Parading at York in 2005

It has become a significant handicap during the course of the season and a well-trodden path to future stardom.

As York prepares to stage this diamond jubilee race, we take a look behind the scenes, at the history of this great race.

When did John Smith’s first sponsor the race?

1960 was the first year that John Smith’s sponsored the race; then called the Magnet Cup. This summer, on the 13th July, we’ll be celebrating our Diamond Anniversary as it will be the 60th year of their sponsorship. It’s the longest commercial sponsorship in flat racing and one of the longest in all sports. 

What was the original concept for the race?

A competitive race for valuable prize money delivered with a sense of both occasion and fun

York in 1960

Who have been the stand-out winners over the years?

Only two horses have won it twice, Prominent (1971 &72) for Arthur Budgett with Geoff Wragg in the saddle then Chaumiere (1985 & 86) gave Robert Williams and jockey Tony Ives, the double.

The legendary Dick Hern won the race an incredible six times (1961, 1962, 1976, 1978, 1983 and 1984) while jockeys Geoff Baxter (1971, 1972 and 1974), Willie Carson (1975, 1978 and 1983), and Tony Ives (1985, 1986 and 1989) each rode winners on three occasions.

In 1987 we had a dead heat with Sir Henry Cecil’s Wolsey crossing the line with Brave Dancer, trained by Guy Harwood.

Those with a sense of humour would smile at a horse called Sobriety wining in Millennium year with the comedian Mel Smith as one of the connections.

The 2004 champion, Arcalis, was later seen winning at the Cheltenham Festival.


What has led to John Smith’s retaining its sponsorship for 60 years? What has been the attraction / measured success?

It has retained its original vision, as both a competitive valuable race and a great day out; things that appeal to the brand values of John Smith’s.

Where does John Smith’s Cup Day feature in York’s busy programme?

Put simply it’s the informal party highlight of our season; a summer occasion that has been inked into family calendars for generations now.

How important is the John Smith’s Cup in John Smith’s racing sponsorships programme and what has this done for the marketing?

It’s the longest standing sponsorship in their portfolio, run at the course nearest to the Tadcaster brewery.

How much prize money is up for grabs in 2019 and how is this distributed?

This year £200,000 will be shared amongst the top six, the winning horse landing nearly half of that at £97,000.

York 1964

What has been the enduring appeal for the public do you think?

A race that is both high quality and competitive set at a venue that delivers a great day out; it really is a fantastic day of summer racing.

How big a crowd will York typically attract for John Smiths Cup day?

If the sun shines to encourage the locals to picnic then over 40,000 can cheer on the favourite.

York 1968

Are there any special plans to commemorate the 60th running?

Our first stop in celebrating the event was renaming the race the Diamond Jubilee Cup. We’ve also commissioned a series of 60 videos which we’re releasing on each of the 60 days counting down to the big race. Each video is a snapshot of history explaining what was going on both on and off the course at that time. From the first episode of Coronation Street to the moon landings and the London Olympics; it’s a fun way of highlighting the history of a race we’re all hugely proud of here at York.

On the day celebrations will pick up this theme with both the trophy and a commemorative time capsule due to be presented by the Royal Patron of York Racecourse, HRH The Duke of York.