York Racecourse is pleased to confirm that 2019 will see a further strengthening of its race programme; featuring both the upgrade of the Sky Bet City of York Stakes to Group 2 status, as well as the £1m Sky Bet Ebor becoming an open handicap.

These changes, approved by the European Pattern Committee and British Horseracing Authority, should further encourage the best horses – be they seven furlong specialists or the top of the staying division – to run at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.

Already a historic and successful race, the Sky Bet Ebor will celebrate a new chapter in a story that dates back to 1843 when up to 22 thoroughbreds compete for their share of a seven figure purse on Saturday 24th August.  The new conditions will mean the top rated horse in the Ebor will carry 9st 10lb and all other Ebor runners’ weights will be allocated in reference to their rating in relation to the top weight.

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

This feature contest of the final day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival will be the culmination of the new Race to the Ebor Series – an initiative that sees the winners of three designated staying races offered a berth in York’s new 22 bay stalls.  The three nominated contests are The Sky Bet Melrose of 2018 – meaning, Ghostwatch has already earned a slot for trainer, Charlie Appleby and Team Godolphin; the second race is the Sky Bet Jorvik run on Wednesday 15th May 2019 (day one of the Dante Festival); and then the Sky Bet Grand Cup, the pattern race highlight of Saturday 15th June (Macmillan Charity Raceday.)

York Racecourse is further delighted at the recent confirmation that the Sky Bet City of York Stakes has been upgraded in status to become a Group Two contest.  Also run on the Saturday of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, the seven furlong contest has a proud roll of honour.  Most recently, Expert Eye carried the famous silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah to victory ahead of further success in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.  Ongoing investment in this race will see the upgraded contest offer prize money of £200,000 – more than double the minimum value for a Group 2 race.

Lord Grimthorpe, Chairman of York Racecourse, as well as Racing Manager to Juddmonte Farms, and so to Expert Eye, said; “York takes a real pride in the quality of racing that it offers, so it is tremendous news that the Sky Bet City of York is to be upgraded and so become the fifth Group Two at the Ebor Festival.  It was a special moment to win it with Expert Eye last season and I would be confident that the 2019 victor will need to be another good sort.  The ongoing investment in prize money demonstrates our commitment to the race.”

Talking about the role of the Sky Bet Ebor for British Racing, Chief Operating Officer of the British Horseracing Authority, Richard Wayman, said, “The 2019 Ebor will be the first £1m Flat handicap to take place in Great Britain and the race is likely to become a significant target for quality stayers both nationally and internationally. All involved should be commended for taking this famous and historic race into an exciting new chapter as part of the sport’s strategy to support the production, ownership and retention of the staying horse.”

With Ebor hero, Quick Ransom, back in 1992, part of a now record breaking haul of flat winners, trainer Mark Johnston said “This prize-money is a huge boost for the Ebor and surely provides an incredible incentive, even greater than before, for owners to try and find a horse than can win them an Ebor. Making the race an open handicap is absolutely the right thing to do; no horse can now ever be too good for the Ebor”.

Leading Newmarket handler, Hugo Palmer, said, “This is wonderful news and something I have been hugely supportive of from the outset.  I am sure that having a landmark open handicap for stayers in Europe will help to keep talent here in the northern hemisphere and, who knows, maybe an Aussie will try to win it one day too!  We have all seen the impact that the Melbourne Cup has on Australian and world racing, and it is great that York and Sky Bet have been able to invest so significantly in this famous race.”