Muntahaa leads the way in the Sky Bet Ebor of 2018 Image supplied by York Racecourse

York’s Ebor Festival now stretches to four days, with the Saturday being added in 2011.

The big race of the day is the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap, the race after which the festival gets its name.

The big race was first contested in 1843 and for the first time this year, will be worth £1 million.

Michael Shinners, Horse Racing PR Manager for sponsors Sky Bet, explains the importance of racing and Yorkshire in its PR and marketing strategy.

When did Sky Bet first sponsor the Ebor Handicap?

We took over sponsorship of the Sky Bet Ebor in 2018 and have signed a five year contract.

What is the significance of the Ebor to Sky Bet?

The Ebor is one of the most iconic handicaps in the flat racing calendar.  The opportunity came about to sponsor the race and with an already excellent relationship with York racecourse in place, it seemed a great chance to further cement our commitment to racing in the UK.

How many races does Sky Bet sponsor during the course of the year?

We have a wide portfolio of races that we sponsor throughout the year.  Our jumps sponsorship includes the Sky Bet Chase from Doncaster, which we’ve sponsored for 15 years and the Sky Bet Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival.  We’re now in the sixth year of the Supreme sponsorship and signed a five year extension last year.  As part of the sponsorship we sponsor a number of races in the “Road To Cheltenham” series, which also takes us across the Irish sea to Punchestown for the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer. The flat season sees us at our local track York a number of times and also the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival where we visit eight of the nine Yorkshire tracks.

If In Doubt (right) takes the last in the Skybet Chase
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Tattersalls Ireland

How important is horse racing and sponsorship in Sky Bet’s marketing strategy?

Horse Racing and sponsorship is incredibly important and something we are very passionate about.  We believe that the best sponsorships work if you have both commitment and longevity.  We feel we have achieved these with our longstanding associations with the Sky Bet Chase, Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival and the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

How do you measure the success of such sponsorships?

Ultimately, our goal is to create a flagship event with our key partner York and we’ll always aim to enhance every event we sponsor for fans of that sport. In terms of measurable, this would be done through customer and fan research, brand tracking metrics and media coverage.

When and why was the decision taken to make the Ebor a million pound race?

There has always been a passion to ultimately have a million pound Ebor.  Working closely with William Derby, we managed to get the million pound prize money over the line and it’s certainly created plenty of interest.

Are you looking to attract a potential Melbourne Cup winner by upping the ante with the quality of entries?

The Sky Bet Ebor is an obvious stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup.  We’re looking to build relationships with the VCR and it would be brilliant to see an Ebor winner going to Melbourne and taking the prize.

How is the prize money distributed?

The winner receives 600k, second 180k, third 95k, with prize money going all the way down to 8th place getting 5.7K.

Nakeeta, Oceane and My Reward lead at York
Image reproduced with the kind permission of York Racecourse

How important has the move to a Saturday Ebor been in your sponsorship and plans?

The Ebor on a Saturday makes perfect sense, although it’s been on that date way before we got involved.  We sponsor throughout the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival and from a turnover perspective we will be very busy with the highlight being the Saturday.

What are your hopes and objectives with this year’s Ebor?

Like every race we sponsor, I want an exciting finish with all the horses and jockeys coming home safe and sound.  We’ve got some exciting plans to promote the race and I’m hoping they will be well received throughout the industry and local community.