can return in more normal numbers today,” said Derby, chief executive and the clerk of the course.

“We raced yesterday evening, and it tasted a bit like normality. We’re pleased to be back today, with great racing and music again tonight.

“We had about 10,000 last night and we think about 30,000 today. We reached our capacity on the stands’ side – but people could turn up for the Clock Tower enclosure in the middle of the course today, where they can enjoy their picnics, the seven races and the music.”

The meeting comes ahead of next month’s Ebor Festival, York’s headline fixture and one which is likely to attract similar numbers.

“It’s been a long 18 months for everyone in the country,” added Derby.

“It’s great we’re back – and from our perspective, we’re looking forward to next month for our flagship meeting, the Ebor Festival.

“We’re pleased to be getting back and having a successful rest of the year. People seem to be enjoy being back out and bringing a bit of normality to their lives.”

A crowd of nearly 15,000 attended Ascot to watch Adayar back up his Derby victory with a convincing success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

“There’s something very special when a horse goes straight from the Derby to the Arc and there was no hiding place today,” said Nick Smith, director of racing and public affairs at the track.

“That was a perfect horse race. Sometimes the King George produces a hero and sometimes it confirms a hero but I think the public love to engage with three-year-olds.

“This isn’t just Ascot’s midsummer showpiece, it is Flat racing’s highlight of the summer and today it certainly lived up to its billing.

“It takes a special Derby winner to win this which sometimes gets lost, but today what made it so special was the strength of the older horses. The winner has clearly got so much more to give as he was such a late developer.

“And of course, the big thing today was the crowd. To hear them cheering the horses home and then the reception William (Buick, winning rider) got when he came back in, it was brilliant.”