The Secret Racegoer’s guide to York races
With the crowds returning to the Knavesmire, including a sell-out on Ebor day, we revisit the Secret Racegoer’s guide to one of Britain’s most popular tracks
York has so much to offer. The Shambles, the Jorvic Viking Centre, the Minster, the Castle, the National Railway Museum and last, but not least, the Racecourse.
They’ve been racing on what was a swamp, the Knavesmire, since highwayman Dick Turpin’s hanging took place there in 1739.
For many racegoers York comes top of their list of favourite racecourses.
Apart from excellent facilities, York stages some of the country’s best racing, not least the Dante meeting in the spring and the August highlight, the Ebor Festival.
York station is a railway hub so the Knavesmire is one of the most accessible racecourses in Britain.
Trains from Birmingham and Edinburgh take around two and a half hours, from London just under two hours and Manchester just over an hour.
Shuttle buses wait across the road from the station. Queues can be long on busy days, and the ride can take about 15 minutes depending on the traffic. It doesn’t take much longer to walk, with the best route, downhill, via Albemarle Road, and you’ll pass some good pubs, albeit that they will all be crowded on race days.
A word of recommendation for the return journey – the York Tap, a pub within the station, offers a wonderful of selection of ales, and pork pies to die for. Worth heading home on a later train to to enjoy a pint.
Choice of enclosures
Stands at York are a mixture of the towering new and cosy old. But, whatever their vintage, they are all very much fit for purpose and offer excellent facilities both in terms of bars and food options, and race viewing.
The County (premier) Enclosure enjoys the best mix of old and new, including the Edwardian Gimcrack Stand which features the red, white and blue decor synonymous with York. It’s dwarfed by the neighbouring Ebor stand, the most recently constructed stand.
The Grandstand enclosure features the Knavesmire Stand and, like the County Enclosure, there are steppings running its full length for good race viewing.
Lawns in front of both enclosures also have good views, aided by the big screens across the track.
The paddock is situated at the end of the County Enclosure, past the winning line, with easy access from the Grandstand. It also houses the winners’ enclosure.
The tree-lined pre-parade ring adds some tranquillity to what is one of the most bustling racecourses.
The Clocktower Enclosure is the in-field area and it’s to York’s credit that they’ve invested in this facility so that customers, particularly families, looking for a less expensive day out still enjoy the best that money can buy.
A legacy from York hosting Royal Ascot in 2005, whilst the Berkshire track was being redeveloped, was the joining up of the finishing straight to the back straight to form a round course to enable the long-distance races to be run and is very much an added benefit to the course.
Alongside the paddock is a terraced area for County Stand badge holders with a series of bars and food outlets, offering everything from burgers to dressed crab.
Eating and drinking
York has always been famous for value for money when it comes to refreshments; Yorkshire racing folk wouldn’t stand for anything less.
And where to start? At top-end dining there’s the Ebor and Voltigeur restaurants where you can have lunch for £400 or more per head. There’s also the Parade Ring restaurant located on top of the weighing room.
Other restaurants and grills in the County Enclosure offer lunch or tea at a range of prices, and the Grandstand has the Knavesmire restaurant where the selection ranges from a carvery to fish and chips.
You can bring your own picnic into the Clocktower Enclosure where there’s a food to go area.
There are too many bars to mention them all, but two should be singled out.
Relatively new to the food and drink options is the transformation of the old Edwardian weighing room into an elegant bar for County Enclosure badge holders.
The old rooms now house comfortable lounges with the walls adorned with racing memorabilia and the old scales taking centre stage.
It’s another example of York introducing something new, and getting it right. Recommended.
And there’s the Moet Pavilion and Roof Terrace if fizz is your tipple. Indeed, York is famous for its house champagne of the meeting – more often than not a very decent label at a very decent price.
York offers one of the best Flat racing days out.
More relaxed than Ascot, although the County Enclosure dress code for men who have to wear a jacket and tie is tedious, less damaging on the pocket than Goodwood and a whole lot friendlier, and less tatty than Epsom.
And there’s something in which York takes considerable pride – customer service.
God’s own county with god’s own racecourse.
The Secret Racegoer is overwhelmed by everyone wanting to help at York http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-20C
The story of York’s iconic races http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2tV